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Madeira wines for Christmas

Heat plays an integral part in the array of styles, complexity and great longevity of the fortified wines produced on this small, sub-tropical island off the coast of northwest Africa. Richard Mayson picks several bottles to try...

If ever there was a wine to take to a desert island, it is Madeira. This is not because Madeira is an island (and it ceased to be deserted when it was discovered by the Portuguese in 1420) but because no other wine is so utterly resilient. Madeira survives heat, air and almost anything you can throw at it. Once the cork is removed, the wine comes to no harm, even if the bottle is left open and on ullage for months, even years on end. As a result you can taste an enthrallingly rich, deep and complex wine with repeated visits to the same bottle: just the wine for an island paradise.

Fortified with grape spirit at 96% abv (Port is fortified with spirit at 77%), Madeira needs age to taste the way it should; ‘maderised’ being the operative expression.

Keeping Madeira

Madeira will last almost indefinitely in bottle. All wines are bottled ready to drink. As a rule of thumb, blended wines bottled with stopper corks should be drunk within five years of bottling.

Colheita and vintage wines may be kept indefinitely. Bottles should be stored standing up. It is recommended that bottles with driven corks be re-corked roughly every 20 years. Wines should be served at cool room temperature unless otherwise indicated.

Richard’s pick of Madeira wines:


Richard Mayson’s book, Madeira, The Islands and their Wines, is published by Infinite Ideas. He is also the Decanter World Wine Awards Regional Chair for Port and Madeira.

You may also like:

Understanding the different Madeira styles

Madeira – The travel guide

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