Madeira wine dictionary

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Aroma's of Madeira wine

The aroma's of quality Madeira wines are formed partly by the grape, but for a great part through maturation under the influence of oxygen and heat. During this maturation tertiairy aromas develop, the so-called bouquet.
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Barbeito Madeira

A producer of Madeira wine, a family business, founded in 1946 by Mário Barbeito de Vasconcelos.
Barbeito is now run by his daughter Manuela de Vasconcelos.
More information on the website:

Bastardo grape

One of the "noble grapes" of Madeira, but hardly produced now a day.
High acidity and lots of natural sugar, some bitterness. Dark, rich and very fruity.
Suitable for each style of wine, from dry to sweet.

Blandy's Madeira

Blandy's Madeira was founded in 1811 by John Blandy.
Blandy's is now part of the Madeira Wine Company, together with Cossart Gordon, Leacock and Miles.
For more information:

Blended Madeira

A blend of wines with an average age stated on the bottle:
3, 5 , 10, 15, 20 , 30, or 40 years.

Boal / Bual

A white grape variety of Madeira.
Full bodied, with lots of natural sugars. Raisin aroma.
One of the four noble grape varieties.
Style of wine: meio doce / medium sweet / semi-sweet.
Residual sugar in the wine: 40-60 grams per liter.
Fits well with stews, aged cheeses, dark chocolate.

Bolo de mel

A traditional cake of Madeira, similar to our gingerbread.
Dark- colored, with a soft texture , spiced with among others cinnamon and cloves.
Filled with walnuts and almonds. You don't have to cut this cake, simply tear it with your hands.
Malvasia or Boal are very good partners for the bolo de mel.

Borges Madeira

Producer of Madeira wine, founded in 1877 by Henrique Menezes Borges.
Borges is still a family business.
More information:

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Normally wines are aged in a cool, dark place, usually a basement.
In contrary, Madeira ripens in an overhead shed, where the temperature is around 30 ºC. The sun may come in!
The wines are simmered slowly here. To achieve this temperature the shed often has a tin roof. And sometimes there are additional heating pipes applied. This slow aging is called Canteira system, it is the basis of all Madeira quality wines.
"Canteira" is the name of the wooden beams on which the casks lie.


Colheita means year. These are wines of a vintage year, which is stated on the label.
They have a minimum of 5 years aging in wood, but often much more.
Some colheita's are over 100 years old! They are very tasty, stll fresh, and of course very expensive.
Colheita may be made from one of the four noble grape varieties, but also from Terrantez or tinta negra.

Cooking wine

Simple 3 years old Madeira is mostly used for cooking.
To avoid paying excise duty on wine the winemaker adds salt and pepper to this type of wine.
Then it is not a wine anymore, but a sauce.
This is sold in small bottles.

Cossart Gordon

The oldest existing Madeira winery, founded in 1745 by a Scotsman: Francis Newton.
In 1758 Thomas Gordon became a partner in 1808 an Irishman joined the group: William Cossart.
Most Madeira was shipped to America, so it was known as "American Madeira"
Today Cossart Gordon is part of the MWC: Madeira Wine Company.

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Swordfish. An impressive and beautiful fish with a very long beak.
Traditional fish in Madeira.


Skewer of meat. A hanger is placed on the table, the skewer with grilled meat hangs in it.
Some restaurants serve in succession all kinds of of meat from the skewer.


The resting period between the heating in the estufa and lagering on wood.

Extra reserva Madeira

A blend of years. The average aging time is 15 years.
The same rules as those for a Special Reserva applies.
This is an uncommon style, winemakers prefer to wait another 5 years and make a frasquera.

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Finest Madeira

This is the basic quality Madeira.
Finest Madeira has undergone three months of estufagem: rapid maturation
It is made of the tinta negra grape.
It bears in total 3 years cask-aging.
This is a simple style of wine with a distinct caramel tone, that is mostly used in the food, in soups and sauces.


Frasquera is the Portugese word for "glass"
These are the premium wines of Madeira, also called Vintage.
The year of vintage is always mentioned on the label.
Frasqueira is only made out of one of the four noble grape varieties.
At least 20 years of maturing in cask. The aging potential is almost unlimited.


Capital of Madeira, in the south. Funchal means fennel.
Madeira has a total of 270,00 people habitants.
Funchal, including the surrounding areas Camera de Lobos, Canico, Machico and Ribeira Barva holds 150,000 persons.

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Henriques & Henriques

Madeira producer, founded in 1850 by João Gonçalves Henriques.
In 1912 the company was taken over by his two sons, Francisco Eduardo and João Joaquim Henriques.
More information: www.henriquesehenriques.p

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Instituto do Vinho, do Bordado e do Artesanato de Madeira.

Institute for Wine and embroidery.
In order to reduce the costs, the representation of two branches is done by one institution.
The IVBAM regulates and monitors Madeira wines.
The laboratory and the panel examine both the quality of the wines on composition and taste.
IVBAM also provides the joint promotion of wines.
More information:

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Justino's Madeira

Madeira wine producer, founded in 1870.
Since 1993 part of a French holding.

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A large hand press from the 18th century, made ??entirely of wood.


Most vineyards in Madeira are planted in a latada system (pergola or trellis system).
Here the grapes hang like a balcony at about 1,5 to 2 meters.
This way, the grapes get more air, reducing the risk of rot and mold.
Previously, all kinds of vegetables were cultivated below, but this diminishes the quality of the grapes, therefore this is not so common anymore.


