Madeira is a fortified wine that is made on the island of Madeira, which is a region of Portugal, and it is situated in the ocean near the top left corner of South Africa.  For single-varietal Madeira, you’ll find four styles that range from dry to sweet, which are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual or Boal, and Malmsey.

You’ll also find blended Madeira, that are often much more inexpensive.  Finest Madeira is meant more for cooking, as is Rainwater Madeira (or for cocktails.  You’ll also find Reserve Madeira, Special Reserve, and Extra Reserve.  Finally, you’ll find 20 Year old, 30 Year old and 40 Year old.  For this blog, we’ll focus on pairing single-varietal Madeira as it is made in a consistent style.

No matter what the style, you’ll find flavours of roasted nuts, stewed fruit, caramel, peach, burnt sugar and hazelnut with Madeira

Sercial Madeira & Food Pairing

Sercial Madeira is a bright, crisp and dry fortified wine that is perfect as an apéritif, or with light dishes.  Sercial has a lemony edge to it along with herbaceous notes and a touch of minerality.  This makes it perfect with shellfish such as clams, sushi, sole, green salads with a vinaigrette dressing.

Sercial makes for an interesting pairing with Filet Mignon as the almond notes and the dry texture of the wine contrast the subtle beefy flavours and buttery texture of Filet Mignon, without overshadowing it.

While  Sercial is the lightest style of Madeira, it still has a nutty quality, which makes it lovely with a handful of peanuts or almonds.

Verdelho Madeira & Food Pairing

Verdelho Madeira is the next step up, and here the wine has a touch of sweetness, along with bolder flavours of smoke, spice and caramel.  These features make Verdelho Madeira excellent with curry dishes, creamy soups like potato & leak soup, mushrooms, smoke salmon, swordfish, sardines, lobster bisque, ham, cottage cheese & hazelnuts.

Bual Madeira & Food Pairing

With Bual Madeira, we’ve now entered the dessert wine zone.  Bual Madeira is a sweet style wine with flavours of caramel, cacao, dates, roasted coffee and raisin.

To enjoy wines with dessert, the wine needs to be sweeter than the dessert, or else you might as well be drinking water.  Thus, you wouldn’t pair Bual Madeira up with an ice-cream sundae, but it is wonderful with fruit cake, almond desserts, peach cobbler, caramel desserts, brownies, and light chocolate cakes.

The caramel notes also make it quite enjoyable with chicken liver or foie gras.  While we are on the topic of non-dessert pairings, I’ve had it with lamb stew, and the pairing was surprisingly excellent.

Malmsey Madeira & Food Pairing

Malmsey Madeira is the sweetest style of Madeira, along with the richest and most concentrated flavours.  I enjoy a snifter of it by the fireside, but for food pairings, it is excellent with intense desserts like ice cream, crème brûlée, crème caramel, dark chocolate, or lemon mousse.  Many people also love it with blue cheese.


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