We hear a lot about Madeira Wine for cooking, right? Whoever has never heard of wood sauce, must have lived the last 100 years under a rock. Incidentally, we have a fillet recipe with wood sauce and matching tip with Merlot great in this post.

But let's go to what matters: the wine wood. In this post, I'll explain to you all you need to know about wine wood. Whether for cooking or drinking.

Check out what we'll learn in this post:

  • What is the origin of the wood wine
  • What is the grape that gives rise to wine wood (this is good, huh?)
  • What are the Madeira Wine classifications?
  • Ratings regarding the age of wine wood.
  • What is the sugar content of wood wine
  • What color of wood wine?
  • How to identify the body of wine wood and its various styles
  • And of course, how to use the wine wood in the kitchen!

What is wood wine?

Madeira Wine is a Fortified wine (do you remember our post about wine types? If so, you will know what a fortified wine is).

Madeira wine is made in the Portuguese islands of Madeira, on the coast of Africa. Madeira Wine is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines, which can be consumed as normal wine.

And also the wines of appetizers, sweet and usually consumed with the dessert (similar to the port wines, liqueurs).

Mislead her if you think Madeira Wine is the only thing that Madeira Island offers. It is a tourist point of Portugal and has an enviable natural beauty:

Cheaper cooking versions are found easily in Portugal and are often seasoned with salt and pepper for use in the kitchen. These, generally, do not serve for consumption like drink. Hence the origin of the famous "wood sauce".

The Madeira Islands have a long history of winemaking, dating back to the Age of Exploration (approximately from the late 15th century), when Madeira Island was a standard port of call for ships heading to the New World or Indies Oriental

Look at this look, it's not just wine the island has to offer:

Madeira Island is also known for attracting tourists from all over the world. Whether for its wine or for its famous wine. With these scenarios, it's no wonder, right? The maximum "wine does not like ugly place" apparently also applies to Madeira Island.

Curiosities of wood wine

As I love a curiosity (you may have noticed by now that you've read some other Grape Coming article), I did this in particular. That is why I say that to know about wine is to know geography and history.

In order to avoid spoiling the wine, neutral distillates of grape, vinyl alcohol (almost a cachaça grape) were added, because in the long sea voyages, the wines were exposed to excessive heat, along with the sea balance, they ended up having their Madeira Island winemakers discovered this fact when a consignment does not accept the buyers returned to the island after a trip and return, by refusal.Today this fact made the product an icon of the place, exactly by this feature unintentionally discovered.

It is interesting to note, in the wine world, how unusual stories end up becoming success stories. Champagne went through a similar process in relation to its production. See below:


Does not the history of Madeira Wine remind you very much of the history of Champagne? Remember? In this post we saw that champagne was invented after long journeys from France to England, and that during the way another fermentation began, releasing carbon dioxide, which under pressure "entered" into the liquid, creating the bubbles, whence the "perlages".

Are you interested? Learn more about sparkling wines and champagnes here.

Origin of wine wood

The wine was named after it began to be processed on an island 1000 km off the coast of Portugal, the island of Madeira. It is one of the most traditional and unique wines in the world, with four hundred years of history and success.

Like Port wine, it is fortified with wine spirit, which leaves with a very high alcohol content (from 17 to 22%), and during its vinification it undergoes a steaming process, which can increase the temperature of the wine by up to 55 ℃ and the result is a wine with oxidative taste, rare to find. (Let us understand this already already).

Even though it may be sweet or dry, the acidic character is present on every Madeira wine label, but depending on its aging - which may exceed one hundred years, the colors can vary widely, such as amber and a pronounced shade of brown, resembling coffee .

With wine wood is made?

Today, Madeira is known for its unique process of involves warming the wine.

Imagine something like that inside a giant tank. This is the serpentine, where hot water passes and warms the wine.

The wine is placed in stainless steel vats which are heated through a serpentine method. These streamers are nothing more than steel "hoses" where hot water passes through the inside. The serpentines are in contact with the wine, warming themselves.

Hot water, at a temperature between 45 ° and 50 °, passes through this serpentine system for a period of not less than three months. This process is called "stofing".

