Madeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands. Madeira is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif, to sweet wines more usually consumed with dessert. Cheaper versions are often flavoured with salt and pepper for use in cooking.
The islands of Madeira have a long winemaking history, dating back to the Age of Exploration when Madeira was a standard port of call for ships heading to the New World or East Indies. To prevent the wine from spoiling, neutral grape spirits were added. On the long sea voyages, the wines would be exposed to excessive heat and movement which transformed the flavour of the wine. This was discovered by the wine producers of Madeira when an unsold shipment of wine returned to the islands after a round trip. Today, Madeira is noted for its unique winemaking process which involves heating the wine up to temperatures as high as 60 °C (140 °F) for an extended period of time and deliberately exposing the wine to some levels of oxidation. Because of this unique process, Madeira is a very robust wine that can be quite long lived even after being opened.
Some wines produced in small quantities in Crimea, California and Texas are also referred to as "Madeira" or "Madera", although those wines do not conform to the EU PDO regulations. In conformance with these EU regulations most countries limit the use of the term Madeira or Madère to only those wines that come from the Madeira Islands.