The world of wine is vast and diverse, and one corner that often deserves more attention is fortified wine. Fortified wine, known for its distinct flavors and higher alcohol content, has a long and storied history. In this guide to fortified wine, we’ll explore the various types, the winemaking process, popular regions, and offer some delightful serving suggestions.
What is fortified wine?
Fortified wine is a type of wine that has had additional spirits, typically brandy, added during the fermentation process. This addition of spirits increases the alcohol content and preserves the wine, resulting in a wide range of flavors and styles. The term “fortified” stems from this process of fortifying the wine with distilled spirits, making it more robust and long-lasting.
Types of fortified wine
There are several types of fortified wine, each with its own unique characteristics:
Hailing from Spain, Sherry is known for its dry to sweet variations. Fino, Amontillado, and Pedro Ximénez are some well-known styles of Sherry. Fortified wine lovers appreciate its complexity and versatility.
Portugal’s gift to the wine world, Port comes in a range of styles, from Tawny to Vintage. It’s celebrated for its richness and is often enjoyed as a dessert wine.
Originating from the Portuguese island of Madeira, this fortified wine offers a variety of styles, including Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malmsey. Madeira boasts an incredible aging potential, making it a collector’s treasure.
From Sicily, Marsala is a fortified wine used in cooking and enjoyed as a dessert wine. Dry and sweet varieties are available.
Vermouth is an aromatized fortified wine infused with a blend of botanicals, herbs, and spices. It’s a key ingredient in classic cocktails like the Martini and Negroni. Dry and sweet vermouths are the two main categories, each adding unique character to your drinks.
The fortification process
The “fortification” process is what sets these wines apart. During fermentation, a neutral grape spirit (brandy) is added to the wine, increasing its alcohol content. This halts fermentation, leaving residual sugars behind and preserving the wine’s natural sweetness.
Popular Fortified Wine Regions
Several regions around the world produce fortified wines. Here are a few notable ones:
Home to Sherry, Jerez is a region renowned for its chalky soil and unique ageing process called “solera.”
The Douro Valley in Portugal is famous for its Port wine production, with many wineries offering tastings and tours.
The island of Madeira is synonymous with its eponymous wine, where the warm, humid climate helps age the wine to perfection.
Marsala wine comes from the picturesque island of Sicily, where visitors can explore historic wineries and sample the local delights.
Serving fortified wine
Now that you know the basics, let’s talk about serving:
Serve fortified wine at the right temperature. Ports and Sherries are often enjoyed slightly chilled, while Madeira and Marsala can be served at room temperature.
Use the appropriate glassware – smaller glasses for Port, Sherry, and Madeira, and larger glasses for Marsala.
Fortified wine pairs wonderfully with various foods. There are various wine and food pairings you can try. Enjoy Port with cheese, Madeira with desserts, and Sherry with tapas.
Many fortified wines can age beautifully, developing complex flavors over time. Store them in a cool, dark place, and they’ll reward your patience.
Fortified wine – it’s a treasure trove of flavors and history waiting to be explored. Whether you’re sipping a glass of Port by the fireplace or indulging in a decadent dessert with Madeira, fortified wine offers a world of culinary delights. So, the next time you’re looking for a wine that’s robust, versatile, and full of character, reach for a bottle of fortified wine, and let your taste buds embark on a delightful journey.