Is it true that Madeira never goes bad? Why?

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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

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