Its namesake wine, the cuisine and breathtaking mountain-and-sea views make this small Portuguese island a must-visit. We take you on a tasty tour of this secret European gem.
Where To Taste
While Madeira is short on both producers and formal tasting rooms, most cafés and restaurants carry their island’s famous wine. Still, there are three wineries worth visiting: Blandy’s Wine Lodge, D’Oliveira and Henriques & Henriques, all of which are in or close to the island’s capital, Funchal.
Where To Dine
At Quinta do Furão, the grilled steak skewered on laurel wood is just as life-changing as the hotel’s Atlantic Ocean views. Sample local limpets and freshly caught black scabbardfish at Restaurante Vila do Peixe in the fishing village of Câmara de Lobos. Soak in the sun and feast on delicious grilled tuna at Atlantic Restaurante. Housed in an historic salt warehouse in Funchal, Restaurante Armazém do Sal serves up Madeiran cooking with an Asian twist.
The mountainous island is laced with breathtaking vistas at nearly every hairpin turn. Rent a car and cruise.
The Fruit Stands
Roadside kiosks dot the landscape. See one that’s a little busy, pull over and go directly for the sun-ripened passion fruit.
Funchal’s central market, Mercado dos Lavradores, is a must-visit smorgasbord of colors and flavors where locals will turn you onto the local fare and traditions.
At the Miradouro Cabo Girão, atop one of Europe’s tallest sea cliffs, look down through the glass viewing platform.
The strong, earthy black coffee is called chino, with milk it becomes a chinesa. Drink it alongside a pastéis de nata, a tiny custard tart.
Called bolo de mel, it’s made from molasses, butter, dried fruit, spices and flour. Dark, rich and aromatic, it’s best with a glass of Bual.
Similar to aguardiente, the stiff, sugar-based poncha is served in a miniature Cognac glass.
The 6 Madeira Grapes
Planted in the highest vineyards, these grapes create a wine with ultra-sharp acidity and intense citrus flavors, made in an almost dry style. A great apéritif with almonds and olives.
A late-ripening white variety, usually made off-dry, with smoky notes. Try with serrano ham, goose liver or game.
Bual (or Boal)
Bual wines spend some time macerating on their skins and are fortified during fermentation to make a sweet style that bursts with dried fig and spice flavors. Perfect alongside hard cheeses and milk chocolate.
Grown at low altitudes, it’s the sweetest and richest style, with roasted nuts and dried date notes. Best with dark chocolate, fruit cakes or blue cheese.
The rarest and most delicate grape, it’s made into medium-sweet wines.
The most widely planted grape on the island, it’s used to make simple cooking wine.