The Etiquette of Giving and Receiving Gifts in India

The Gift-Giving/-Receiving Etiquette of India

-It is believed that the giving of gifts eases transition to the next life. (The sincerity of the gift, therefore, is of paramount importance).-It is customary to give gifts of cash to celebrate life’s major events.

-Yellow, red, and green are regarded as lucky colors. Those colors are therefore typically used for gift-wrapping paper.

-It is not necessary to appear at a house with a gift for the host/hostess.

-Never give gifts of frangipani or other white flowers; white flowers are associated with funerals.

-Gifts are not opened immediately upon receipt.

-If a man gives a gift to a lady, he must say it is from him and a female relative.

-Gifts should be presented or received with both hands or the right hand only.  Gifts should never be presented or received with only the left hand.


Arab Faux Pas: 8 Things One Should NEVER Do In The Arab World

Arab Faux Pas

-The left hand is considered “unclean” since it is the hand traditionally used for personal hygiene (as when cleaning oneself after a movement of the bowels at the bidet). It is therefore impolite to eat, drink, shake hands, or present gifts with the left hand. Even a left-handed person is expected to eat with his right hand in the Arab World.

-Displaying the sole of one’s feet or shoes is considered impolite as it suggests that the person to whom the sole is displayed is “dirt.” It is, therefore, impolite for a gentleman to cross his legs (as is the custom in the Western World) such that an ankle is placed atop the knee of his other leg.  It is also impolite to touch the foot of another person. Walking or jumping over (thus exposing one’s feet to another person’s body) a person’s reclining body or extremities is also prohibited.

-Non-Muslims should not enter holy sites in or surrounding Mecca or Medina. No non-Muslim should enter a mosque anywhere in the world without first asking permission.

-People should not be beckoned with a finger: That gesture is reserved for the beckoning of dogs.

-During Ramadan, non-Muslims should not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, embrace, or engage in affectionate or celebratory activity in the presence of Muslims during the hours between sunrise and sunset.

-A Muslim should not be offered alcohol or pork unless he is known to consume those items.

-One should not step upon a prayer mat or walk in front of anyone who is engaged in prayer.

-One should not express admiration for another’s personal possessions as to do so obligates the person complimented to offer the item to the person who gave the compliment. (And when the admired object is given, the recipient is then obligated to reciprocate by giving a gift of greater value).

Denmark’s Klavs Graae–Makers of the World’s Finest Leather Belts and Hunting Accessories

Klavs Graae’s The Soul of LeatherMakers of the World’s Most Luxurious Belts and Hunting Accessories.

In the real estate business, there is the adage, “location, location, location.” In the leather goods business, there is the phrase “material, material, material.” And for Danish-born leather designer Klavs Graae, the phrase transcends business philosophy and enters the realm of business religion.

When Klavs Graae uses calf and buffalo leathers, they must be from Scandinavian-bred-and-raised animals, the cold, northern climate and the region’s special breeds producing an exceedingly durable, yet supple, leather. And Graae’s exotic leathers—alligator, crocodile, lizard, elephant, and ostrich—are all tanned in Italy with CITES certificates guaranteeing that the skins have met the conditions of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. All of Graae’s leathers are vegetable-tanned and aniline-dyed (as opposed to chrome-tanned) in Italy using the absolute highest standards, thereby producing materials that endure and patinate beautifully. Graae’s aim is to produce luxurious leather items that last a lifetime and beyond.

But of all Graae’s products—from hunting bags to business card holders to knife sheaths—he is most revered for his handmade belts with their trademark solid sterling silver buckles. A Klavs Graae belt is designed and crafted such that a young gentleman can wear a belt once worn by his father.

