Top 4 Madeira Wine Types & Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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When it comes to Madeira wine substitutes, there are plenty of alternatives for this rich, fortified Portuguese wine.

What is Madeira Wine?

Madeira wine is a fortified wine originating from the Portuguese Madeira Islands, which lie just off the coast of Morocco. The alcohol can be made from either red or white grapes and is heated and oxidized in such a way that always gives it an amber color. The sweeter types of Madeira can last for a very long time unopened – sometimes even hundreds of years. Due to the fortification process, it has an alcoholic content of 20% and contains approximately 140-170 calories per serving.

Madeira wine in decanters

Madeira originally hails from the Madeira Island of Portugal. Photo Credit: Shutterstock


There are many types of Madeira wine, including Sercial, Verdelho, Boal or Bual, and Malmsey.

  • Sercial: Sercial is considered one of the freshest types of Madeira and can be served with fish or as an apéritif.
  • Verdelho: Verdelho is a dry wine with a smoky flavor and is easily paired with a broad range of foods.
  • Boal: Boal, or Bual (pronounced “Buwall”), is complex and sweet with a strong aroma. The taste has been likened to roasted cacao, coffee, and raisins.
  • Malmsey: Malmsey is the sweetest and richest of the Madeira wines and, like Bual, has an impressively long lifespan. It can be served with dessert or even consumed independently as a dessert in itself.

Madeira Wine Substitute

Although a common ingredient in recipes, it’s not always possible to find Madeira wine outside of Europe. Luckily there is a range of Madeira wine substitutes, such as Port, Marsala, dry vermouth, and stock.

  • Port: If the recipe calls for a sweet Madeira, a tawny port makes an excellent replacement.
  • Marsala: Try reducing this Italian wine down to achieve a similar depth of flavor to the Madeira.
  • Dry vermouth and sherry: These are good substitutes for Madeira in savory recipes.
  • Stock: This can also be a good non-alcoholic alternative.

Risks & Side Effects

The risks involved with drinking excessive alcohol can be short term such as violence and injuries to long-term health risks such as chronic diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who should not drink alcohol include women who are pregnant, individuals younger than 21 years of age, and people who are recovering from alcoholism or cannot control the amount they drink. Also, it should be avoided by people who are planning to drive or any other activity that required focus and skill. However, different countries have different rules on alcohol purchase and consumption. 

Cooking with alcohol: Cooking with alcoholic beverages results in only some loss of alcohol content. Foods baked or simmered in alcohol can retain anywhere from 4 percent to 85 percent of the alcohol, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data lab. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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