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Madère (F)
Madeira (GB)
Madera (I)
Madeira (PO)
Madeira (N)
Madeira (ES)

DOC area for a famous Dessert wine, which is named after the Portuguese island of Madeira. The archipelago is located in the Atlantic, about 1,000 km from the mainland Portugal and 650 km from the coast of Africa ( Morocco ) away. It was discovered in 1420 by the navigator João Gonçalves Zarco (1380-1467), who found a densely forested island (Madeira means "island of the forest"). The Portuguese set fire to the island, and the fire raged for seven years. Almost all of the vegetation was destroyed as a result, but the wood ash and the existing volcanic soil created ideal conditions for viticulture. At the end of the 16th century, a commercially important viticulture was documented. The port in Funchal quickly developed into a strategically important stopover, which all ships on the way to Africa. Asia and South America were headed. Here the ships also supplied themselves with wines. However, these mostly spoil on the long sea voyages. That's why it gradually settled Spriten with distilled from sugar cane spirits through, especially to make the wines more durable. However, this only became the norm in the middle of the 18th century.

Madeira - Map of wine-growing areas and map position

Execution by drowning in Madeira barrel

It is not certain when a Madeira of today was launched, but a legend tells of one from 1478. In this year George Plantaganet became the Duke of Clarence (1449-1478), brother of the English King Edward IV (1442 -1483), sentenced to death for conspiratorial activity, greed and violence. He was given the choice of execution and, according to unsecured tradition, he allegedly chose to die by drowning in one Malmsey filled barrel in the tower. However, the "drowning" may refer to the fact that he was a heavy drinker throughout his life. In any case, he was not killed with the beheading method of beheading that is customary for nobles, as evidenced by later exhumation.

Vinhos de Torna Viagem

The special way of making, in terms of the typical taste and the colour also as maderisation in the 17th century happened to be large quantities from Funchal by ship from the Dutch exported to South America and other colonies. It was found that the longer the voyage and the longer the ship was in the hot, tropical climate, the better the wine became. The rocking ship movement (as one suspected at the time) but above all the extreme temperature fluctuations contributed to the typical taste. Therefore, many ships were now loaded with the wine and sent to the East Indies and back only for the purpose of manufacture (they therefore crossed the equator twice). The wines were called "Vinhos de torna-viagem "(Wines make a trip) or" Vinho da roda "(roda = turn / rotate) and is also on old Madeira bottles on the label documented (TVE).

Madeira - Vinhos de Torna Viagem - barrel and ship

The original impetus for trade in Madeira was laid in the late 17th century when wine was needed in large quantities for the new Portuguese colonies in South America (Brazil). The colonization of America in the 17th century under the rule of the English King Charles II (1630-1685) made Madeira also fashionable on the North American east coast. It enjoyed a great reputation there and became a coveted and expensive property. The American Declaration of Independence in 1776 was solemnly sealed with a Madeira. The first US President George Washington (1732-1799) enjoyed a Madeira for dinner every day. And the founding of the capital Washington DC, named after him, was also celebrated with a Madeira. Wine was popular in the 19th century United States so popular that its own events (Madeira parties) were held and clubs were founded (the still existing Madeira Club of Savannah-Ohio is legendary).

The elaborate production by ship was still practiced until the beginning of the 20th century, but was then abandoned (individual bottles are still available in stores). Now they tried to imitate the special conditions. Wine warehouses (port. Estufa = oven, English hothouse) were built, these were provided with tin roofs that store solar heat and the wine was stored for months at high temperatures. This was the beginning of the Estufagem process that is common today. In the 1860s, the mildew and the phylloxera the island and paralyzed viticulture. In the 1870s, many vineyards were replaced by sugar cane, and just under 500 hectares remained. Ten years later, they dared to make a fresh start with unfinished ones hybrids (especially Cunningham and Jacquet ). However, these were already banned for Madeira in 1979.

Madeira production

The conditions are determined and monitored by the IVBAM (Instituto do Vinho, do Bordade e do Artesanato da Madeira), which also operates a museum. The traditional four noble grape varieties, from which the best wines are produced in a single variety (85%) Boal (Bual) Malvasia Branca de São Jorge (Malmsey) Sercial and Verdelho, The variety is only available in small quantities Terrantez, In the vineyards with around 2,100 hectares of vineyards, which are cultivated by around 4,000 winegrowers, the Tinta Negra Mole dominates with 80% ( Negramoll ). The vines are traditionally grown on low pergolas on terraces pulled so that the grape harvest has to be bent down or kneeling. The grapes are then ground.

