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-circle to help you describing the aromas.
Please feel free to download and use the aroma circle and tasting form, as often as you want.

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 hardly any primary aromas like pure fresh fruit, nor has it secondary aromas like yeast or oak. Most present are tertiary aromas, also called bouquet, caused by oxidation and maturation under warm conditions, during a long period.

How do you taste a Madeira ?

By using a tasting-list, you can taste wines 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 (not speeded up by estufagem) 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 specific 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 like curry are abound. Vegetal aroma’s (e.g. grass) are slightly perceptible.
The oxidation count for the nutty tones, especially walnut, almond and hazelnut. 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
  • Maturity : does the wine give you a young and fresh impression, or mature and complex

Tasting of old harvest Madeira’s

Madeira can become immensely old, there are Madeira’s available from the 19th century, that still taste 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

Perishable after opening

The following perishable periodes are given after opening:

  • 3 years old madeira: 3-6 months
  • 5-15 years old Madeira: 6-9 maanden
  • 20 years and older Madeira: 1 year

Quality assessment

One can determine the 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)   

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 »