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What is Fortified Wine?

Do You Know What Fortified Wine Really Is? Find Out Here

Wine to which a distilled beverage has been added, is known as fortified wine. Most often, the distilled beverage used is brandy, and the practice is followed mainly to raise the alcohol percentage of the wine, thereby 'fortifying' it.
Tastessence Staff
Initially followed as a means to extend the shelf-life of the wine, these wines gained popularity because of their unique and distinctive style, as a result of which, specific production began. There are many types of fortified wines, most common among which are Sherry, Port, Marsala, and Vermouth. Although brandy is most often added in the fortification process, other neutral spirits have also been used. However, the production of wines fall under strict governmental regulations, that dictate permissible additions to wine for sale.

Fortified Wine Vs Unfortified Wine
The main difference between wines that are fortified and those that aren't, is the wine alcohol content. Table wine has an alcohol content that typically falls between 8 and 14%, while fortified wine can have an alcohol content of anything ranging between 17 - 22%. When learning how to make wine that is fortified, it's important to understand that the style of wine that you wish to attain will dictate the procedure to be followed. In certain cases, when the distilled beverage of choice is added to the wine before the fermentation process is complete, the additional alcohol kills the yeast and stops the fermentation, resulting in a sweet wine, as a result of the residual sugars that are left behind. The earlier the distilled beverage is added after the fermentation process begins, the sweeter the wine will be. For drier styles, the additional alcohol is added towards the end of the fermentation. Port wine, for instance, is generally sweet in style, and is considered as the best dessert wine, while sherry is most often dry, and served as an aperitif.

The best fortified wines come from their region of origin. For example, Vermouth from France, Madeira and Port from Portugal, and Sherry from Spain. Over the years, globalization has led to standardized processes that ensure quality products from beverage giants.

Vermouth
This wine is used to make a number of famous cocktails, including classic martini recipes. Popular brands include:
  • Martini & Rossi
  • Noilly Prat
  • Boissiere
  • Vya
Port
Often served at the end of a meal, Port is generally sweet and served as a dessert wine. Following are some well-known brands of this wine.
  • Croft Triple Crown
  • Grahams
  • Taylor-Fladgate
  • Cockburns
Sherry
Sherry, like Champagne, is a protected designation of origin, which means that any wine that is to be labeled as Sherry must come from the Sherry Triangle. Popular as an aperitif, well-known brands of Sherry include:
  • Amontillado
  • Dry Sack
  • Harvey's
  • La Ina
Fortified wines not only form an integral part of a number of mixed drinks and cocktails, but also have culinary uses. Many European cuisines use these wines in their recipes―from sherry wine for cooking to the delicious Zabaglione made with Marsala wine. Typically, certain wines handle age well, particularly Madeira, which has been known to be kept for more than a hundred years. Each type of fortified wine is classified further into various categories, depending on the aging process and the style in which it has been made.