A photo of The Best Wine Tasting Tours in Madeira & the Azores

wine tasting tours and winery visits

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Best wine tours in Madeira

Why Visit Madeira?

The Douro Valley is the shining star of Portuguese wine production boasting a global reputation, however the Portuguese island of Madeira is an equally beautiful destination for a wine tasting holiday, with a fascinating tradition of viticulture. When you’re not sipping world-class wine we highly recommend exploring the island’s spectacular, lush landscape.  

Another picturesque Portuguese island gem, with an abundance of natural beauty are The Azores. Despite its centuries old vine culture, wine tourism is in its infancy, so it’s an exciting time to visit on a wine tasting holiday.   

Madeira is best-known for its production of Madeira wine: a complex, fortified wine with exceptional longevity. However, you don’t need to be a dessert wine fan to enjoy a wine tasting holiday in Madeira. Not all Madeira’s fortified wines are rich and caramel-sweet, some are dry and fragrant, and table wines are also produced with a unique flavour influenced by the volcanic soils. The best way to understand the varying styles and learn about the history of Madeira’s unique wines is on a wine tasting tour.  

The wines produced in The Azores also enjoy unique characteristics that are influenced by the proximity to the ocean, the volcanic soil and rock walls that surround the vineyards. Book a wine tasting tour and you will meet the local winemakers who are passionate about the individuality of Azorean wines and discover wines that you can’t find anywhere else in the world! 

Madeira’s Mediterranean climate and fertile soils, well irrigated by miles of levadas (man-made irrigation channels), produce a rich bounty of produce. Avocado, custard apple, cherries, sweet potato and passion fruit are plentiful. Sugar Cane has been grown across the island since the 15th century and is currently used to make sticky sugar cane molasses and Cane Aguardente – a unique Agricultural Rum. To fully appreciate Madeiran cuisine, join a guided gourmet tour and visit the Mercado dos Lavradores in Funchal.     

When visiting The Azores, be sure to arrange a Cozido das Furnas dinner or, even better, book a cooking class and learn the secrets behind this hearty stew that is slowly cooked in the volcanic ground. Another must-try speciality of the islands is lapas (limpet clams) which are served grilled with butter, garlic and a drizzle of lemon.  

Madeira is arguably one of the prettiest islands in the world and the best way to appreciate its natural beauty is to don a pair of walking shoes and follow one of the island’s many trails. From short, easy strolls to challenging treks there are paths for every ability. The man-made levadas have become particularly popular walking routes through the picturesque landscape.   

Exploring on foot is also highly recommended when you visit The Azores. The island’s geothermal pools and sandy beaches are perfect for a post-trek refreshing swim. The Azores are also one of the best locations in the world for whale-watching between the months of April and October. 

Plan Your Visit

Best Known Grapes

The traditional wines of Madeira are made from four main grapes and the grape variety used will impact the style of the wine. The white grape of Sercial which is grown in the highest, coolest vineyards, produces a dry wine. Also grown on the cooler north side of the island, the white grape Verdelho typically produces a medium dry to medium sweet wine. Bual is a white grape that is grown in the warmer south and produces a dark, rich caramel style of wine. Another white grape, Malmsey (a.k.a Malvasia), is also grown in the south and produces a richly sweet wine.    The red grape of Tinta Negra is the most widely planted grape on the island. It is used in Madeira wines but its wines rarely have the keeping qualities and style of the above four. In The Azores the most well-known and cultivated grape variety is Verdelho. Other significant varieties are Arinto and Terrantez.   
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Best time to visit

A wine tasting holiday to Madeira or The Azores can be enjoyed year round as the islands enjoy a subtropical climate with sunshine throughout the year. Average daily temperatures hover around the low to mid 20Cs, although in August and September they can be higher, and the winter months are mild with averages of 17-18C. Despite their lush landscapes the islands don’t experience much rainfall, although to avoid any showers the driest months to visit are May to October. Wine lovers may wish to plan a trip to Madeira to coincide with the annual Wine Festival that is held around the time of the grape harvest in late August / early September. Whales and dolphins can be spotted around The Azores all year, however the summer months are best for a whale spotting boat trip, when the sea conditions are calmest.
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How long to stay

Madeira and The Azores may be tiny islands, but they are brimming with wine tasting opportunities, foodie experiences and outdoor activities to keep you busy for at least a week! If you are short of time then make Madeira’s classy capital city of Funchal your base and in a long weekend you can enjoy an introduction to Madeiran cuisine and a wine tasting tour of the nearby vineyards. However we would suggest at least a week to offer ample opportunity to soak up the jaw-dropping natural beauty and relax on the golden beaches, delve deeper into the unique flavours of these island’s wines and savour the mouth-watering cuisine.  
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How to get there

The most convenient way to get to the island of Madeira is by plane. Madeira International Airport is located just 16 kilometres northeast of the capital, Funchal, and is connected to various European destinations. It is also possible to arrive via sea and the port of Funchal is a popular stop for many cruise ships as they travel through the Mediterranean. The Azores are accessible by plane. The main international airport is located on the largest island – San Miguel - and is connected to various European destinations as well as a handful of US cities. During high season flights operate between the islands.
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