Home Industry News Releases Discover the Grapes of Madeira Wine

Discover the Grapes of Madeira Wine


September 22, 2022, New York, NY:  Madeira, the fortified wine produced in the Portuguese Madeira Islands (Madeira and Porto Santo) is a wine that excites the palate. Ranging from dry to sweet, Madeira can be enjoyed on its own, paired with a meal or mixed in a cocktail.

Next month, Madeira wine lovers will have the opportunity to taste and learn about Madeira wines paired with appetizers and attend Madeira wine presentations hosted by sommelier and Portuguese wine expert, Bruno Almeida at City Winery, New York on Monday, Oct 3,2022. Tickets can be purchased here: https://tinyurl.com/4v2fm755

Madeira Wine Experience New York, City Winery, Oct 3, 2022. 25 11th Ave at 15th Street, Pier 57 at Hudson River Park, New York NY 10011

For those unable to attend the Madeira Wine Experience New York, here is a quick primer on the grape varieties that make Madeira wine so unique.

Madeira wine is produced predominantly from five major grape varieties that must be grown on the island. It is typically a mono-varietal wine, with each white varietal representing one of the four styles of Madeira:  dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, and sweet. According to the EU regulations, Madeira wine is labeled after the grape that comprises 85% of the wine.

The five major white grape varieties used for Madeira production are:

Sercial – Prized for its high acidity, Sercial is also found on the mainland of Portugal. It grows at high altitudes on the north of Madeira Island and in Camara de Lobos in the south. Pale in color, the wine matures into a wonderfully mellow but dry wine with subtle flavors of hazelnuts and almonds with a delicate touch of crisp apples. This delicate fresh wine makes an excellent aperitif. Sercial is an example of a Dry (Seco) style Madeira wine.

Verdelho – Verdelho likely originated from continental Portugal, the Azores, or Italy. This variety is characterized by small and medium-sized grape clusters. It produces slightly more full-bodied and less acidic wines than Sercial. You will find notes of caramel, caramelized orange, crème brulee and dried fruits and figs as well as well as a long finish. Verdelho is an example of a Medium-Dry (Meio Seco) style Madeira wine.

Boal – Originally from continental Portugal, this variety produces large bunches of grapes with a hardy skin. Cultivated at altitudes ranging from 350 to 650 feet, it produces medium-sweet, medium-bodied wines. Boal is known for its balance between acidity and sweetness along with the beautiful nose acquired during the cask aging process. Round and rich and with a distinct spicy note, Boal is an excellent choice for a dessert wine. Plus, it ages extremely well and the greater the age the more integrated and interesting the wine becomes. Boal is an example of a Medium-Sweet (Meio Doce) style Madeira wine.

Malvasia Cândida – The Malvasia-Cândida variety was the first to be planted on the island of Madeira and is originally from Crete. It is characterized by large and conical bunches and is usually found from sea level to 650 feet in altitude mainly on the south coast. Malvasia-Cândida has always been treated with great care and attention, producing wines that are highly sought after with the most collectible of these wines fetching astronomical prices at auction. First produced by Jesuit priests in the 18th century, Malvasia Cândida is considered the King of Wines from the entire production of Madeira Wine. The grape variety produces sweet-style wines, being amongst the richest and smoothest of Madeira wines. With a musky fragrant nose, this wine lingers on the palate with notes of vanilla, molasses, walnuts, and caramel. Malvasia Candida is an example of a Sweet (Doce) Madeira wine.

Terrantez – It is usually found on the south coast of the island, mainly in Calheta, Câmara de Lobos and Santa Cruz, at altitudes from sea level to 650 feet. This early ripening grape variety is characterized by small, cylindrical-conical, compact bunches. The grapes are round, small, and yellowish green in color, with a thin skin. Terrantez produces medium dry and medium sweet Madeira wines. Because it is considered a rare grape variety, which produces very special wines, the people ascribe it to a popular saying: “The grapes of the Terrantez variety, neither eat nor give them, for God made them for wine!”

The major red grape variety used for Madeira production is:

Tinta Negra – The most planted grape on Madeira and one of the few red varieties grown, accounts for 80-85% of total Madeira production. This red grape variety, extremely productive and versatile, has adapted well to the sometimes-adverse circumstances of the Island. It produces any type of Madeira Wine, from the driest to the sweetest, depending on when the fermentation process stops. It produces wines with a characteristic bouquet, which is intensified with aging. On the palate, it is well balanced, persistent and with a pleasant aftertaste. Some high quality Tinta Negra bottlings are being produced and the variety is being recognized in its own right for its quality and depth of flavor.

Other, less common red Madeira grapes are Bastardo and Complexa.

Madeira is a Protected Designation of Origin product (PDO) meaning no other wine can use its official name, and while it is similar to other fortified wines, Madeira truly stands on its own. Whereas winemakers in other parts of the world do everything they can to avoid having the wine come into contact with heat and oxygen (the two biggest culprits that make wine go bad), Madeira wine producers deliberately engage these factors, which means when you open a bottle of Madeira it can last for months or years.

About Madeira Wine

Madeira Wine is a fortified wine available in a range of dry to sweet styles that comes from the Island of Madeira in Portugal. The tiny viticultural region (approximately five hundred hectares) with the Protected Designation of Origin “Madeira” (DOP Madeira), is a unique landscape characterized by very steep slopes and mostly basaltic soils volcanic in origin. The proximity to the sea and the climate, with hot and humid summers and mild winters provide the wines with unique characteristics and a singular winemaking and aging process.

Dry styles of Madeira are served chilled and sweeter styles are often served as after-dinner-sippers. These wines are made as both non-vintage blends and single vintage wines that can age for centuries.

Of all the accredited and recommended varieties, those that are used most and that have the longest tradition in Madeira winemaking are the Sercial, Verdelho, Boal, Malvasia, Terrantez and Tinta Negra varieties.

Madeira Wine has a set of designations that allow the identification of its different varieties. Indication of age: 5 years old – Reserve (or Old); 10 years old – Old Reserve (or Special Reserve or Very Old) 15 years old – Extra Reserve; 20, 30, 40, 50 and over 50 years old. Frasqueira or Garrafeira – with the indication of vintage year and a minimum aging of 20 years in wood. Colheita or Harvest with the indication of vintage year and a minimum aging of 5 years.

Madeira Wines also receive designation in accordance with their degree of sweetness as follows: Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Sweet, and Sweet.

For further information, please visit:

Vinho Madeira Wine 

Wines of Portugal 

Previous articleOp Ed: We Need to Talk About Wine in an Intelligent Way
Next articleWine Enthusiast Nominates Kind of Wild’s Co-Founders Jordan Sager & Adam Sager as Social Visionary of the Year


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.