Graae hand-selects each skin from the world’s best tanneries, including Italy’s Tempesti, supplier of the vegetable-tanned and aniline-dyed skins used to produce the belts. Tanned from natural plant extracts such as oak bark, rhubarb, eucalyptus, and acacia bark, the skins attain rich hues that age and patinate beautifully. The handmade collection is made-to-measure, one customer at a time; and each element of the construction of each belt—the design, the pattern-making, the cutting, and the sewing—begins and ends at the Copenhagen workshop. Klavs Graae—himself—crafts each belt, from beginning to end and each step in between. And customers are offered the options of selecting specific buckles, thread color, leather color, etc., thereby individualizing their purchases. Each belt is interlined to create contour and lined with Scandinavian calfskin for suppleness and durability. Serafina silk thread is used to finely stitch the perimeter of the skin, and the belt’s beveled edge is hand-rubbed. Dyed, elliptically shaped buckle holes called “double holes”—a “trademark” invented by Graae—allow for a more forgiving fit, and the Graae-designed buckles are made of hand-polished sterling silver. A Graae belt is crafted to become an heirloom piece, improving with age. He offers a custom-dye option, allowing clients to match the color of their belts to their shoes or some other accessory. Each belt is sold in a pouch made of leather of the Scandinavian elk. A certificate verifying the authenticity and origin of the skin from which it is made, and a silver-polishing cloth is provided with each belt.


The History

But one does not just “become” or “declare oneself” the world’s greatest maker of belts; it requires a lifetime commitment to the trade. Klavs Graae entered the leather trade in 1967, fresh out of high school, when he worked at “Bit ov Sole,” the first European leather shop in Copenhagen, craftsmen from all over Europe collaborating and sharing their ideas there. There, Graae designed and made leather garments for such music luminaries as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. Then two years later, in 1969, he moved to the enchanting Balearic island of Ibiza, where his handmade leather products became immediately popular with Americans who had sought refuge on the island in their attempts to avoid the Vietnam War. But after one year in Franco-era Spain, Graae returned to Scandinavia, where he lived for 14 years in the forests of Småland, Sweden, breeding wild boar, amongst other things. And it is there, amidst the noble wild boar, that he received the inspiration for his present-day logo, which incorporates the boar’s head.

In 1984 Graae “returned to the civilized world” and founded Graae Design, a company specializing in handmade belts and leather goods. (During those years he was also commissioned by Royal Copenhagen to create special leather cases for the company’s luxurious “Flora Danica” porcelain line). But to a large degree, it was Graae’s decision in 2001 to launch the “Klavs Graae Solid Silver Collection,” a series of exquisite leather belts featuring exotic skins and solid silver buckles, that began solidifying his claim as the maker of the world’s most luxurious belts. In 2009, Graae Design became Graae Copenhagen, the new company expanding its product line to include such items as weekend bags and iPad cases. In 2014, after five years with the newly organized Graae Copenhagen, Klavs Graae left the company and established Klavs Graae—The Soul of Leather in 2016 ( ) . It is his hope to pass on his more than half-century experience in fine leather-making to the next generation.

Japanese Faux Pas: 8 Things One Should NEVER Do In Japan


Japanese Faux Pas

-One should not put one’s hands in one’s pockets; to do so is regarded as a sign of boredom or a lack of interest.

-One should not say “chin-chin” as a drinking salute in Japan, for in the Japanese language that expression is a slang for describing the male genitals.

-A person should not blow his nose in public. (He should do it in the bathroom or outside).  Sniffling, however, is acceptable.  (Chinese culture allows for the blowing of one’s nose in public).

-Pointing at people is considered impolite.

-Shoes must be removed upon entering a person’s home.  (Socks, however, should be kept on since being barefoot in someone’s home is not acceptable). House slippers will be provided by the host/hostess.  But the house slippers should not be worn into the toilet. (Special toilet slippers are provided).

-All slippers should be removed when sitting on tatami mats.  A gentleman visiting a Japanese home should be sure to wear clean, hole-free socks.

-Tattoos (“irezami” is the Japanese word for tattoo) are taboo in most of Japan.  Persons (even foreigners) with visible tattoos are typically banned from certain public places, especially swimming pools, gymnasiums, hot springs, resorts, etc. People with visible tattoos are also banned from or may be asked to leave places such as restaurants and retail establishments. In Japan, tattoos are associated with “yakuza”:  hoodlums and the criminal underworld. The negative connotations associated with tattoos in Japanese culture seem to date from around 300-600 CE (the Kofun period), when tattoos were placed upon criminals as a means of punishment. However, prior to the Kofun period, for example in the Yayoi period (ca. 300 BCE-300 CE), tattoos were acquired for ritual or status purposes.

-Food should never be passed from one set of chopsticks to another. (The only time an item or object is passed from one set of chopsticks to another is when family members use ceremonial chopsticks to pick up the bones of the deceased after the cremation, passing the bones from one family member to another until the bones are placed into the urn).



