Madeira has been a stopping point since the 16th century for
sailors wishing to take on board barrels of wine. Madeira wine is quite
used to travelling around the world as this was the natural way of making
it taste even better.
There are still rare treats to be found as bottles of vintage Madeira
(dating as far back as 1772) can still be found and some great years readily
bought here in Madeira. Find out which grape varieties make which types
of Madeira, and when they should be consumed with what food.
As a rule, the higher altitude the more acidic the grape and consequently
the drier the wine produced. Below 300m we can find the Malvasia grape,
which makes the sweetest Madeira Wine. To keep the sweetness in the Malvasia
grape it has to ripen quickly with the sun, so it retains all the taste.
On the higher areas, the acidic Sercial grape produces the driest Madeira
The harvest starts around August and is completed by the middle of October,
when there are great celebrations and a wine festival takes place in Funchal.
The grapes are gathered from the small terraced vineyards dotted around
the island and transported to the adegas, where the grapes are pressed.
Then fermentation takes place.
Following fermentation all fortified wines can be submitted to two processes:
Estufagem or Canteiro. With the estufagem process the
wine is heated for 3 months with stainless steel pipes with hot water
at 45o, after this the wine is cooled, blended and bottled.
Canteiro uses warm lofts.
One of the characteristics of Madeira wine is that they oxidise during
the heating process.
Sercial is made from white grapes grown at about 800 m or above. Younger
wines can be served lightly chilled. Drink with consommé or as
an accompaniment to light seafood and even sushi, served chilled. The
1962 Sercial is explosive on the palate and is perfectly accompanied by
a good cigar at the end of a meal.
Verdelho grapes are white, grown at 400-600m and make medium-dry wine
for drinking with meat. Good with light seafood.
Rich and nutty wine made from white grapes grown on terraces below 400m.
Can be served as an alternative to port. Goes well with cheeses and desserts,
Malmsey is the most celebrated Madeira, is made from Malvasia grapes.
A rich and robust wine with an appealing caramelised quality. Good as
an after dinner digestive, perfect with chocolate mousse.
If you dont see any of the names above on the bottle, or any at
all then its most certainly a Tinta Negra Mole Madeira. This red
grape occupies the biggest percentage of vineyards on the island. There
are four styles, dry, medium dry, medium rich and rich. This Madeira comes
as a 3 year old, 5 year old and 10 year old wine.