The fermentation takes place in 25,000 liter containers made of wood or coated concrete, in the Madeira types Malvasia and Boal mostly by means of maceration, in the Sercial and Verdelho types, the must is separated from the skins beforehand. Sercial and Verdelho wines are usually fermented dry. Malvasia wines are stopped early and Boal wines are stopped halfway through fermentation by 96 percent Aguardente (Spirits). The manufacturing technique Estufagem is used almost exclusively in Madeira and makes it unique. This is the heating of the wine to which it was naturally exposed during the boat trips across the equator. Huge, tiled concrete tanks with a volume of 20,000 to 50,000 liters are used for mass production. A stainless steel heating coil, through which hot water flows, runs through them and heats the wine to 40 to 50 ° C for at least three to six months.

In the second, much more complex but gentle way, the wine is poured into the typical 600 liter barrels (Lodge Pipes) and stored in heated rooms at slightly lower temperatures. In this case, it is usually six to twelve months. However, some producers refuse to artificially heat the wine. They store the barrels under the roofs of the lodges in the Canteiros (Storage racks for the barrels), where they are stored naturally heated by the sun, cooled again at night and are therefore exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations compared to the other variants. The wines matured in this traditional way on the island (not by boat) were formerly known as "Vinho canteiro". In all cases, the sugar contained is partially heated caramelized, The wine gets the typical taste and strong oxidation the Madeirizing tone. After the estufagem (warming), the wine must be carefully cooled. The age of the wines is calculated from the end of the Estufagem phase.

It is mandatory Spriten, Depending on the form of fermentation described above, some wines are sprinkled for the first time at this time, if they are sweet, this can be the second or third time. As a result, an alcohol content of around 17% vol is achieved. There are two types of sweetening in the sweet Madeira. In the case of the better wines, this takes place through the fermentation interruption mentioned, with the cheaper wines, thickened sweet must (Vinho Surdo) is added after the fermentation and this also in color by adding caramel corrected. After filtration the wine rests for 12 to 18 months and is then classified in terms of quality.

Quality levels according to maturity

After this racking Further maturation takes place in wooden barrels. From Estufagem this is at least three years, these are referred to as "Finest" or "3-Year-Old". A “Seleccionado” is at least three years old, but a maximum of five years old. An “Alvada” is an at least 5-year blend of several varieties that is marketed in 0.5 liter bottles. The minimum age for wines from the noble varieties is five years, that is the "reserve" or "5-year-old". The "good wines" start from "Special Reserve" or "10-Year-Old". Other aging levels are "Extra Reserve" or "Over 15-Years-Old", "20-Years Old", "30-Years Old" and "Over 40-Years-Old". The most noble are the "Vintage Madeira", which mature at least 20 years in the barrel and two years in the bottle.

With all variants, a Madeira can be enjoyed immediately when it is put on sale. Madeira developed (for example opposite port wine ) much less depot, on decanting must (if at all) only be done with very old wines. It is considered to be the most long-lived wine in the world, which gets better as it ages. (Extremely expensive) vintages from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century are still on the market today and have no impairment of enjoyment. Even an opened bottle has an almost unlimited shelf life.

Vintage indication

For a "real", so to speak, corresponding to the term Vintage Madeira (Vintage Madeira) or for Madeira wines with a year on the label gives the following information or types:

The type of wine has only been produced for a few years and corresponds to that colheita at the port wine, It becomes at least 85% of the same vintage and made at least 85% from only one of the recommended or approved grape varieties. The wine matures for at least five to a maximum of twenty years.

The label shows the year in which the Solera Was "opened" (started). This means that, in addition to the specified vintage, younger vintages are also included due to the blend of vintages. The system introduced here in the 19th century (as with the sherry ) is hardly used in Madeira.