Madeira–The World’s Most Masculine Wine


Necessity, it is said, is the Mother of Invention.  What is not said, though, is that Accident is her Surrogate. And in the case of Madeira, one of the three great fortified wines of the world, it was Accident that gave birth—upon the high seas—to the luxurious wine.

In the 15th century, during the Age of Exploration as the Portuguese were pursuing a sea route to Asia by sailing down the west coast of the vast and seemingly bottomless African continent, then sailing up its opposite coast towards the fabled “East,” and the Spaniards, at the bidding of Columbus, were attempting to reach the same Eastern lands by sailing westward into the mighty Atlantic, the island of Madeira, situated in the north Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa, served as a major port of call for the resupplying of Portuguese and Spanish ships prior to their long journeys of exploration. And where there are mariners, there is wine. So it became only fitting that the island of Madeira would engage itself in business of winemaking.

The island of Madeira was claimed by Portuguese sailors in 1419 for Prince Henry the Navigator and was settled sometime after 1420. The island, with its subtropical climate, is considered the first Portuguese territorial discovery during what would come to be known as the Portuguese Age of Discovery, 1415 to 1542.  The word “madeira” means “wood” in Portuguese. And it is said that when the Portuguese first encountered the African island, it was so heavily forested that the most fitting name for their new discovery was simply “Madeira.” In order to clear the lush, 309 square-mile island of its primordial vegetation so as to make way for the cultivation of sugarcane, the island was set ablaze. And burn it did—unquenchable for seven long years. In the process, the vegetation that had been robbing the soil of its rich nutrients from time immemorial released those precious nutrients back into the island’s soil, Madeira thereby becoming one of the world’s most fertile places.  And for as long as the enchanted isle has hosted human populations, wine has been produced there. So when mariners called on Madeira’s ports in order to supply their ships for extended journeys, wine was one of the items loaded onboard.

But wine is a delicate beverage, exceedingly susceptible to temperature fluctuations, heat, the ravages of exposure to oxygen, and excessive movement—all of which are part and parcel to extended seafaring voyages, especially to the warmest regions of the world. So to prevent spoilage, the wine producers of Madeira drew upon the knowledge—from the mainland Portugal Port producers, and from their neighboring Spanish Sherry producers—of fortifying wine with distilled spirit in order to extend the wine’s shelf life. While Port and Sherry are fortified with a neutral, wine-derived, brandy-like spirit, in the early days of Madeira winemaking, a spirit distilled from sugarcane juice was used because of the island’s history of sugarcane production and the availability of sugarcane-derived spirits. [Since the 18th century, Madeira has been fortified with a neutral, wine-derived spirit like its Port and Sherry counterparts].  And had Madeira wine ended there, it probably would have today evolved into a wine very similar to Port and/or Sherry, and the island of Madeira might have come to be regarded as just another island off the coast of West Africa—not as an island with a wine so famous that the wine is arguably even more famous than the island after which it is named.

But such, fortunately, was not to be the fate of the wines of Madeira.  Enter: Accident.  When a shipment of fortified Madeira wine did not find a buyer in some faraway destination and was therefore shipped back to the island, the disappointed merchant was met with both surprise and delight when he tasted his sea-aged wine and discovered that it had been deliciously transformed while traveling halfway around the world and back, exposed to extreme heat and excessive movement in the hold of the ship.  The ship-aged fortified wine had acquired a flavor distinct from and superior to that of when it was first produced! And other people agreed with the merchant’s assessment—so much so that thereafter, wines that had been shipped across the seas but came back unsold came to be known as “vinha da roda” (“roundtrip wine”) and were highly sought-after.  In fact, the vinha da roda wines were so prized that Madeira winemakers went about the expensive proposition of stocking seafaring vessels with casks of wine—not for sale in distant lands, but as ballast in the warm holds of ships such that the wine could return years later to the island of Madeira, unsold and ship-aged. But when it became evident that sea-aging wine was not only expensive, but also unpredictable—on account of storms, pirates, war, and thirsty sailors—Madeira winemakers began figuring out ways of imparting the same ship-aged characteristics to their wines, but on terra firma.