Once this heating process has been completed, the wine is subjected to a rest period or stage of at least 90 days to acquire the conditions that will allow the winemaker - wine and winemaking expert - to complete the wine production process so that he can be placed in a bottle with the required quality assurance.

These wines can never be bottled and marketed before October 31 of the second year after harvest and are typically batch wines. Due to this unique process, Madeira is a very robust wine, which can be quite durable even after opening, as well as port wines or liqueur wines. High alcoholic graduation works as a "preservative" for wine.

Protected Designation of Origin for Madeira Wine

Just as "Champagne" has a designation of origin and can not be used in sparkling wines made outside the "Champagne" region, so does Madeira Wine. There is a Denomination of Origin

Some wines produced in small quantities in Crimea, California and Texas are also referred to as "Madeira" or "Madera", although these wines do not conform to the PDO - Protected Designation of Origin Portuguese.

In accordance with these European Union regulations, most countries limit the use of the term Madeira or Madère only to wines from the islands of Madeira.

Harmonizations of Madeira Wine

In its dry version, Madeira wine is the right choice to be enjoyed as an aperitif, in cocktails, or as a base for different sauces that accompany red meat.

Sweet labels, very similar to Port wines and the Spanish Jerez wines, should be enjoyed after meals, such as dessert. Can pair with desserts with tart and citric flair.

Like tartlets with tangerine filling or other lemon-based desserts. The acid will balance the sweetness of the wine.

Which grape is the wine made with?

About 90% of the total production of Madeira wine is made through the caste Black ink, while the other 10% are divided between Sercial, Boal, Verdelho and the Malvasia, and are chosen for elaboration of the fine labels.

The latter give Madeira wines simpler. They are aged in a bed (this denomination comes from the fact that the kites are placed under supports of wooden beams, denominated of beds, being that the process occurs naturally in barrels and they do not undergo the process of stoving described above.

But do not think they do not get hot

The so-called "flowerbeds" are extremely important. These wooden structures allow the wine barrels to be as high as possible, closer to the shingles of the sheds, catching more heat. This happens for at least 2 years.

It is this process that brings unique characteristics and intense and complex aromas to this simpler type of Madeira Wine. They can only be marketed 3 years after the 1st of January of the year of harvest.

In order to receive the name of the grape variety to which it refers, the wine must correspond to its content in totality, for that reason they are considered monovarietal wines.

The Grapes of the Sercial grape variety produce the dry wine, the Verdelho half dry, the Boal half sweet, while the Malvasia is the sweetest of all.

Wood wine ratings

The label of each of the Madeira wine options is what will determine its characteristics and style. They can be divided following certain specifications, taking into consideration the year of harvest, age, sugar content, color, structure, among others.

We highlight below the main differences between each of these classifications.

Year of harvest of the wine wood

  • Soleira: it is the wines that have remained in the oak barrels for at least 5 years, in a system that takes the name of threshold: 10% of the oldest wine is withdrawn and a wine is added in the place a year younger, with a quality equal or superior ; this process can be done until it reaches a maximum cut of 10 different crops.
  • Harvest: used to characterize wines produced with grapes at least 85% from the same grape variety and crop.
  • Vintage: term designed to define wine produced with at least 85% of grapes of the same crop and only one grape variety; the minimum aging is 20 years in wooden barrels.
  • Frasqueira: another name for "Vintage".

It is mandatory to specify the harvest year and the date the wine was bottled.

Wood Age Wine and the Importance of Time

Selected: aged between 3 and 5 years.

Rainwater: maximum age of 5 years, color medium golden to golden and density less than 1.0150 g / ml. This density is inferior to the "Selected" Madeira wine, which leaves it more "humid", being the reason for its classification being Rainwater.

  • 5 years: age between 5 and 10 years.
  • 10 years: age between 10 and 15 years.
  • 15 years: age between 15 and 20 years
  • 20 years: age between 20 and 30 years.
  • 30 years: age between 30 and 40 years
  • 40 years or more: age equal to or greater than 40 years. Even if it exceeds the maximum age allowed, it should be defined as being a 40 year old wine.

