Did you know that there are more than just two categories of wine? It doesn’t just stop at red wine and white wine. We can’t forget the rosés, sparkling wine and dessert wines!
If you’ve heard of wine varieties like sherry, port, and vermouth, then you’re familiar with another umbrella of wine types known as fortified wine. As opposed to normal bottles of wine, fortified wine involves a slight difference in production. Let’s get to know this unique and sweet variety of wine with this simple guide.
What is fortified wine?
In short, fortified wine is a type of wine with an added alcohol content. It’s stronger than other bottles of wine you might find in the market today. Alcohol content is added into fortified wine by incorporating distilled spirits during the winemaking process.
Cognac or brandy are two common liquors that are added into wines to fortify them. It’s important to note that despite containing distilled spirits, fortified wine does not classify as liquor.
Because of the added liquor, fortified wines can contain up to 20% ABV compared to the mere 10% to 15% in regular bottles. Fortified wines range from dry to sweet despite this extra boozy kick, just like any other wine.
In the same way some types of wine are restricted to regions and grapes that can be used in production, production of different fortified wines are also regulated. There are rules that dictate what kinds of spirits are allowed to be used in the wine to fortify them, and how much ABV the final bottle should contain.
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How is fortified wine made?
Production of fortified wine is slightly different than normal wine. Fermentation happens as it normally would in any winemaking process; the difference is that distilled spirit is added into the base wine.
Variations in sweetness or dryness of the wine is affected by the kind of spirits added and when it’s added into the base. If the spirit is added before fermentation, the fortified wine will come out sweet. On the other hand, if the spirit is added in after fermentation, the final product will be a dry fortified wine.
How does the science work? Well, the role of yeast in the fermentation process is to break down sugars in the grapes. Meanwhile, distilled spirit kills off yeast. When liquor is added into the wine before fermentation, the yeast dies at the start, and not all the sugar is broken down, leaving a lot of sweetness in the drink.
When liquor is added to the wine after fermentation, the yeast has more time to break down a larger amount of sugar before it’s killed off. Less sugar means dryer wine.
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Types of fortified wine
Even under the fortified wine category, there is an extensive list of different wines with their own subcategories! Here are the most common types commonly known as dessert wines.
Hailing from the Duoro Valley in Portugal, port is a famous dessert wine. Notorious for its sweet red wine variety, port also comes in other forms such as white port, ruby port, tawny port, and rosé port. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between each.
- White port is a fortified wine made of white grapes from the Duoro Valley
- Ruby port is known for its deep shade of red
- Tawny port is a very sweet fortified wine, aged in a barrel and containing flavors of nuts and caramel
- Rosé port is new to the game. It’s a fortified wine that boasts strawberry, caramel, and violet flavors
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Another popular fortified wine is sherry. Most commonly used in cooking, sherry can actually be served alongside meals as well.
Originating in Southern Spain, this fortified wine is made using white wine grapes. As a result, sherry contains flavors of dried fruits, with a nutty aftertaste.
Like fortified wine in general, sherry comes in either sweet or dry, with an ABV ranging from 15% to 22%.
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Vermouth stands out from other fortified wine varieties because it is also aromatized, meaning it has added flavors of spices, fruits, and herbs.
This fortified wine is also available in the dry and sweet variety. You often find sweet red vermouth in cocktails such as Negroni and Manhattan, while dry white vermouth is a staple in the classic martini.
Vermouth available at minuman.com:
Appearing in sauces, this type of white fortified wine began its life in Madeira, Portugal. Its rich, caramel flavour is due to a particular step in its production process. Unlike other wines or fortified wines of its kind, madeira is oxidized and heated up, which enables it to last centuries long!
Brandy is the key ingredient of marsala. Not only does the liquor give this fortified wine a unique sweetness, it’s also responsible for the 20% ABV! Because of this, marsala is often incorporated into desserts and cakes.
Marsala is full of dried fruits, nuts, and brown sugar flavors, making it the perfect ingredient for dessert. These flavors are all accumulated from the aging process, which takes a minimum of 10 years in oak barrels.
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