The Making of Madeira

Madeira begins its life like most other wines:  Grapes are harvested in the early fall; pressed; then allowed to ferment in concrete or stainless steel vats or in wooden casks. (The grape varieties that are typically used to produce the sweeter Madeiras—Bual, Malvasia, and Negra Mole—are oftentimes fermented on their skins so as to leach more phenols [chemical compounds, including tannins, that affect color, taste, and mouthfeel of the wine] from the grapes, those phenols serving as a natural balance to the sweetness of the wine).  The dry wines—typically made from Sercial, Verdelho, and Negra Mole varieties—are separated from their skins prior to the fermentation process). Depending of the desired level of sweetness of the final product, fermentation—the process whereby the natural sugars in the grape juice are consumed by yeasts that then emit alcohol (and carbon dioxide) as the waste product—may be halted by the addition of a neutral, grape-derived spirit that kills the yeasts before they are able to consume all the sugars in the grape juice, thus producing a sweet wine. The added-alcohol also fortifies the wine, extending its shelf life and making it more durable. (The less expensive Madeiras tend to be fully fermented—thereby becoming fully dry—before the grape-derived spirit is added).


The Estufagem Aging Process

Where Madeira makes a major departure from the other fortified wines is in its “estufagem” aging process—a process meant to replicate the abuse to which a wine is subjected when barrel-aged onboard ships on the high seas destined for tropical climates then back home again. In essence, the wine is put through the proverbial gauntlet. But when the precious liquid emerges on the other end, it is filled with character, flavor, color, texture, and longevity—so much so that properly stored Madeira has been known to remain in perfect drinking condition for hundreds of years.

The estufagem process involves deliberately heating the wine (or exposing it to the elements such that it will become naturally heated). The heating of the wine hastens its mellowing and tends to discourage any secondary fermentation during the aging process. In addition, the heating-process serves as a mild pasteurizer. And as the wine in the casks naturally evaporates, the evaporated portions are not replenished, thereby allowing oxygen to occupy the vacant space within each cask.  And that exposure to oxygen causes the wine to oxidize, obtaining its characteristic amber color, similar to Tawny Port.


There are three primary methods for heating the wine:

Cuba de Calor:  Typically used for inexpensive Madeiras, this popular method of heating the wine entails heating large quantities of wine in either concrete or stainless steel tanks that have been surrounded by heat-coils or piping that allows for hot water to circulate the container, heating the wine contained therein in the process. Per Madeira Wine Institute regulations, the wine is heated to temperatures as high as 130 ºF (55 ºC) for a minimum of 90 days.

Armazém de Calor:  The “sauna approach” to heating the wine, this method, used only by the Madeira Wine Company, entails storing the wine in large wooden casks in a specially designed room equipped with steam-producing tanks or pipes that heat the room. Regarded as a gentler method of heating than the Cuba de Calor method, the wine in the Armazém de Calor system is steam-heated for at least six months and usually for more than one year.

Canteiro:  In the canteiro method, the wines are aged without the use of any artificial heat; the wine is stored in casks in the winery’s warmest rooms, or outdoors, warmed only by the heat of the sun, from as few as 20 to as many as 100 years. This method is used to produce the highest-quality Madeiras.

Wine that has been “cooked” in the estufagem method is sometimes described “madeirized” wine.


Grape Varieties

Most of the grapes used in the production of Madeira are white grapes, the four most famous ones, from sweetest to driest, being:  Malvasia (also known as Malmsey or Malvazia); Bual; Verdelho; and Sercial. Madeiras made exclusively from those varieties are referred to by the name of the grape. (See “Styles of Madeira” below).  But these four varieties account for only about 10% of all the Madeira produced.  And only occasionally—on account of their relative scarcity—are the other white grapes, namely Terrantez (very rare), Bastardo, and Moscatel, used.

But the go-to, “work horse” grape variety found in many blends and vintage Madeiras is the red grape Negra Mole (formerly called “Tinta Negra Mole”). It alone accounts for approximately 85% of all production of Madeira. It is the consummate “blendable,” “mixable,” “adaptable” grape, hence its ubiquity.  Triunfo and Complexa, both red grapes, are less known. Efforts are underway, on the part of Madeira producers and the Madeira authorities, to have Negra Mole take its rightful place, along with the “famous four,” in the pantheon of Madeira grapes.  And efforts are also underway to create regulations such that the Negra Mole name can appear on labels as a bona-fide style of Madeira.

