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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Fortified Wine – Prepare for Pure Ecstasy!

Are you a wine lover intrigued by labels that mention ‘fortified wine,’ but unsure about what it really means? Here’s a quick fact for you: fortified wines are not your average wines; they have had distilled spirits like brandy added, resulting in unique tastes and higher alcohol content.

In this blog post, we’ll demystify the world of fortified wine – discussing various types, how they’re made, and even some tips on serving and pairing. Ready to sip into knowledge? Dive in!

Key Takeaways

Fortified wine is not your average wine; it has distilled spirits like brandy added, resulting in unique tastes and higher alcohol content.

Types of fortified wine include Commandaria, Madeira, Marsala, Port, Sherry, Vermouth, Vins doux naturels and Vins de liqueur.

Fortified wines are made by adding distilled spirits during the fermentation process to increase alcohol content and develop distinct flavors.

Serving fortified wine slightly chilled enhances its flavors and aromas. Pairing suggestions include dark chocolate with Commandaria wine or tapas with sherry.

Types of Fortified Wine

Fortified wine includes Commandaria, Madeira, Marsala, Port, Sherry, Vermouth, Vins doux naturels and Vins de liqueur.

Commandaria wine

Commandaria wine comes from Cyprus. It is made with local grapes. This wine has a long past. People have enjoyed it for many years. The taste of Commandaria is sweet and strong. You might notice hints of dried fruit, honey, and spice when you sip it.

It goes well with dessert or cheese at the end of a meal.

Madeira wine

Madeira wine is a unique type of fortified wine that comes from the island of Madeira, located off the coast of Portugal. It has a rich history dating back to the 15th century. What sets Madeira wine apart is its aging process, which involves heating and cooling the barrels intentionally to mimic the effects of long sea voyages in hot climates.

This process gives Madeira wine its distinctive flavors, ranging from dry and nutty to sweet and caramelized. Some popular varieties include Sercial (dry), Verdelho (medium-dry), Bual (medium-sweet), and Malmsey (sweet).

Madeira wine pairs well with desserts like chocolate or fruit-based cakes, as well as strong cheeses. Its versatility makes it a delight for both sipping on its own and using it in cooking or cocktails.

Marsala wine

Marsala wine is a popular Italian fortified wine that has a rich and complex flavor. It is made in the region of Sicily using specific grapes, such as Grillo, Catarratto, and Inzolia.

Marsala wine comes in different styles, ranging from dry to sweet. The aging process plays a crucial role in developing its unique taste. Some Marsala wines are aged for several years, resulting in deeper flavors and aromas.

This versatile wine can be enjoyed on its own or used in cooking to enhance the flavors of various dishes. Its sweetness pairs well with desserts like tiramisu or biscotti.

Port wine

Port wine is a delicious and famous type of fortified wine that originated in Portugal‘s Douro Valley. It is made by adding a grape spirit or brandy to the wine, resulting in a higher alcohol content and unique flavor.

Port wine comes in different styles, including tawny port and ruby port, each with its distinct characteristics. It pairs well with desserts like chocolate or cheese and can also be enjoyed on its own as a dessert wine.

The rich history and craftsmanship behind port wine make it an excellent choice for any wine lover looking to explore fortified wines.


Sherry is a popular fortified wine that comes from the Jerez region in Spain. It has a unique flavor profile and is known for its versatility. Sherry can be enjoyed as an aperitif or paired with various types of food.

With its wide range of styles, from dry to sweet, there’s something for everyone’s taste. Whether you’re looking for a crisp Fino or a rich Pedro Ximenez, Sherry offers complexity and depth.

So raise your glass and toast to this delightful Spanish treasure! Cheers!


Vermouth is an aromatized fortified wine that you might recognize as a popular ingredient in cocktails. It has a unique flavor profile with herbal and botanical hints. Vermouth can be enjoyed on its own, but it is often used as a mixer to add depth and complexity to drinks like martinis or Negronis.

This versatile fortified wine comes in two primary styles: sweet vermouth and dry vermouth. Sweet vermouth has a richer, more dessert-like taste, while dry vermouth is lighter and crispier.

Some famous cocktail recipes that feature vermouth include the classic Martini and the refreshing Manhattan. So if you’re looking to experiment with new flavors in your cocktails, give vermouth a try!

Vins doux naturels

Vins doux naturels are a type of fortified wine that originates from France. These wines have a sweet taste and are made by adding grape spirit to the wine during fermentation, which stops the yeast from converting all the sugars into alcohol.

This process leaves behind some residual sugar, giving the wine its characteristic sweetness. Vins doux naturels can be enjoyed on their own or paired with desserts like chocolate or fruit tarts.

Some popular examples include Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise and Banyuls.

Vins de liqueur

Vins de liqueur, also known as dessert wines or sweet wines, are a type of fortified wine that is made by adding distilled spirits to the base wine. These spirits can be grape-based or made from other fruits like cherries or raspberries.

The addition of the distilled spirit increases the alcohol content and adds sweetness to the wine. Vins de liqueur come in a variety of styles and flavors, ranging from rich and syrupy to light and fruity.

