Some of the Differences Between Used Madeira and Port Barrels

used madeira barrels

Here at LusoBarrel we specialize in supplying used Madeira and Port barrels, which makes sense as these are the two most famous kinds of fortified wine from Portugal, where we are based near the Port wine growing region. We also make new barrels and supply used sherry barrels (as well as some other more unusual used barrels), but we are pretty much uniquely placed in terms of the availability that we have of used Madeira and Port barrels. This comes about due to long term relationships that we have with Port and Madeira producers that in some cases have stretched back for generations – sourcing these kinds of used barrels is no easy task!

Here in this post we are going to look at the difference between Madeira and Port wine (although we will not give much time here to the very important distinction between Ruby Port and Tawny Port which we will save for another time).

Madeira and Port wine each come from a specific demarcated region of Portugal – Madeira from the island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean and Port from the Douro valley in northern Portugal. two distinct fortified wines with hundreds of years of history but that are still made in the same way that they always have been. While they share similarities, such as their fortification process, these wines offer unique characteristics, histories, and styles that set them apart.

By understanding the different ways that these two fortified wines are made and the subsequent taste profiles, this may help you to choose which used barrels are best suited to your requirements.

Grape Varieties

Madeira wine is primarily made from four grape varieties: Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malmsey (also known as Malvasia).

Port wine is made from a variety of red grape varieties, with the most common being Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca. Port winemakers use a blend of these grapes to create their unique taste.

Production Process

Madeira wine undergoes a unique aging process called ‘estufagem’, where the wine is heated and oxidized, often in warm attics or even just left in the sun. Whilst this would be sacrilege in the normal wine making process, it is what helps to give Madeira its unique flavours of caramel, nuts, and dried fruits. It is fortified using a neutral flavoured brandy.

Port wine is produced like normal wine, but before the fermentation process finishes, it is fortified with brandy (aguardente), which stops the fermentation process and leaves residual sugar in the wine. The resulting wine retains its natural sweetness as well as giving it its higher alcohol content.

Ageing Styles

Madeira wines are aged using the ‘solera system’, where younger wines are blended with older ones to achieve consistency in flavor. The different styles of Madeira include Sercial (dry and crisp), Verdelho (medium-dry), Bual (medium-sweet), and Malmsey (sweet).

Port wine is classified into four main styles, including Tawny (aged for longer), Ruby (young and vibrant), Vintage (allowed to age in the bottle), and Late Bottled Vintage (sharing some characteristics of Vintage, but no longer ageing in the bottle).

Taste Profiles

Madeira wines are known for their complex flavors, which evolve over time. They often have notes of caramel, toffee, citrus, nuts, burnt sugar and a unique smoky quality. The level of sweetness varies by style.

Port wine offers a wide range of flavours, from red fruits and chocolate in Ruby Ports to butterscotch, nuts, and dried fruit in Tawny Ports.

Sourcing Used Madeira and Port Barrels

When you source a used Port or Madeira barrel from us, we will supply it with a few litres of the original Port or Madeira that were aged in the barrel – this ensures that the barrel does not dry out in transport and the high alcohol contact will stop any bacterial growth happening in the barrel (so you will not get any musty smells – or worse). When you drain the barrel before filling, it is fine to set the contents aside for drinking! Please be aware that it is incredibly important that you never let your used barrels dry out, as not only will this affect the flavour profile, but the wood in a dry barrel will tend to shrink, making it more liable to leak. It is also worth pointing out that all the used barels that pass through our cooperage are inspected for damage and leaks and where necessary repaired to ensure that any barrels that leave our premises are ready for filling.

Please contact us if you need any further information about our used Madeira and Port barrels, or indeed for information about the used sherry and more exotic barrels that we supply.

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