European Union regulations specify that a Madeira that identifies itself as a specific grape (for example, “Bual” or “Verdelho”) must be comprised of at least 85% of the stated grape.  (Old Madeiras—those dating from before the late 19th century—used a similar rule. And since enactment of the rule in the late 20th century, grape varieties are specified. Wines dating from the beginning of the 1900s up to the early 1990s are also varietally labeled, but not always accurately or verifiably so.  And most modern Madeiras that are not varietally labeled are generally made of Negra Mole). The “problem” is that traditionally, the names of the four most famous, highly regarded Madeira grapes—Malvasia, Bual, Verdelho, and Sercial—are also used to broadly to describe the style of wines derived from those grapes:  sweet, medium-sweet, medium-dry, and dry.  So when a gentleman orders a glass of “Malvasia,” he may be getting a sweet Madeira, but not necessarily a Madeira made from at least 85% of the Malvasia grape.


Grape Cultivation

Because of the island of Madeira’s mountainous, volcanic terrain, it is difficult to cultivate. But with ingenuity and a characteristic tenacity, the native people have traditionally constructed terraces, called “poios” (similar to the terraces in Portugal’s Douro Valley where Port is produced), in the island’s red and basaltic bedrock. Mechanical harvesting is therefore near impossible, thus making wine-grape growing a costly endeavor on the island. Then, to complicate matters, the island is of an oceanic climate with tropical influences. And because of its abundant rainfall and average mean temperature of around 66 ºF (19 ºC), fungal grape diseases and botrytis are constant threats. So to combat those threats, the island’s vineyards are often planted on trellises known as “latada” that raise the canopy of the vine off the ground, thereby sparing the vines of such earthborn vinicultural hazards.


The History of Madeira

The wine mentioned in the vivid descriptions of the lavish, fabulously wealthy, 18th-century sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean is almost always Madeira.  Besides being a luxurious, delicious wine, before the era of artificial refrigeration, Madeira was one of the few wines that could survive the long sea journeys to the tropics then remain in perfect condition for years in the equatorial heat.

By the 1500s, a bona-fide wine industry had been established on the island of Madeira, the Dutch East India Company being a major purchaser of wine when en route to India. But it was in the 1700s that the wine that came to be called “Madeira” was met with international demand:  in Russia, North Africa, Great Britain, Brazil, the American colonies, and the Caribbean islands.

Because no wine-quality grapes could be grown in the first 13 colonies of North America, wines had to be imported, Madeira being the most popular.  And when the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776, Madeira was used for the celebratory toast.

The Phylloxera Epidemic that decimated Europe’s wine industry in the middle of the 19th century also visited upon Madeira’s vineyards.  And by the end of the 19th century, most of the island’s vineyards had been uprooted and converted to sugarcane production. Things started to look up for the island’s wine industry in the early 20th century, but then came the Russian Revolution in 1917, followed by Prohibition in the United States (1920 – 1933), thereby drying up two of Madeira’s premier wine markets. The result was that for much of the 20th century, the wines of Madeira were most associated with “cooking wine.”

But the end of the 20th century saw a resurgence in the prominence of Madeira:  The five classic Madeira grapes (including Negra Mole) were replanted, and hybrid grapes were banned in 1979. And in the 21st century, Madeira wine is again becoming popular in the Benelux countries (Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg), France, and Germany, with rapidly emerging markets in Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


Styles of Madeira

Unblended Madeiras Made from (at least 85% of) the Four Classic Grape Varieties

Some of the most esteemed Madeiras are made not from blends, but primarily from one grape variety.  And the four “noble” varieties are used for such wines, the name of the grape variety also being the name of the Madeira:

Sercial is fermented to almost completely dry. The wine is characterized by high acidity, hints of almonds, and high-toned colors. Sercials are categorized as “seco” (“dry”).

Verdelho has its fermentation halted a little earlier than Sercial. Thus, Verdelho is a little sweeter. Verdelho is characterized as somewhat smoky, with high acidity. Verdelhos are categorized as “meio-seco” (“medium-dry).

