Madeira is a Portuguese fortified wine that ranges from sweet to dry.  Dry Madeira pairs best with almonds, shellfish, seafood, mushroom and soup.  Meanwhile, sweet Madeira pairs best with Foie Gras, Crème Brûlée, Brownies, Dark Chocolate and almond desserts.  The dry to sweet Madeira ranges are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual or Boal, and Malmsey.  I’ll break down the specific pairings by type below.

Best Food with Madeira

Is Madeira Wine the Same as Port?

Madeira and Port are similar in that they are Portuguese fortified wines that are high in alcohol and aged in wooden casks.  Both Port and Madeira are also made in several styles allowing them to be enjoyed as an aperitif with dessert or as an after-dinner sipper.

The main difference between Madeira and Port is that Madeira has a higher acidity and tastes different than Port.  Madeira is produced from white grapes and is balanced between sweetness and acidity, while Port is made from red grapes and is full-on sweet most of the time.

Madeira’s prime notes are of orange peel, citrus, figs, raisin, peach, burnt sugar and roasted nuts wrapped up in a brisk and bright package.  Meanwhile, Port is rich and sweet and has notes of dark fruit flavours of raspberry and blackberry, along with flavours of chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Madeira and Port come from two different regions, with Port coming from the Douro region in Portugal, and Madeira coming only from Madeira island which is situated in the ocean near the top left corner of South Africa.

No matter 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 crisp fortified wine that is perfect as an aperitif or with light dishes such as shellfish such as clams, sushi, sole, and green salads with a vinaigrette dressing.  Low in sugar and high in acidity, Sercial Madeira features flavours of herbs, minerality, citrus, nuts, smoke, almonds and caramel.

Sercial Madeira makes for an exciting pairing with Filet Mignon as the almond notes and the dry texture of the wine contrast the buttery texture of Filet Mignon.  However, you’re more likely to find Sercial Madeira paired with cold meats, such as cold cuts like Ham, Salami, Bologna, Turkey or Corned Beef.

Sercial Madeira also makes for an excellent after-dinner sipper, and its nutty quality and dry walnut finish make it perfect with a handful of mixed nuts.

Verdelho Madeira & Food Pairing

Verdelho Madeira is the next step up in terms of sweetness and richness.  Verdelho Madeira has a touch of sweetness, along with bolder flavours of smoke, spice and caramel.  These features make Verdelho Madeira excellent with smoked salmon, creamy soups like potato & leak soup, mushrooms, sardines, lobster bisque, ham, pho bo, & hazelnuts.

Bual Madeira & Food Pairing

Bual Madeira pairs best with fruit cake, almond desserts, peach cobbler, caramel desserts, brownies and foie gras.

With Bual Madeira, we’ve now entered the dessert wine zone.  Bual Madeira is a sweet style wine with flavours of caramel, cacao, toffee, dates, roasted coffee, smoke, and raisin.  While the texture of Bual Madeira is rich, it’s high in acidity, making the wine less sticky than Port.

To enjoy Bual Madeira wine with dessert, you’ll need a dessert that is not as sweet, or else it will obliterate your Madeira’s flavours.  An Ice Cream Sundae or frosted chocolate cupcake would be too sweet for Bual Madeira.  However, Bual Madeira is excellent with nutty and fruity desserts like fruit cake, almond biscotti, peach cobbler, caramel desserts, brownies, and light chocolate cakes.

The smoky and caramel notes of Bual Madeira also make it enjoyable with foie gras and lamb stew.

Malmsey Madeira & Food Pairing

Malmsey Madeira is the sweetest style of Madeira, along with the richest and most concentrated flavours of brown sugar, caramel, chocolate, coffee, nuts, orange zest and maple syrup. I find the sweetness and rich flavours do not require food or dessert, so I often enjoy Malmsey Madeira in a snifter by a fireplace with some good company.  However, this is a food and wine pairing blog, and food and wine pairings you shall have!

Malmsey Madeira pairs best with Blue Cheese, Pecan Pie, crème brûlée, crème caramel, dark chocolate, tiramisu, ice cream and lemon mousse.