A wide array of styles
Madeira combines fantastically with all kinds of dishes. This is due to the wide array of styles; from the fresh Sercial, an aperitif that pairs beautifully with salads and fish, to a full-bodied and sweet Malvasia, which makes an enticing combination with dark chocolate or blue cheese.

Similar characteristics
Gastronomy is the art of enjoying food and wine, also known as fine dining. It is based on a very strong principle: similar characteristics provide the best match. The more the character of the wine matches that of the dish, the better the combination will be. However, the question immediately arises what exactly ‘character’ is and how this can be determined. A quick and easy method to find similar characteristics is to analyse both the wine and the food.


Wine and food pairing

Some think that for the best wine-food matches, one should look for either equal or opposing characters in flavour and structure, but in reality, the latter often turns out to be a disappointment.

Those who hold to the idea of opposites have probably had a good experience with creating suspense when pairing wine and food. This principle means that a little contrast can make a combination more attractive. Compare this to stretching a rubber band: it can be pulled, which creates a pleasant sense of tension, but when pulling the band too hard, it breaks and backfires.

Saturation of the palate
The opposite of structure suspense in a food and wine pairing is saturation of the palate. When eating fatty stuff while drinking a sweet wine with full body it can become too much of the same, making it feel like you will explode. Saturation is rare when savouring Madeira, because it has a built-in protection: its balance of sweetness and acidity, and their individual intensity levels. Madeira can never create a one-dimensional feeling because of this balance.

Basics of cooking

While cooking, choices are constantly being made that will determine the final character of a dish. Some options are obvious; hopefully the chef understands his / her profession and has not cooked the ‘lapas’, the delicate Madeiran limpets, because then you will have a plate full of tough rubbery snails. There are three elements to be taken care of: product, cooking method, and garnishing.


Character of the dish

A suitable Madeira can be chosen to accompany the dish, or vice versa, first the Madeira is chosen, then the dish, it makes no difference. The best match is achieved by making an analysis of both, which sounds like a lot of effort, but after building a routine it can be done in two minutes. The question is: how to determine the character?
There are four elements that determine the character of the food: dominance, body, maturity, and complexity.


Grapes and food pairing

We can analyse the wine in various ways, all together the result is called style.

The sweetness
From extra dry to sweet.

The character of the grape
Its body, acidity, and aroma profile. It speaks for itself that high quality and long-aged Madeira like Frasqueira is more outspoken and complex. Besides,  the style of the producer can make a wine sweeter or drier, more pungent, or smoother. Finally, the choice of wine comes down to personal preferences.

The mystery of sercial
It is striking how well Sercial pairs with fish. Without trying, realising that a Sercial can contain up to 59 grams of sugar per litre, most people would probably quickly let go of this idea altogether. The sharp acidity of Sercial certainly plays a part in this uncommon pairing success, as acidity is generally considered to match well with fish dishes.

Medium dry Verdelho once was the most planted grape variety on Madeira. In the wine, fresh and ripe characteristics are in balance, which makes it the ideal still wine. Verdelho is suitable as an aperitif, or as an accompaniment to a great variety of dishes, it is therefore claimed to be the most gastronomical wine.

Boal possesses a generous mature fruitiness and full body. Due to its richness, it is very suitable for serving with food with a ripe character, both salty and sweet. And it intensifies the flavours in a broth, adding complexity.

Malvasia is the sweetest of Madeiras. It is full-bodied and bursting of fully developed aromas that show the typical character of the grape, such as figs, dates, raisins, and orange peel. Part of its aromas derive from oxidised sugars.



Famous French chefs have often been Madeira aficionados.
The abundant Madeira aromas of nuts, chocolate, molasses,
and spices fit like a puzzle piece in the picture of beef and mushrooms. None of it is young, fresh, and light, everything is stately and layered, these ripened notes reinforce each other.

Madeira sauce
A classic recipe could not fail: the Madeira sauce. All kinds of recipes can be found on the internet and in cookbooks, but the basis is the same.

Tournedos Rossini
The most famous dish with Madeira is no doubt the ‘Tournedos Rossini.’ Some chefs used to give their latest dish the name of a famous person, which was excellent public relations for that time, as it ensured their name would not be forgotten.
This is a tenderloin with foie gras, fried in butter with sliced Périgord truffle slices, drizzled with Madeira. Old Verdelho or Boal provide the required depth, and the right balance of sweetness and acidity for this delicious dish.

Oxtail broth
It is a pity that many people only know Madeira as a cooking wine, on the other hand it would be good to revive that tradition, but with quality awareness. It takes a day to make an oxtail broth, and Madeira adds sophistication. Tip: in this case, use Verdelho, preferably one that is at least 10 or 20 years old.