The first lavadas were built around 1550: long channels in the mountains, taking water from the north to the south.
In total there are 2150 kilometers levadas, of which 40 km in tunnels.
These channels have made ??agriculture possible everywhere in the south of Madeira.
The levadas must be maintained: boulders and earth landslides, fallen trees and leaves should be removed.
Besides the levadas there are trails for maintenance.
Now there are 300 km of Levadas made suitable for tourists.
On these levadas you can walk through the spectacular scenery: passing waterfalls, through eucalyptus forests and sometimes walking on steep slopes.

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Madeira - the island

Madeira is a volcanic island, formed 20 million years ago.
It is located in the Atlantic Ocean, 600 km from the Moroccan coast and 900 miles southwest of Portugal.
The entire island is mountainous, the slopes are often very steep.
Madeira is called the flower Island or Island of eternal spring.
The climate is subtropical and very evenly.
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Madeira Wine Company MWC

Madeira Wine Company, abbreviated as MWC was founded in 1913 .
It is the largest producer of Madeira wine.
The greatest shareholder today is Symington, a port-shipping company.
The brands they carry are: Blandy's, Cossart Gordon, Leacock 's Miles.
More information:

Malvasia / Malmsey

A white grape of Madeira, als found in the rest of the mediterranean and Portugal.
Full and ripe, with a high of natural sugar content. Aroma's of coffee and chocolate.
One of the four noble grape varieties.
The style of wine is always doce / sweet.
Malvasia fits well with blue cheeses and fully sweet desserts.

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Pereira d'Oliveira Madeira

Founded in 1850 by João Pereira D'Oliveira.
Pereira has incorporated in total 6 smalll Madeira wineries.
It has only sold wines on Madeira itself, as well as to the Portugese mainland.
Pereira D'Oliveira started exporting Madeira as late as from 1985.
Therefore, d
'oliveira is famous for its large stock of very old wines, for example from the twenties en thirties.
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A very steep slope in Madeira.
Steep slopes are more the rule than exception.


Poncha (punch) is an alcoholic beverage that is consumed all over Madeira.
Made of white rum (sugar cane brandy  with lemon juice and honey.
Often supplemented with flavors like passion fruit.

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Rainwater Madeira

A light style Madeira wine, especially produced for the U.S. market .
The story goes that one day a barrel of Madeira was left behind on the beach, meant to be shipped to America.
This wine was diluted by rainwater, which eventually led to this type of wine.
Rainwater may be produced ??in estufa (rapid heating) or canteiro (slow heating)
It may be sold after three years of maturation.
The grape for Rainwater is the tinta negra.

Reserva Madeira

A blend of grape varieties with an average age of 5 years.
Both estufagem as Canteira system may be used.
Each permitted grape variety may be used.
A well known Reserva is the "Alvada" of Blandys, a blend of Malmsey and Boal .
This is a new and highly successful wine, a compromise between classical and commerciawines maturing young wine.

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A white grape with high acidity and low sugars.
One of the four noble grape varieties of Madeira.
Residual sugar content of the wine: <25 g / l.
Style: secco / dry / dry.
A very good wine to serve as an aperitif.

Solera Madeira

A unique process, which resembles the sherry system, but in Madeira it's not totally the same.
In the Madeira solera system the wine matures the first decades in a wooden cask.
Occasionally, wine is drained and sold, up to a maximum of 10 %.
The vessel is then refilled with new wine.
This gives a wonderful blend of flavors: the old wines provide complexity, the young wines fresh vibrancy.
After 10 times draining the entire vessel must be bottled at once.

Special Reserva Madeira

A blend of years. The average age of maturation is at least 10 years .
Special Reserva is almost always made ??with to the Canteira method and generally the grape variety is mentioned on the label.
When the variety is not on the label, it means the wine is made ??from the tinta negra.

Stufas - Madeira

In 1794 Pantaleão Fernandez devised the first estufagem system.
Instead of shipping the wines for a long time to warm places far away, you can mature them in a fast way at home.
"Stufa"  is Portuguese for stewing.


A port house that used to be great-shareholder of the Madeira Wine Company.

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Terrantez grape

One of the "noble grapes" in Madeira.
The Terrantez grape origens from the Douro region.
High acidity and lots of natural sugar, some bitterness.
A grape that makes wines with crisp acidity.
Suitable for each style of wine: from dry to sweet.

Tinta negra grape

This grape variety comes from the Portuguese mainland.
After the catastrophic destruction of the vines by phylloxera in 1875, most vineyards were replanted with the Tinta Negra.
This blue grape now accounts for 85 % Madeira wines production. It is easy to grow.
Tinta negra is the basis for the cheap wines, but increasingly good quality is found from it.
It used to be called "Tinta Negra Mole" but "mole" means black, dark, which is an association that is not wanted anymore.

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White grape variety of Madeira.
One of the four noble grape varieties.
Style of wine: meio seco / medium dry / semi-dry.
Residual sugar in the wine: 17-40 grams.
A very useful wine in gastronomy, because of the good balance of acidity and sweetness.

Vinification of Madeira wine

The vinification process of Madeira wine is unique in the world:
Madeira is the only wine in the world that improves buy aging under the influence of oxidation and  warmth.
Halfway the fermentation the wine is fortified with grape distillate.
Then, the residual sugar gives the wine its natural sweet.
For detailed information see:

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