When you think about wine, most people categorise it into simply being red or white. However, wine as a whole is far more complex than this. Over time, we have developed many ways of producing wine, all of which has created many different colours and tasting notes. One such wine that you may have heard of is a fortified wine.
As the name suggests, fortified wine has undergone a process known as fortification. The result gives a vastly different experience from the traditional wine you would find at the supermarket in terms of flavours. Even how it would be best enjoyed is different. If you are wondering: ‘what is fortified wine?’, here is everything you need to know.
Fortified Wine: An Overview
Fortified wines are best known by names such as sherry, port, Madeira, vermouth, marsala, and banyuls. So how did fortified wine come to be?
These days when it comes to exporting produce you can control the temperature to ensure the food or drink makes it to its destination in a good condition. However, fortified wine harks back to the old seafaring days when this was not the case. When wine would be exported across the sea from the warmer countries in Europe over to England, it wouldn’t travel well. The taste would be ruined by the time it arrived.
Fortified wine was developed as a solution because the higher alcohol content acted as a preservative. Of course, the tipple was so popular that it remains highly converted today even though temperature control is no longer an issue. Fortified wine’s durability has remained a key selling point to this day, as you’ll find it very rarely spoils even after years of being opened.
Unlike regular wine, fortified wine isn’t usually paired with food, though in some instances it can pair well with dishes such as sardines. Usually, fortified wine is simply enjoyed on its own either after or before dinner.
How Is Fortified Wine Made?
Fortified wines are usually made using a highly rectified grape spirit that has been distilled to around 95% ABV in a column still. The spirit can be added at any point of the distillation process, including during, before and after fermentation, though each will give a different outcome.
Before fermentation, the purpose would be to retain the unfermented grape sugars. The earlier this is done, the sweeter the result will be. If the alcoholic is added before distillation, then the wine will be called a mistelle.
Wines that are fortified after fermentation will produce a dry tasting product. They are often sweetened before bottling.
What Does Fortified Wine Taste Like?
Fortified wines vary in colour and sweetness but something they have in common is intensely aromatic tasting notes, especially when compared with regular wine. Flavours such as honey, dried fruit, leather and tobacco are often associated with the taste of fortified wine.
As the distilled spirit can be added at any time during the fermentation this will ultimately affect the overall taste. However, it’s good to keep in mind that a fortified wine, especially something such as port or sherry will give a much richer and full-bodied experience, and pack more powerful flavours than you would traditionally find even with red wine.
Purchase Fortified Wine
In essence, fortified wine has had a spirit added to it during fermentation. The result will offer livelier and richer tasting notes and will be something that you can enjoy over many years. It’s a drink that is steeped in tradition and is most commonly enjoyed by the Brits, as this is where it would be exported to back in the day.
Ready to try some delicious fortified wine for yourself? We sell a wide range of fortified wine here at Bring Me Drink. Whether you’re in the mood for some sherry, port or another variety of fortified wine, we’ll deliver it straight to your door. Cheers to that!