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Madeira - what is it?


I hang my head in shame but I have never had any Madeira, not even a sip. I did see the curious looking bottles in wine shops, but that is as far as it goes.

I would be grateful if you could put me out of my misery and recommend some reading on Madeira and examples which I could start my Madeira journey on.


You could do a lot worse than start here

If you want a good and reasonably up to date book (there have been quite a few changes in the last 15 years or so) try Richard Mayson’s 2015 paperback
"Madeira: The islands and their wines "
I presume the hardback of that year is similarly up to date, but do not know for sure.


Oh. My. Goodness.

Well, if you have to start by reading, I believe there was a book by Alex Liddell, “Madeira, The Mid-Atlantic Wine” could be worth trying

… alternatively, bite the bullet (or drink it) and buy something to try :slight_smile:

I recommend something like this, to give you a proper introduction:


Yes, I thought the original edition of Liddell’s book was also good, though it is now now dated. I know there is a revised edition from 2014, but have not personally seen that edition. I would say Liddell’s style is more academic than Mayson’s.


You must try the Sercial that Robert recommends. It’s super; a high acid, dry, clean product that nevertheless has real depth of flavour and balance. We have it every Christmas; why only at Christmas, I don’t know… Like Fino and Manzanilla sherries, this style of Madeira is unique and interesting.


The sercial may be good, but if you want to know what people usually mean when they talk about Madeira, don’t start with this. The H and H Malvasia would be the place to start (although it will spoil you for many lesser ones). The styles do range from dry (sercial) to rich (Malvasia and Bual), but the traditional after dinner, much better than port, style is the latter.


And if you decide you don’t like it that much, then use it with porcini mushrooms in risotto or to make a fantastic sauce with filet of beef (+/- foie gras) :ok_hand:


Had this 1998 Verdelho at Pied a Terre last week with cheese, following a complimentary glass at a previous visit. Wonderful drop. Then we got the bill and fell off our chairs. The other bottles were BYO


And after you’ve had a glass, there’s no rush - an open bottle lasts forever…


I’m getting the impression @DrEm that you are quite the chef…:wink:


Hedonist :wink:


Surely the best way to learn about Madeira wines is to take a holiday to the islands and talk to and taste with the producers?

Years ago, I seem to remember learning about the four types of Madeira, sercial, verdelho, bual and malmsey but later on I also discovered rainwater.

I understand that the estufa, the oven which keeps the wine warm for a period of time, seeks to emulate wine sent in ships stuck in hot weather crossing the atlantic, a wine for history!


Excellent idea, and take time to walk the levadas as well.