7 Stunning Madeira Wines From Portugal


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Often confused with other fortified wines such as Port or Sherry, Madeira wine dares to be different. The best Madeira wines are flavours of rich fruits, caramel, and citrus peel, plus nutty and woody notes.

The flavours of Madeira wine are quite different to other fortified wines, especially when the Canteiro method of production that relies on natural heating and ageing is used.

Although Madeira wine is becoming incredibly popular, it has not all been plain sailing. It has suffered a prolonged and tragic slump in its 500-year history due to several phylloxera outbreaks in the 1800s that devastated grape harvests.

Best Madeira Wines,

I’ve selected 7 of the best Madeira wines, paying attention to different grape varieties, winemaking methods and varying ageing periods.

1. Blandy’s Duke of Clarence Madeira

Blandy's Duke of Clarence Madeira
Credit: Blandy’s

Overview

  • Distiller: Blandy’s
  • ABV: 19% (38 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Deep Golden Brown

Review

John Blandy moved to Madeira in 1808 and established his own company in 1811. For seven generations, the business has remained in the family’s hands. They own Blandy’s, Cossart Gordon, Leacock’s, and Miles brands.

Duke of Clarence is a rich Madeira wine made from Tinta Negra grapes, matured by the estufa method, and aged for three years in American oak casks.

On The Nose

Dried fruits and honey aromas

On The Palate

This Madeira wine reveals toffee, dried fruit, and raisin flavours with a semi-sweet mid-palate and a tart finish that lingers dry.

Pair With

Duke of Clarence is best served after dinner with citrus desserts, dark chocolate, or soft cheese. For sweet desserts, try one of the Port wines I recently reviewed.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

2. Henriques & Henriques Madeira Sercial 15 Years Old

Henriques & Henriques Madeira Sercial 15 Years Old
Credit: Henriques & Henriques

Overview

  • Distiller: Henriques & Henriques
  • ABV: 20% (40 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Dark Gold

Review

João Gonçalves Henriques formed the company in 1850. Still, it was in 1912 that a partnership between his sons led to the name Henriques & Henriques.

The company stayed in the family’s hands till 1968, when the last Henriques died, leaving the business to collaborators and friends.

This Sercial Madeira wine is made from 100% Sercial grapes, matured using the Canteiro method (aged without artificial heat) for 15 years in oak barrels. It’s a semi-dry Madeira, so leans more towards being a Port wine.

On The Nose

Rich dried fruits, nuts and orange peel

On The Palate

Initial sweetness gives way to a semi-dry palate despite considerable residual sugar. An integral acidity complements the flavours of nuts, dried apricot, and orange marmalade leading to a long finish.

Pair With

Henriques & Henriques Madeira Sercial 15 Years Old is best served as an aperitif or complementing seafood and hard cheeses.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

3. Justino’s 10 Years Old Malvasia

Justino's 10 Years Old Malvasia
Credit: Justino’s

Overview

  • Distiller: Justino’s
  • ABV: 19% (38 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Deep Amber

Review

Justino Henrique Freitas founded this company in 1870 as Justino Henriques, becoming Justino’s Madeira Wines in 1953. This award-winning winemaker has several Madeira wines to choose from.

Justino’s 10 Years Old Malvasia is produced from a minimum of 85% Malvasia grapes, matured by the Canteiro method, and aged for ten years before blending.

Also, consider checking out my article on 7 Stunning Armagnacs.

On The Nose

Caramel, soft fruits and dark chocolate aromas

On The Palate

This Malvasia is rich and soft, with mellow toffee, peach, dark chocolate, and spicy notes, leading to a lingering cocoa finish.

Pair With

Justino’s 10 Years Old Malvasia is best served with spicy Asian or Creole dishes, decadent desserts, and cakes.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

4. H.M. Borges Sweet Madeira 5 Year Old

H.M. Borges Sweet Madeira 5 Year Old
Credit: H.M. Borges

Overview

  • Distiller: H.M. Borges
  • ABV: 18.5% (37 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Light Brown

Review

Henrique Menezes Borges founded the company H.M. Borges, in 1877 as a producer and exporter of Madeira wine. The fourth generation of the Borges family now runs the business from premises in the centre of Funchal.

H. M. Borges Sweet Madeira 5-Year-Old is a sweet Madeira produced from Tinta Negra grapes, matured by the estufa method, and aged for five years in oak barrels. Similar to a sweet Muscat dessert wine.

On The Nose

Rich dark fruits, vanilla and oak aromas

On The Palate

This Madeira wine is complex, with medium sweet stewed plum and marmalade notes balanced by roasted nuts, vanilla, and oak flavours, leading to a long finish.

Pair With

H. M. Borges Sweet Madeira, 5-Year-Old, is best served as an aperitif or a dessert wine, pairing well with decadent desserts, dark chocolate, and cake.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

5. Cossart Gordon 10 years Boal Medium Sweet

Cossart Gordon 10 years Boal Medium Sweet
Credit: Cossart Gordon

Overview

  • Distiller: Cossart Gordon
  • ABV: 19% (38 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Amber

Review

Packed with history, Scot Francis Newton founded the company in 1745, which later became Cossart Gordon after the arrival of Irish Cossarts in 1808. It now falls under the Madeira Wine Company.