Bual (also called “Boal”) is a medium-sweet Madeira, the result of fermentation that was halted early, thus preserving much of the natural sugars from being converted to alcohol.  Bual is characterized by its dark color, medium-rich texture and raisin-like flavor. Bual is categorized as “meio-doce” (“medium-sweet”).

Malvasia (also known as “Malmsey” or “Malvazia”) has its fermentation halted early, thus preserving much of the natural sweetness of the grape must. The result is a sweet wine characterized by its dark color, rich texture, and coffee-caramel flavors. Malvasia is categorized as “doce” (“sweet”). The four classic Madeira grapes are endowed with naturally high levels of acidity, partly derived from the volcanic soil in which they grow, and the lack of ripening in the case of grapes grown at high altitudes. As such, in the case of the sweet Madeiras, the natural acidity serves as a balance to the natural sweetness of the wine, thereby producing a wine with a distinctly understated, rather than imposing, sweetness.



 Madeiras Made of Blends

When a Madeira is made of a blend of wines, the grapes that account for at least 85% of blend must be specified on the label.

Other Labeling

-Reserve:  Wines aged for at least five (5) years.  [Wines labeled as “Sercial,” “Verdelho,” “Bual,” and “Malvasia” must be aged at least five years and thus are always at least of “Reserve” classification].

-Special Reserve:  Wines aged for at least ten (10) years.  Most wines labeled as “Special Reserve” will have undergone canteiro aging—without any artificial heating system.

-Extra Reserve:  Wines aged for more than fifteen (15) years. Richer in style than Special Reserve, Extra Reserve is rarely produced today, most producers opting instead to wait an additional five years in order to qualify as “Vintage Madeira” or even “Colheita Madeira.”

-Colheita (or “Harvest”):  Made of wines from a single harvest (vintage), but aged for a period of at least five (5) years, but shorter than a true vintage Madeira, which must be aged for a period not less than 20 years.  Colheita may be labeled with its vintage date, but it must include the word “Colheita.”

-Vintage (or “Frasqueira”): The wine must derive from grapes from the same year’s harvest.  Vintage wine must be aged for at least 20 years, and the vintage year is declared on the bottle. But because in Portugal the designation “Vintage” is a trademarked term reserved for the producers of Port, vintage Madeira is never labeled as “Vintage Madeira.” Its vintage status is instead indicated by a specified vintage year that calculates to the wine being at least 20 years old.  And whenever the term “vintage” is used to describe Madeira, a common “v” rather than its capital counterpart is used—unless at the beginning of a sentence.

-[Wine labeled “Finest” may prove misleading for the novice.  In actuality, “Finest” Madeira is a modest-grade Madeira, aged for at least three (3) years, and typically used for cooking.

The terms “pale,” “dark,” and “rich” may be used to describe a Madeira’s color. Since 1993, Madeira made purely of the Negra Mole grape is restricted to using only the “dry,” “semi-dry,” “semi-sweet,” and “sweet” classifications.

Wines labeled with the term “Solera” were made in the solera method traditionally used for the production of Sherry]. But the solera system of Madeira allows for a maximum of 5% of a cask’s overall contents to be added to/extracted from for a maximum of 10 cycles. As such, by the time a solera-aged Madeira is bottled, the bottle contains a minimum of 50% of the stated vintage. [Whereas, for example, with the solera system of Sherry, because there is no maximum allowable number of additions and extractions per cask, the actual percentage of 1880 wine in a cask established in 1880 may be negligible in 1990]. (See “Sherry” below).

-The style of Madeira called “Rainwater” is popular in the United States, China, and Canada. Many of the major Madeira producers bottle a “Rainwater” style wine. How the style came to be called “Rainwater” remains a mystery.  One account claims that the style derives its name from wine made of grapes grown on the steep hillsides, where irrigation is difficult, thereby requiring the grapes to rely solely on rainfall for their survival. Another popular theory is that wine shipped to Savannah, Georgia in the then-American colonies was accidentally diluted by rainwater while awaiting collection on the city’s docks. And rather than discarding the adulterated wine, the merchants passed it off to the unsuspecting colonists as “a new style of wine.” When the colonists found it to their delight, “Rainwater Madeira” was born.

“Rainwater Madeira” is a comparatively mild Madeira, somewhat similar to Verdelho and typically made from the Negra Mole variety. It must be aged at least three (3) years before release.  It is usually served chilled as an apéritif.

