Madeira Wines - Book Review

Madeira Wines - Book Review
Trevor Elliott’s ‘The Wines of Madeira’ looks stunning.

His new paperback, printed on thick glossy paper, is crammed with photographs. The entire book is in full colour and is most beautifully designed. Elliott says he first fell in love with Madeira wine in 1986 and he has been visiting the island ever since to study his passion. Elliott, who holds WSET Diploma and is a Member of the Association of Wine Educators, noticed there are few books on Madeira and decided to share his knowledge and photographs in order to give an up to date picture of Madeira wines.

What I knew, before reading this book, about Madeira wines could fit into one brief sentence: long lived fortified wines made on the island of Madeira that undergo an unusual aging comprising oxidation and heating.

Elliot covers the growing, making, blending, fortification and aging in detail, along with serving, food matching and governing regulations. He also looks at the unfortified wines of the island, gives a profile of the producers – there are only eight – and discusses commercialisation and future trends.

I showed the book to an acquaintance who is a devotee of Madeira and considers himself a wine expert. He cursorily looked at it, flicking through the pages and tossed it back dismissing it as “a picture book”. But it is much more. Elliott expects it to be on the reading list for WSET exams and the text isn’t that of a coffee table book.

For example, two pages detail levels of pectolytic enzymes and sulphur dioxide used by each of the Madeira producers in sentences containing phrases such as “sulphur dioxide is usually added in the form of a 5% aqueous solution of potassium metabisulphite (K2S2O5) and “MWC adds pectolytic enzymes equivalent to 0.5gms per 140gm of grapes”. But if you’re not studying and your eyes glaze over at some of the details there are super photos to admire which cover the wine making process from vineyard to table.

As I read this book I developed a yearning desire to visit Madeira’s hillside vineyards and wineries depicted and taste their wines in situ. I even checked the cost of flights to Funchal but the one thing sadly missing is information for visitors interested in wine tourism and visiting wineries.

If you want detailed information about Madeira wines then this attractive looking book is for you. It is available only from Trevor Elliott (ignore the entry on Amazon) at £13.99 +p&p and can be ordered from his website at

The Wines of Madeira: an Indispensable Guide to the Wines, Grapes and Producers
By Trevor Elliott
Publisher: Trevor Elliott Publishing, Sep 2010
Paperback: 192 pages full colour
20.8 x 14.8 x 1.2 cm
Contents: ****1/2
Production: *****

DISCLOSURE: Peter F May was given a copy of this book to review.

What do you think of Madeira wines? Discuss on our forum.

Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape, now available as a Kindle eBook.

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