Cossart Gordon 10 Years is produced from Boal (Bual) grapes and matured by the Canteiro method, ageing for ten years in American oak casks.

On The Nose

Sweet prunes, vanilla, wood and toffee

On The Palate

A medium body showcases sweet prunes, almond, vanilla, oak, and caramel, balanced by tart and zesty orange leading to a long finish.

Pair With

Cossart Gordon 10 Years Boal Medium Sweet is best served as a digestif with coffee, fruits, decadent desserts, chocolate, or hard cheese.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

6. Pereira D’Oliveira 5 Year Old Medium Dry Madeira

Pereira D'Oliveira 5 Year Old Medium Dry Madeira
Credit: D’Oliveira’s

Overview

  • Distiller: D’Oliveira
  • ABV: 19% (38 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Amber

Review

In 1850, the d’Oliveira family, once prominent growers in the parish of São Martinho, founded this company from firms dating back to 1820, and they have owned it ever since.

Pereira d’Oliveira 5 Year Old is a medium dry Madeira produced from Tinta Negra grapes, matured by the estufa method, and aged for five years in oak casks.

On The Nose

Dried dark fruits, caramelised oranges and nuts.

On The Palate

This Madeira displays high acidity resulting in a reasonably dry palate with flavours of caramelised oranges and almonds, with a smooth, long, zesty finish.

Pair With

Pereira d’Oliveira 5-Year-Old Medium Dry Madeira is best served as a digestif, with charcuterie, or with blue cheese.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

7. Miles 10 years Dry Madeira

Miles 10 years Dry Madeira
Credit: Miles

Overview

  • Distiller: Miles
  • ABV: 19% (38 Proof)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Colour: Soft Amber

Review

Founded in 1814 by the Rutherford family, who, in 1868, took on Henry Price Miles as an apprentice (aged 12). Miles took over the company when the Rutherfords departed for London in the wake of the phylloxera outbreak on Madeira.

Miles 10 Years is a dry Madeira made from Tinta Negra grapes, matured by the estufa method, and aged for ten years in oak barrels.

On The Nose

Rich overripe fruits, nuts and hints of citrus zest.

On the Palate

This Madeira is refreshingly dry, with notes of ripe fruit, citrus, nuts, and oak, leading to a fresh, dry, lingering citrus peel finish.

Pair With

Miles 10 Years Dry Madeira is best served as an aperitif or with seafood, duck, roast meat, or fancy gourmet burgers.

Pricing & Info

You can check the latest pricing, product information, and order online.

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Ingrid’s Top Pick

best Madeira wine

H&H Madeira Sercial 15 Years Old

My top pick is H&H Madeira Sercial 15 Years, as this semi-dry Madeira has a refined balance of dry acidity that’s lifted by the delicious flavours of nuts, dried apricot, and tart orange marmalade.

Enjoy this Madeira as an aperitif or with seafood and hard cheeses.

Conclusion

Madeira win conclusion

Nearly lost due to severe phylloxera outbreaks in the late 1800s, Madeira wine is becoming popular among wine enthusiasts. The best Madeira wines from Portugal are packed with delicious rich fruits, caramel and nutty flavours.

Although Madeira is a fortified wine much like Port, Sherry or Vermouth, that’s where the similarity ends. The magical effects of prolonged, gentle natural heating mean there is nothing quite like it.

Madeira Wine Q&A

Madeira Wine Q&A

What Is Madeira Wine?

Madeira wine is a fortified wine produced by blending fermenting grape juice and brandy, then ageing in oak barrels. 

What Does Madeira Wine Taste Like?

Depending on the variety, Madeira wine reveals flavours of dark fruits such as plum or apricot, citrus, marmalade, caramel, honey, burnt sugar, and gently spiced oak.

  • Sercial Madeira is dry and crisp with citrus notes. 
  • Verdelho is medium-dry, smoky, and honeyed, with hints of caramel. 
  • Bual (or Boal) is medium-sweet, showing chocolate, raisin, and burnt caramel notes. 
  • Malvasia (or Malmsey) is sweet (rich) and tastes like rich dark chocolate. 

How Is Madiera Wine Made?

Madeira wine is made by fortifying fermenting grape juice with brandy. This blend is usually naturally warmed using the Canteiro method of production and then aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years.

What Food Pairs Best With Madeira Wine?

Madeira wine has a higher acidity and dryer finish than Port or Sherry and pairs well with red meats, seafood, cheeses and dark/bitter chocolate desserts.

Brief History of Madeira Wine

From the late 1400s, ships bound for the Americas or the East Indies stopped at the Portuguese island of Madeira, off the coast of Morocco, to pick up wine for the voyage, which quickly spoiled. The addition of small quantities of brandy prevented this.

A shipment of wine that travelled circumnavigated the world returned to the island, and the locals found it had improved from the oxidation and heat. As sending wine around the globe was costly, island producers developed methods to replicate the ageing process locally.

The wine enjoyed great popularity for centuries, but grape pests such as powdery mildew and phylloxera and the loss of markets in Russia and America led to a slump. Poor-quality exports harmed its reputation, and it was forgotten by many.

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Further Reading

Below are some additional articles from The Drinks Geek blog. We write articles on several fascinating areas of drinks, including different brands, drink types, cocktail recipes and more.

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