Tasting method

Madeira is a unique wine with a distinctive style. We offer you an easy-to-use tasting method. Plus: a tasting-form to assess the structure of Madeira. And last bot not least our aroma-wheel to help you describing the aromas.

Madeira wine has some specific features.

Madeira gets her character partly by the grapes, but most of all by the maturation: the aging process with warmth and oxygen. Madeira wine has no primary aromas like pure fresh fruit, but secondary aromas from fermentation. And tertiary aromas, also called bouquet, caused by aging.

How do you taste a Madeira ?

By using a tasting-list, you can taste wine in a systematic way of assessing and comparing.
Our method is based on the international WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting.


The appearance can already tell a lot about the wine.

  • look at the color intensity: how light or dark is this wine
  • then we look at the color tone. In Madeira it runs from golden yellow to amber brown
  • the quality madeira’s that were slowly matured often have a green rim


Sometimes aroma’s are very pronounced, on other moments you can find it hard to describe. At such a moment it can be easier to point out a group of aroma’s, such as tropical fruit.

Aromas and flavors

We have divided the aroma’s in Madeira wine into certain groups :

  • Fruit: dried, exotic, citrus
  • Spices: sweet, pungent, woody, chemical
  • Vegetal: green or ripe
  • Nuts
  • Toast: grilled, smoked
  • Sweet: heated sugar, candy’s

Some flavors of Madeira wine are common and mostly easy to recognize.
Madeira has no primary fruit aromas, but flavors of all kinds of dried and candied fruit .
Spices are abound. Vegetal aroma’s (e.g. grass) are slightly perceptible.
The oxidation count for the nutty tones. Madeira has sometimes roasted aroma’s.
Finally, the rapid heating in estufagem causes a caramel aroma. While the slow heating by Canteiro system counts for more complex wines and lots of aroma’s, such as honey and toffee.

Structure of the wine
The main points to determine the structure of the wine

  • Sweetness: to what extent is the sweetness dominant on the acidity
  • Acidity: is it mouth watering, does it prickle the side of your tongue, does it have a strong taste?
    then , the acidity is high
  • Body: (mouth feel ) is it thin like water, or round and creamy on your tongue
  • Aroma’s and flavors: use the aroma wheel to recognize aroma’s or a group of aroma’s
  • Maturity : does the wine give you a young and fresh impression, or ripened and soft

Tasting of vintage Madeira’s

Madeira can become immensely old, there are Madeira’s available from the 19th century, which taste still very good. It is recommended to decant old Madeira, depending on the age, because the wine has been for a very long time in a bottle: a low oxygen environment.

  • 10-15 year: decanting for 1 hour
  • 20-50 year: decanting for 2-4 hours
  • very old Madeira: decanting for 4 hours – 1 day

Quality assessment

One can determine a quality level by taking in account three items:

  • Balance: is every part of the wine equal to others, or is there something dominating
  • Finish: how long is the aftertaste (the longer the better )
  • Complexity: can you distinguish different aroma’s and flavors at different moments (the more, the better)

Download the Madeira aroma wheel   Download the Madeira tasting form

00001   Madeira tasting form

Technical explanation of the aroma wheel

Would you like to know more about the chemical origin of some smells and tastes?
See the technical aroma wheel below.

Read more »