Fortified wine is a wine that is fortified with the addition of neutral grape spirits. The main styles are port, sherry, madiera, marsala, and vermouth. While both fortified wines and spirits have increased alcohol content, spirits are the result of a process of distillation, while fortified wines have spirits added to them. Generally, the alcohol content of fortified wines is between that of wine and spirits.
In the summer of 2009, the laws pertaining to the selling of Port changed in Alabama
Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. They are generally sweet, rich, and heavy red wines that are often served as dessert wines, although they can also be dry, semi-dry, or white. There are five important grape varieties that are most commonly used for Port production- Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional. During fermentation, Ports are fortified with the addition of a neutral grape spirit, which stops fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine and boosting the alcohol content (usually around 20%). The wine is then stored and aged, commonly in barrels, and stored in a cave or cellar prior to bottling.
Some brands of Port available at Spirits:
- Porto Maritavora
- Quinta de la Rosa
- Taylor (California)
- Taylor Floodgate
Sherry is a Spanish fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez. After fermentation, Sherry is fortified with neutral grape spirit, providing higher alcohol content. Most Sherries are initially dry with any sweetness added at a later time. This process differs from Port winemaking in that Ports are fortified before fermentation is complete, therefore not all of the sugar in the wine is converted into alcohol. Sherry is produced in a variety of styles, ranging from dry and light to dark and heavy. Almost all Sherries are made from the Palomino Fino grape, a fairly neutral white grape, however sweet, dessert style Sherries are made from the other two important grapes of the region, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel. Many Sherries are aged using the solera process, a labor intensive system of fractional blending in which the final product represents a blend of multiple ages. This system was designed to smooth out the differences between vintage years.
Some brands of Sherry available at Spirits:
- Harvey’s Bristol Cream
Madeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made on the island of Madeira. Madeira is made by a process that is very similar to Port- during fermentation, neutral grape spirits are added to stop fermentation, and therefore the wines have a higher alcohol and retain any sugar that was not yet converted to alcohol. However, Madeira goes through a unique process called estufagem in which the wine is heated to temperatures as high as 130ºF and deliberately exposed to some levels of oxygen. This production process is meant to mimic the effect of a long sea voyage of the aging barrels as the wine would travel to its foreign destination. There are four major types of Madeira, named for the grape variety used. From sweetest to driest they are: Malvasia, Bual, Verdelho, and Sercial. Tinta Negra Mole is a red Portuguese grape that is also commonly used in the production of Madiera.
Some brands of Madiera available at Spirits:
- Paul Masson Madiera (California)
- Rare Wine Co. Madieras
Marsala is an Italian fortified wine, made similarly to Port that is produced in the region surrounding the city of Marsala in Sicily. Marsala is generally a sweet wine, often used for cooking, that is made from white grape varieties including Grillo, Inzolia, and Catarratto, among others.
Marsala available at Spirits:
- Cribari Marsala (California)
Vermouth is an herb-flavored fortified wine that, in America, is primarily used in cooking and as an ingredient in a variety of drink cocktails. There are two main styles: white Vermouth is dry and, along with gin, is a key ingredient in traditional martinis, red Vermouth is sweet and can be consumed straight up as an apéritif, or in mixed drinks such as the Manhattan.
Vermouth available at Spirits:
- Dolin Vermouth (Blanc, Dry and Rosso)
- Martini & Rossi Vermouth (Dry and Rosso)