Styles of madeira: Malmsey

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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The malvasia grapes which produce malmsey are usually grown in the warmest locations at low elevations on the south coast, especially around Câmara de Lobos. Subvarieties include Malvasia Candida and Malvasia Babosa, which ripen to produce the very sweetest madeira wines, gaining richness and concentration with time in cask. A productive sub-variety known as Malvasia de São Jorge is grown on the north of the island and is officially ‘authorized’ rather than ‘recommended’, pending investigation into its true identity. Sugar readings in a malmsey range between 3.5 and 6.5 °Baumé, but the wines are rarely cloying as the sweetness is balanced by characteristically high levels of acidity. Like all high-quality madeira made from noble varieties, malmseys are some of the most resilient in the world and will keep in cask and bottle for a century or more.