Is it true that Madeira never goes bad? Why?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is it true that Madeira never goes bad, even after the bottle has been opened? I love Madeira, so a bottle never sits for very long, but why doesn’t it fade like other wines?

—Steven, Andover, Mass.

Dear Steven,

Madeira has a well-earned reputation as a long-lived, bulletproof wine. Not only is it fortified, but it’s also high in acidity, which is a stabilizing factor, and it’s made in an oxidative style, which is where some of the wine’s nuttiness comes from. That last point is especially key, because oxidation is usually the enemy when it comes to an open bottle of wine, but in the case of Madeira, the process already happened—on purpose.

And while heat can ruin a normal table wine, it’s the magic formula for Madeira, which is either heated in a tank or left in barrels to age in naturally warm rooms. For those who’ve never tasted Madeira, it’s intense and sweet, with notes of toffee or caramel, dried apricots and toasted nuts. Once it’s open, you won’t notice it fading to dried fruit and nutty flavors, because that's already how it’s supposed to taste.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Aging Wine Fortified Wines

More In Dr. Vinny

What’s the difference between Brix, Baumé, Oechsle and residual sugar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why measuring sugar content in grapes is so …

Jan 18, 2021

Will my wines get too cold in the garage?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny covers the pitfalls of storing wine in the garage, …

Jan 11, 2021

Dr. Vinny's 25 Top Answers to 'What's the Difference Between …?'

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers disambiguations for wine topics far and wide.

Jan 4, 2021

Dr. Vinny's Most Interesting Questions of 2020

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits the most thoughtful questions …

Dec 31, 2020

Dr. Vinny Answers Your Pandemic Questions (About Wine)

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits all your questions about wine …

Dec 28, 2020

Why is the name “Sauvignon” attached to both red Cabernet Sauvignon and white Sauvignon Blanc?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the relationship between Cabernet Sauvignon and …

Dec 21, 2020