ONE of the bonuses of bad weather is the urge to turn to the rich wines, those palate-filling big boys with the fruit to soothe and the alcohol to warm us. It’s about this time of the year when I turn to Madeira, my liquid therapist and one of the most historic wine products. Madeira is one of the classic fortified wines which means that it’s basically made in the same way as most wines at first, but depending on the sweetness required, fermentation is stopped and the alcohol level is raised with a neutral spirit.

Hats off to whoever came up with the original idea because I suspect they have the type of mind I'd love to spend time with, a Spielberg of the wine trade if you like. The dry Madeiras are not as user-friendly on the palate as the dry sherry styles of white port, being closer in style to petrol than wine.

My favourites are the Boals and Malmsey styles which respectively are medium sweet and sweet, neither of which would normally appeal to me from any other wine region so what is it about Madeira? It’s probably a combination of the fortification, oak barrels and the heating process that takes a sherry style wine and adds a superb burnt caramel element that I just crave at this time of the year.

The heating effect, by the way, was reportedly discovered by accident after a cargo of barrels had an extended stay on board a ship but whether it's a romantic tale or not, it is definitely the magic element that makes Madeira stand out for me.

V. Sattui Madeira, Napa Valley (yeah, I know it’s not from Madeira)

Okay, so you have to purchase this one via mail order or visit the vineyard in person but it is without a doubt the best Madeira in the world. Bottled from a 120-year-old Solera, it’s packed with toffee, nuts, burnt caramel and hints of orange. Seriously, folks, this is a wine for any bucket list.

V. Sattui online $62 (£51)

Blandy’s 5-year-old Reserva Madeira

Superb for a five-year-old with figs, caramel, toasted nuts and almond flavours. Try this with a classic creme brulee to cap off a lovely meal.

Waitrose £14.99 50cl

Gerard Richardson