Traditionally, Madeira is labeled by stenciling white paint directly onto the dark glass bottles, not with paper labels as is the case with most other wines.  The stenciling tradition emerged out of necessity:  In the olden days, Madeira would be stored in attics where the humidity would compromise paper labels.  Stenciling was seen as the most practical solution. And thus it has remained, so much so that the boldly stenciled bottle is part and parcel to the wine.  Today, though, so as to be able to legibly fit more information onto the bottle, paper labels are being increasingly used. But truth be told, on a bar’s back-shelf stacked chock-full with bottles from all over the world, a white-stenciled bottle of Madeira immediately sets itself apart from other bottles.


Shelf Life and Storage

Madeira is arguably the world’s most durable wine. Because during its production it is deliberately subjected to the conditions that normally destroy wines—exposure to heat and oxygen—the wine emerges practically immune to such conditions by the time it is bottled.

When a young gentleman romantically thinks of expensive wines, he thinks of cool, dark cellars with stacks of dust-encrusted bottles containing wines from some distant past. But the fact is that most white and red wines—even those of the finest quality—are created to be drunk within a handful of years after bottling. But for Madeira, as one of the world’s great fortified wines, longevity is its hallmark. To date, the oldest Madeira that has come to market is a 300-year-old Terrantez dated from 1715.  And Madeiras are routinely known to survive over 150 years in excellent condition. Before the invention of artificial refrigeration, Madeira was the wine-of-choice for shipments to distant lands and for consumption in the world’s warm regions such as the Caribbean, the East Indies, tropical South America, and the warm, southern regions of the United States.

Traditionally, Madeira is corked with driven-corks.  But increasingly, since a bottle of the precious wine is oftentimes not finished in one sitting, the wine is stoppered with “T-top corks” so that a bottle can be easily recorked between uses.  And as such, so as to prevent the leakage that can sometimes occur when bottles are stoppered, Madeira is best stored upright as opposed to lying on its side. But in actuality, Madeira is so durable a wine that once opened, it need not be recorked in order to maintain its palatability.  Except for dust and fruit flies, an opened bottle of Madeira can sit uncorked indefinitely without compromising the precious wine.

Wine cellars are also not necessary for storing Madeira. To the contrary, the wine has historically been popular in locales where wine cellars do not exist. Madeira can be stored anywhere at room temperature—with all its fluctuations—and survive unscathed for centuries.  Frankly, no harm will come to a bottle of Madeira even if kept in the trunk of a car all summer long!

Madeiras may be drunk once released onto the market.  Once bottled, young Madeiras undergo no measurable improvement; however, vintage Madeira, over the course of a hundred years or so in the bottle, will intensify in richness and flavor. And for the few people who live long enough to certify the improvement, it is worth the wait!


Uses of Madeira

Very low-grade Madeiras are oftentimes flavored with pepper and/or salt and used for cooking.

Dry Madeira is typically served chilled and used as an apéritif.  Medium-dry Madeira is a classic complement to foie gras. The sweeter Madeiras are served at room temperature and drunk as dessert wines or after-dinner drinks.



Sometimes You Have To “Go There”: Getting Rid Of Buttocks-Cleft (“Butt-Crack”) Hair

Butt Hair Me Out!

Hair removal is a high-maintenance activity, so most men tend to leave hair that is socially acceptable, unattended. Many men, for example, do not routinely shave their legs, underarms, or forearms. But some men, for various personal reasons, prefer to regularly remove even hair that is highly unlikely to be seen by the general public.  The hair that grows in the cleft of the buttocks of many men is an example of such hair. The problem, however, is that because of the human anatomy, those hairs are generally difficult for a man to personally access for removal purposes. The general consensus seems to be that depilatory creams should not be used since they are relatively harsh, while the anus, which is situated in close proximity to the hair that grows in that area of the body, is relatively sensitive.  Shaving with razors poses even more anatomical challenges:  Some men, who insist on conducting the activity by themselves in total privacy, prop one leg up or stoop over mirrors, or perch themselves onto the rims of their toilet bowls or bidets and hope for the best results.