All different classifications must be approved, in accordance with the strict color standards and organoleptic attributes established by the IVBAM (Institute of Wine, Embroidery and Handicraft of Madeira) to certify the quality and only thus receive the stamp of Indication of Provenance.

Sugar content in wood wine

  • Extra dry: labels with a relative density of 1.0029 g / ml or less; are consumed as appetizer or used in the preparation of dishes, such as red meat. It has up to 49.1 g / l of total sugars.
  • Dry: relative density equal to or less than 1.0070 g / ml, also excellent for aperitifs and for preparing dishes. It has between 49.1 and 64.8 g / l of total sugars.
  • Half dry: relative density between 1.0070 and 1.01150 g / ml. It has between 64.8 and 80.4 g / l of total sugars.
  • Half sweet: relative density between 1.0150 and 1.0240 g / ml. It has between 80.4 and 96.1 g / l of total sugars. Preference of consumption to accompany desserts that take natural fruits.
  • Candy: relative density greater than 1.0240 g / ml and total sugars exceeding 96.1 g / l. Harmonize with desserts with candied fruits or serving as a base for syrups.

Wine color wood and what does it mean

  • Very pale: Yellow faded and translucent, with intense yellow reflections. Color very found in light and young wines.
  • Pale: Yellow open with straw-colored reflections. More common in dry and dry wines, which have undergone little maceration; oxidation due to the contact with the oak present in the barrels where they were stored.
  • Golden: Bright yellow with very intense golden highlights.
  • Middle Dark: Dense brown color with subtle tile-like reflections.
  • Dark: Intense amber and caramel color, with very orange highlights, resulting from the oxidation of grape dyes and the extraction of pigments from oak barrels.

Structure of wine wood

  • Light: Wine of little body, but balanced.
  • Full bodied: Dense wine with good alcohol structure, but still balanced.
  • Thin: Balance in acids, giving the wine a refreshing characteristic, with firm body and complex aromas resulting from aging in oak barrels.
  • Soft: Wine that after aging in barrels, results in a delicate flavor and complex bouquet.
  • Velvety: Full-bodied wine with a lot of volume in contact with the mouth, due to the excess of glycerol; at the same time, velvety and oily.
  • Matured: label with age, which turns it into a soft, oily and very harmonic option.

What is the source and where does the wood sauce come from?

That's an interesting question. To this day the preparation of the wood sauce contained simple as it was born, without many ingredients in its composition: celery, leek, carrot and some herbs, which were added to the broth and cooked for a few hours.

Tip: You can do a great match with Merlot wine.

Merlot has a curious feature related to harmonization. It has the same power as Cabernet Sauvignon, but it does accept slightly better sauces. Meat dishes (such as those that harmonize with Cabernet Sauvignon), here you can get some dense and creamy sauce. Fillet to the wood sauce can make the perfect wedding for that wine of palate and incomparable texture.

The mixture was then sieved and brought to another pan with flour and butter. The wine entered the recipe last, after being used to deglaze the way the meat was baked.

The French dispute the authorship of the wood sauce until today, saying that it is a variation of the 5 basic French sauces - béchamel, velouté, Spanish, tomato and hollandaise.

What we know, is that in the first decades of 1800, the English occupied the island of Madeira as a result of the Napoleonic War (the military conflict between France and Great Britain).

During this time, they dominated everything that was produced in the region, including fortified wine, and began to add it in cakes, meats and other preparations.

Currently, the wood sauce is popularized worldwide, being found until ready, in "box". This comes from a sauce that was once the protagonist of refined dishes of the European monarchy.

The original recipe is only considered that way when made with a real Madeira Island wine.

The sauce has a sweet and woody flavor, which harmonizes as few with the taste of red meat, and is one of the classics of a good steak. We have a recipe here and a matching tip.


And so, did you like to know more about Madeira Wine? I bet you had enough new stuff for your repertoire of knowledge, huh? Who would say, a wine being heated during its production! The oenologist usually escapes to the caves - literally (cellars) to keep their wines cold. Not this one!

Comment with me below what you found!