How to plan a walking tour of Funchal's boutique wineries
This day-long itinerary takes in some of the Madeiran capital’s top wine spots, from one-off shops and restaurants to boutique wineries and tasting rooms.
The verdant, volcanic landscapes of Madeira have long been a hotspot for wine production; in the 16th century, European ships headed for the Americas would stop by the island to stock up on barrels. Mariners discovered that fortifying the wine with spirits helped preserve it for longer, while the searing heat and rocking motion of the boat produced a unique palette of flavours.
Today, mahogany-hued fortified wines are still produced in vineyards across the island, luring travellers with tasting notes of roasted nuts, dried fruits and spices. Tasting rooms are found across Funchal, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve this syrupy delight as an aperitif or dessert accompaniment, with varieties ranging from dry to sweet and quality determined by age.
But it’s not only fortified wines you’ll find here; table wines are produced by several winemakers, with mineral-rich volcanic soil creating zesty whites that pair perfectly with the island’s fresh seafood, while several shops, bars and restaurants in the capital offer sommelier-picked labels from mainland Portugal, too.
1. H.M. Borges
Toast the start of your tour with a visit to this boutique winery, which was founded in 1877 and makes fortified wines in a former cereal mill. It’s one of only two companies in Funchal to actually produce the wine on site, so it’s well worth doing a tour of the backrooms — expect cellars filled with age-old barrels of wine, plus a selection of honey-sweet tipples to try afterwards beneath a wood-beamed ceiling. hmborges.com
2. Pereira d’Oliveira
A three-minute stroll away, this family-run winery houses the oldest Madeira wines available for sale, with vintages dating as far back as 1850, the year of its founding. Pull up a chair at a barrel-shaped table and you’ll be presented with five-year-old varieties ranging from medium-dry to sweet, then browse the menu to take in the full spectrum of ages alongside several rare grape varieties. doliveiras.pt
3. The Vine Hotel
Head to this design-led hotel just around the corner and you’ll find spa treatments themed around the beverage — from a ‘Madeira wine massage’ incorporating local wine in the oil to a ‘red wine bath’ using grape seed extracts. If that works up a thirst, head to Uva bar on the rooftop for an extensive list of labels from across Madeira and mainland Portugal, plus sweeping views over the surrounding mountains. hotelthevine.com
4. Pérola dos Vinhos
If you’re looking to pick up a bottle or two, amble over to this shop and browse colourful bottles lining the wooden shelves. You’ll find table wines from boutique vineyards across the island, as well as fortified varieties dating back to the 1930s from Madeira’s leading winemaker, Justino’s. It also houses plenty of labels from mainland Portugal, if you fancy mixing up the repertoire. peroladosvinhos.com
5. Blandy’s Wine Lodge
Blandy’s, established in 1824, is the island’s second biggest wine producer and something of a household name. Today, you’ll find both fortified and table labels sold at the shop, with a museum to talk you through the history of the company. Opt for the Premium Tour to learn about winemaking on the island, then settle in for a tasting to sip glistening amber shots at a long, wooden bar. blandyswinelodge.co
End the day at this trendy restaurant for creative plates accompanied by an extensive list of wines from mainland Portugal. Owner chef Júlio Pereira worked with the Alentejo’s Rocim vineyard to produce a selection of exclusive red, white and rosé labels. Pair them with the likes of tuna cornets, oxtail ravioli, fresh sardines and black rice with octopus, prepared in the open kitchen. kampo.pt
7. Perola dos Vinhos
If you’re looking to pick up a bottle or two to take home, amble over to this atmospheric shop to browse colourful bottles lining rows of wooden shelves. You’ll find table wines from boutique vineyards across the island, including Barbusano in the north and several in the south, as well as fortified varieties dating back to the 1930s from Madeira’s leading winemaker, Justino’s. It also houses plenty of labels from mainland Portugal, if you fancy mixing up the repertoire. peroladosvinhos.com
8. Socalco Nature Hotel
Venture out of Funchal and you’ll find plenty more to explore in the way of wineries. Among the newest on the block is Socalco Nature, a vineyard-meets-hotel perched above the sea in Calheta that made its first table wine last year. You can sample it as part of a five-course, wine-paired tasting menu — the food is superb, with many of the ingredients fresh from the hotel’s herb garden. Alternatively, come at the end of August to get involved with the harvest, picking grapes against a majestic backdrop of towering volcanic rocks, tree-carpeted hills and sweeping sea. socalconature.com
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