Vintage (Frasqueira) and Harvest Vintage
This real vintage wine comes from 100% one vintage, It ages at least 20 years in the barrel and two years in the bottle. A new type of wine is "Harvest Vintage" with 5 to 10 years of maturation, which is however not necessarily suitable for a longer storage for decades.

candy degree

The requirements for the content of residual sugar apply to all Madeira types:

  • extra seco / extra dry - up to 49.1 g / l
  • seco / dry - 49.1 to 64.8 g / l
  • meio seco / medium-dry - 64.8 to 80.4 g / l
  • meio doce / semisweet - 80.4 to 96.1 g / l
  • doce / sweet - from 96.1 g / l

Madeira types

The names of the four noble grape varieties and the rare Terrantez variety appear on the label and also stand for a certain Madeira style or content of residual sugar.

Madeira barrels - Verdelho

Bastardo , Moscatel and Terrantez
These three types of wine from the grape varieties of the same name are only produced in very small quantities, if at all. A Moscatel-Madeira was last produced in 1900. Older vintages from Terrantez achieve Auctions Regular fancy prizes, legendary are the 1789 vintages and especially the 1795 produced by Barbeito. There are efforts to revive the Terrantez or this Madeira style.

Tinta Negra Mole (Negramoll) - all levels of candy
This variety is used to produce simple Madeiras, which make up around 40% of production. The name has not been used on the since 1993 label appear. These wines are only labeled with the level of sweetness.

Bual (Boal) - semi-sweet
The wine type is much darker and sweeter than Sercial or Verdelho. The variety is mainly grown on the warmer south side of the island. The gold-colored wine has a characteristic raisins and dried fruit aroma with a fresh acidity even in old age.

Malmsey (Malvasia) - sweet
The sweetest and most complex Madeira type is considered the very best. The red and white Malvasia grow in the lowest and warmest areas of the island (especially around Câmara de Lobos). The lush sweet wine with a honey, Coffee- and Caramel flavor tastes non-sticky due to its concise and balancing acidity. This wine can be kept for a hundred years or more.

Sercial - dry
The driest and sourest in youth and astringent Wine type with pale color. The grape of the same name is mostly grown at the cooler elevations and on the north side of the island and therefore rarely ripens. An almond-like aroma develops after at least ten years of aging.

Verdelho - semi-dry
The wine type has a bitter, nutty taste. The cultivar of the same name is grown on the north side of the island, but matures better than the Sercial. A spicy acidity is retained even in old age, the golden yellow color changes from golden yellow to a darker shade.

Rainwater - semi-dry
This special type of wine can also be described as a milder and lighter Verdelho. There are several variants of the name of this wine, which is at least historically interesting. One says that it was made from vines where there was no artificial one irrigation possible and there was a dependence on rainwater. The second variant reports that in the 18th century, several Madeira barrels were exposed to rain for a long time by sea to America, the water was absorbed by the wood and got into the wine. An American named Habisham is also named as the deliberate “inventor”. In any case, people in the USA liked this semi-dry, light wine, which became an export hit. The type was created for 200 years, for example by Cossart Gordon, Today it is only produced in small quantities, mostly from the Tinta Negra mole. The manufacturing method is only vaguely defined.

Madeira bottles


The best-known producers and trading houses and Madeira brands include Barros Almeida & Co, Artur de Barros e Sousa, Barbeito, Blandy, HM Borges, Broadbent Selections, Companhia Vinicola da Madeira (CVM), Cossart Gordon, Duke of Clarence, Funchal Wine, Justino Henriques. Henriques & Henriques, Leacock, Miles (Rutherford & Miles), Pereira d'Oliveira Vinhos (AO-SM = Anibal d'Oliveira, Sao Martinho), Power Drury, Sandeman and Silva Vinhos. Some of these brands are no longer produced today, but due to the extreme longevity of Madeira, very old vintages are still on the market. The Madeira Wine Company (to which some of the listed brands belong) is majority owned by Blandy and Symington,

Additional information

A very similar dessert wine is that made in mainland Portugal Setúbal, All work, techniques and measures in the vineyard during the growth cycle can be found under the keyword Weingarten Care, Complete lists of the numerous vinification measures or cellar techniques, as well as the wine, sparkling wine and distillate types regulated by wine law are under the keyword winemaking contain. There is extensive wine law information under the keyword wine law,

Map on the left: Everything about sweet wines
Map on the right: Von TUBS , CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link (edited by N. Tischelmayer)
Madeira barrels: CC BY-SA 2.0 de , Link
Madeira bottles: By Frank Papenbroock , Wikipedia , CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link

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