If shaving is the method of choice, it is important that the hair to be removed–which is generally of a coarser texture than other bodily hair–be thoroughly moistened with warm water immediately prior to shaving so as to soften its texture, thereby reducing the likelihood of subsequent ingrown hairs.  And it is best that a woman’s “bikini-area” razor, which is specifically designed for private-area shaving, be employed–as opposed to a conventional men’s razor. Some men opt for self-applied or salon hair-waxing removal techniques. Because waxing removes hair bulbs and other sub-epidermal portions of hair in addition to surface hair, the period between waxing and the appearance of new growth is longer than with the shaving technique since shaving removes only surface-level hair.  In either case, new growth presents the potential for ingrown hairs and embarrassing itching. To reduce the chances of ingrown hairs, an exfoliant should be used 24 hours after the hair removal, thereby reducing any accumulation of dead skin that might obstruct the free growth of new hair. And the occasional itching caused by new growth of hair must be handled as discreetly as possible:  By grinning and bearing until relief can be obtained in privacy, or by placing one’s hand into one’s pocket and providing relief as inconspicuously as possible. In order to avoid excessive irritation and reduce the incidence of ingrown hairs, the general rule is that private-area hair should not be removed before it attains a length of one-eight inch.  While salon waxing is arguably the most effective way to remove buttocks-cleft hair, it is certainly not the most economical since in order to keep the area relatively free of hair, waxing would have to be conducted every two to three weeks. Considering efficacy and economy, then, a gentleman on a budget should request the assistance from his sex-partner for either in-house waxing or shaving.

With all the foregoing, the long and short of it is that when it comes to how a gentleman should handle the hair in the cleft of his buttocks, no one else has any business butting in unless invited in. Some things are simply of a nature too private to be decided by public opinion. And at the end of the day, hair is neither here nor there. Therefore, a 21st-century gentleman should do as he pleases with his hair, for he alone shall suffer the social conseequences or reap the social benefits of his choices.






























The Correct Way to Eat Whole Lobster and Crabs in the Shell

Lobster;  Crabs, hard-shell, soft-shell

A lobster served whole is a sight to behold. But it may be intimidating to the novice. Properly presented, a whole or halved (always lengthwise) lobster, whether steamed, boiled, or grilled, will be brought to the table with a paper bib, a clam (or nut) cracker, and an extra bowl or plate for the discarded shells.

Once the bib is donned, the task at hand begins. And the only way to eat a lobster served in its shell is with the hands, assisted by the clam cracker and the shellfish and dinner forks (The shellfish fork is generally too small to properly eat the larger cuts of lobster, but it is used to extract and then eat the flesh from the intricate portions of the shell). Some species of lobsters have claws, which are generally pre-cracked when the lobster is presented to the table. While bracing the lobster in the plate with the left hand, the right hand is used to twist off the claws at the juncture where they connect to the main body of the fish. The separated claws are then further cracked open with the clam cracker, and the flesh is eaten with the shellfish fork. The cracked shells are placed onto the extra plate that has been provided for that purpose. If the lobster is halved, the meat in its tail will already be partially exposed and should be picked out, bite by bite, with the dinner fork, or lifted entirely out by using the left hand to brace the lobster in the plate while the dinner fork, held in the right hand, is used to carefully lift the full half-tail from its shell. The extracted tail is then cut into bite-sized portions and eaten with the dinner fork. The legs of a lobster also contain meat. They should be broken at the joints and pulled apart, sometimes simultaneously separating the meat from its shell such that one of the pulled-apart portions extracts the flesh from the other. When the meat remains intact despite the separation, the meat is best accessed by progressively biting the appendage from one end to the other, slowly pushing the flesh towards the exposed end with each successive bite. If a lobster contains roe, it should be eaten with the fish fork and savored. At the end of the course, the paper bib should be removed and folded outside-in. It is then placed onto the table to the upper left side of the plate containing the discarded bones. Immediately thereafter, a finger bowl containing hot water and lemon slices will be presented in order for the diner to refresh his hands in preparation for the following course. (See Finger Bowls above).  A similar procedure is followed when eating hard-shelled crabs.

“Soft-shell crab” is the culinary term for certain species of crabs that are eaten in the molten state. Because a molten crab usually develops a new, hardened shell within 24 hours, the crabs are harvested just before they molt so that they can be eaten at the opportune time. When presented to the table, they will have been cleaned and cooked and are to be eaten in their entirety with a  knife and fork.