Top Madeira Wines From Portugal

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Madeira is a type of fortified wine made in Portugal’s Madeira Islands. It is prized equally for drinking and cooking, as the wine is used in preparing for "Plum in Madeira," a type of dessert. Historically, Madeira is the first wine enjoyed among American colonies due to an exemption to the importation ban of European products. Nowadays, it is produced in rarity, hence its high price.

Here are the most recommended Madeira wines according to top wine tasters and reviewers.

Rare Wine Co. Charleston Sercial – The Charleston Sercial is the driest among the Rare Wine Co’s Historic Series, a collection of great Madeiras at reasonable prices. This wine offers nutty aromas tinged with honey, caramel, and maple syrup. The smooth flavors are marked with dried figs, honey, and candied citrus. The long finish features racy yet balanced acidity. Wine Advocate graded it with a score of 93 points, and costs around $45.

Rare Wine Co. New York Malmsey Special Reserve – The sweetest and richest in the Historic series, the New York Malmsey unfolds slowly in the glass, gradually revealing layers of depth and flavor. Notes of Coffee, toffee, and date emerge, followed by earthy and close-to-truffle flavors. Powerful and assertive on the long finish. Wine Advocate graded this with a score of 93 points, and costs around $45.

Blandy’s Rich Malmsey 15 Years – This venerable cask-matured Malmsey possesses the full luscious honeyed style of this classic Madeira. It is very sweet, along with a burnt quality to the molasses, caramel, and walnut flavors. This is balanced and powerful, ending with a long aftertaste of burnt caramel. Wine Spectator graded it with a score of 92 points, and costs around $42.

Leacock’s Rainwater 3 Years – A delicious, smoky-styled Madeira, with good balance to the off-dry caramel and buttercream flavors and the ripe melon, apricot, and tropical fruit elements. Decadent, mesquite smoke finish. Best served lightly chilled as an aperitif. Recommended to be taken until 2008. Wine Spectator graded it with a score of 90 points, and costs around $13.

Blandy’s Rich Malmsey 10 Years – This superbly full-bodied, wonderfully rich Madeira has a unique honeyed flavor with hints of apricot, ripe pear, and buttercream. It also has concentrated bouquet and a rich finish of brown sugar and spice. Recommended to be taken until 2009. Wine Spectator graded it with a score of 89 points, and costs about $42.

Cossart Gordon Bual 15 Years – This is a warm and inviting wine with well-rounded fruit flavors. A green, eucalyptus note adds dimension to the molasses, smoke, and nut flavors in this firmly structured, sleek Bual. Intense and long, with a toffee and clove aftertaste. The underlying acidity, typical of fine Madeiras, ensures an assertive albeit delicate long finish. Wine Spectator graded this with a score of 89 points, and costs around $34.