Wine tour Madeira: Private tours, luxury stays and incredible experiences

It is difficult to imagine how a small rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean came to produce its own eponymous wine that has been cherished by kings and remains recognised throughout the world.

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Holidays, Full Day & Multi Day Tour Packages - Minimum Spend €500 per person, per day

The island of Madeira, also known as the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’, situated off the coast of Portugal, is renowned for its fortified wine with a history of viniculture that dates back to the 15th century.

During these times, wine often spoiled and needed to be fortified by adding brandy in order to survive sea voyages. Madeira was once a port of call where travellers would load up on wine to accompany journeys to the Americas or England. 

While sailing the high seas, the casks carrying the wine would be cooled and heated as the ships passed through the tropics – the deepened flavours were noticed by sailors who came to label this form of sea-ageing as ‘Vinha da Roda’.

Madeira wine was once considered the height of elegance and often the wine of preference in the regal courts in England and Europe – while its sweet smell also saw it used as perfume on woman’s scarves.

Even Shakespeare was transfixed by the wine – in the play King Henry IV the character Falstaff agrees to sell his soul to the devil for ‘a piece of cold capon and a glass of Madeira’.

Madeira’s unique taste is a consequence of repeated heating over months, which eventually creates fascinating flavours of roasted nuts, stewed fruit, caramel, and toffee.

The styles range from dry wines that can be consumed by themselves as an aperitif to sweet wines usually taken with desert – there are also inexpensive cooking versions, but these should remain firmly in the kitchen.

A Madeira wine tour offers visitors the opportunity to observe this extraordinary process while an expert guides you through vineyards and explains the intricacies of production.

There are two main types of Madeira wine that further have several unique styles differing in quality: Blended Madeira wines are generally lower quality, although there are a few exceptional aged varieties; and single varietal Madeira wines are of the highest quality, including styles aged for centuries due to the unique wine-making process.

At Wine Paths, our local expert can arrange an exclusive wine tour of Madeira, including elaborate tastings, luxury accommodation and other unique experiences that the island has to offer.

All of our luxury Madeira wine tours can be tailor-made to meet your exact needs, while ensuring every detail is taken care of before you arrive.

A typical wine tour of Madeira will visit the island’s main viticulture municipality at the Camara de Lobos vineyards as well as the north coast region of Sao Vicente.

A Madeira wine tour will often allow you to meet the wine makers and explore the vineyards before sampling several varieties accompanied by local cuisines.

There are two main types of Madeira wine that further have several unique styles differing in quality: Blended Madeira wines are generally lower quality, although there are a few exceptional aged varieties; and single varietal Madeira wines are of the highest quality, including styles aged for centuries due to the unique wine-making process.

The four main styles of the single varietal wines are synonymous with the four white Madeira grapes, ranging from the driest to the sweetest:

Sercial is the driest style that is characterised by high-toned colours, almond flavours and high acidity that is usually served as an aperitif or alongside fish or vegetable dishes.

Verdelho is slightly more concentrated, bringing a richer flavour with smoky overtones. The flexibility of its dryness and flavour intensity make it a classic pairing with variety of foods, especially soups.

Bual is a sweet Madeira exhibiting incredible complexity and aromatics that is the perfect accompaniment for desserts that feature figs, stewed fruit, caramel or chocolate – while its flavours of roasted coffee, bitter cacao and dates are also suited to cheeses.

Malmsey is the richest and sweetest style of Madeira that can be paired with rich chocolate desserts, ice cream or cheeses. Its flavours carry tones of roasted nuts and chocolate and like Boal it can last for decades.

 

Visit our Portugal destination page for inspiration on other wine tours in regions including Porto, Alentejo, and the Douro Valley.

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