Some popular examples include Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Banyuls, and Rivesaltes. These sweet wines are often enjoyed after dinner as a delicious end to a meal or paired with desserts like chocolate cake or fruit tarts.

How Fortified Wine is Made

Fortified wine is made by adding distilled spirits, such as brandy, to the base wine during the fermentation process, resulting in a higher alcohol content. The addition of these spirits helps preserve the wine and gives it its distinct fortified style.

After fortifying, the wine is aged for a specific period of time to develop its unique flavors and characteristics. Proper storage recommendations are also important to ensure the quality and longevity of fortified wines.

Addition of distilled spirits (such as brandy)

Fortified wine gets its name from the addition of distilled spirits, like brandy. This is done to achieve different results, such as increasing the alcohol content and adding flavor.

By fortifying the wine with spirits, winemakers can create unique and complex flavors that regular wines don’t have. The process involves carefully blending the wine with the spirit, creating a harmonious balance.

It’s important to note that not all wines are fortified – it’s a special technique reserved for certain types of wine like port, sherry, Madeira, Marsala, and vermouth. So when you sip on a glass of fortified wine, you can appreciate how this extra touch adds depth and character to your drink.

Aging process

Fortified wines go through an aging process that adds complexity and richness to their flavors. This process involves storing the wine in barrels or tanks for a certain period of time, allowing it to develop unique characteristics.

During this time, the wine interacts with the wood or container, which can impart additional aromas and flavors. The length of the aging process varies depending on the type of fortified wine.

For example, Port wine is often aged for several years before being bottled and released for sale. Sherry also goes through a complex system called solera aging, where different vintages are blended together over time to create a consistent flavor profile.

Storing recommendations

Fortified wines, like port, sherry, and madeira, have unique characteristics that require proper storage to preserve their flavors. These wines should be stored in a cool and dark place with consistent temperature and humidity levels.

Avoid exposing them to light, heat, or extreme temperature fluctuations as it can damage the wine. It is also important to store fortified wines upright to prevent the cork from drying out and spoilage.

Once opened, fortified wines can be kept for a longer period compared to regular wines due to their higher alcohol content. To extend their shelf life, reseal the bottle tightly and store it in the refrigerator.

Serving and Pairing Fortified Wine

When serving fortified wine, it is best to serve it slightly chilled to enhance its flavors and aromas.

Recommendations for serving

When it comes to serving fortified wine, there are a few recommendations to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to serve fortified wines at the right temperature. Most fortified wines are best enjoyed slightly chilled, so storing them in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving is ideal.

This will help enhance the flavors and aromas of the wine.

Another recommendation is to use proper glassware when serving fortified wine. Opt for a smaller glass or a tulip-shaped one, as this will concentrate the aromas and allow you to fully appreciate the nuances of the wine.

Lastly, pairing fortified wine with suitable foods can enhance your overall tasting experience. For sweet fortified wines like port or madeira, they pair well with desserts such as chocolate or cheese plates.

On the other hand, dry styles like sherry can be enjoyed on their own or paired with savory dishes like tapas or roasted nuts.

Food pairings

Fortified wines bring a wonderful complexity to food pairing. Their high alcohol content, sweetness, and rich flavors can complement a wide range of dishes. This guide will help align each type of fortified wine with its perfect meal partner.

Fortified WineFood Pairing
Commandaria WineThis rich, dessert wine pairs well with dark chocolate, dried fruits, and aged cheeses.
Madeira WineIts unique flavor profile makes it a perfect partner for strong-flavored cheeses, olives, and smoked meats.
Marsala WineOften used in cooking, Marsala pairs well with desserts, especially those incorporating caramel and apples.
Port WineOriginating from Portugal, Port wine is a traditional partner for blue cheeses, nuts, and dark chocolate.
SherrySherry is incredibly food-friendly. It pairs well with almonds, olives, and often served with tapas.
VermouthWith its herbal and botanical flavor, Vermouth pairs well with charcuterie, pickles, and olives.
Vins Doux Naturels and Vins De LiqueurThese sweet wines are great with a range of desserts, particularly those with fruit or chocolate.

Remember, these are just recommended pairings. Feel free to experiment and find your perfect combination.


In conclusion, fortified wine offers a wide range of flavors and styles for wine lovers to enjoy. Whether it’s the rich and sweet taste of port, the unique aging process of madeira, or the versatility of vermouth in cocktails, there is something for everyone.

So next time you’re looking to try something new or pair your meal with a delicious drink, consider exploring the world of fortified wines. Cheers!


1. What is fortified wine?

Fortified wine is a type of wine made stronger with the addition of spirits like Cognac.

2. What are the different types of fortified wines?

There are several types of fortified wines including Moscato, sweet sherry and other fortified styles depending on where they come from.

3. Is Cognac a type of fortified wine?

No, Cognac is not a type of fortified wine but it’s often used to make these wines stronger.

4. How does Moscato compare to other Fortified Wines?

Moscato is sweeter than many other types of fortified wines, such as Sherry which can also be sweet but has various style options.

Gustavo Favarin
Gustavo Favarinhttps://wineshout.com
Founder of the Winery "Rotas do Peabiru". Lover of wines that aren't mainstream and don't have great general recognition. Mainly wild fermentation wines, as they were originally made in the old days.

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