Blended Madeira is often inexpensive and lower quality, but there are several higher end examples that make wonderful sipping wines; these usually carry an age designation.
- Finest Madeira isn’t the finest style of Madeira, but instead a 3 Year Old blended style with the grape Tinta Negra
- Rainwater Madeira is a fruity blend that must ages at least three years before release. This inexpensive style is good for cooking or mixing in cocktails, but isn’t half bad by itself either. The grape Tinta Negra is used for producing rainwater and other young blends.
- Reserve, that oft-abused wine labeling term, has different meaings in Madeira. Reserve wines are between 5-10 years of age, Special Reserve is 10-15 years old and undergo a higher quality winemaking process, Extra Reserve is 15-20 years in age.
- 20 Year Old is a multi-vintage blend that incorporates wines from several different years that are proven by a panel to taste at least 20 years old, and often older. 30 Year Old and 40 Year Old Madeira follow this same pattern.
Varietal Madeira represents the highest quality Madeira wine that are perfect for aperitifs or dessert wines. These wines are made as both non-vintage blends and as single vintage wines that can age for centuries due to Madeira’s unique winemaking process.
- Sercial (“Ser-seal”) is the brightest, most crisp style of Madeira. It is usually served as an apéritif at the start of the meal, or alongside light fish and vegetable dishes. Sercial shows lemony, spicy herbaceous notes and often displays a stony mineral character on the palate. These wines have a slight sweetness that is offset by their acidity, especially when served chilled.
- Verdelho (“Ver-dell-oo”) is smokier, slightly more concentrated, and richer than Sercial. A classic pairing for Verdelho Madeira is soup, especially seafood bisque or smoked potato and leek soup. Verdelho’s dryness and intensity of flavor makes it one of the most flexible Madeira styles for pairing with foods of varying richness. Verdelho has notes of spice, smoke and light caramel.
- Boal or Bual (“Buwall”) is a sweet Madeira that shows incredible complexity and aromatic lift. Open a bottle of old Bual in your kitchen and you might smell it in your dining room a few minutes later. Boal is great with any desserts that incorporate nuts, figs, stewed fruit, caramel or chocolate. With aromatic, rich cheeses, Boal is an amazing pairing. Boal smells and tastes like roasted coffee, salted caramel, bitter cacao, dates and golden raisins.
- Malmsey (“Malm-see”) is the richest and sweetest style of Madeira. You can pair Malmsey with rich chocolate desserts, ice cream, and cheese, or just sit with a glass by the fireside. Malmsey is dessert in and of itself. It’s common for Malmsey to show the most fruity, roasted nut and chocolate notes of all the styles of Madeira. Just like Boal, Malmsey can live for decades and even centuries in some cases.