Everything You Need to Know About Fortified Wine

If you’re thinking of buying the Fonseca Vintage Port from the Ideal Wine Company, you may be interested to learn that it’s a fortified wine. If you don’t know what this means, keep reading as we’ve decided to devote a whole blog post to explaining what fortified wine is, how it’s made  and why it makes a fantastic after dinner tipple.

What is fortified wine?

A fortified wine is a wine that has had a grape spirit such as brandy added to “fortify” the final product. This brings the alcohol content of the end product up to around 17% – 20%.  The most well-known types of fortified wine are Sherry, Madeira, Marsala and Port.

You may be interested to learn that producers first started to fortify wine because they believed that adding stronger alcohols such as brandy would preserve the final product. This is true if the bottle remains sealed, however fortified wine won’t last more than a month after it’s been opened.

How is fortified wine made?

Through trial and error wine makers discovered that timing is everything when it comes to making fortified wine. The grape alcohol needs to be added to the base wine during the fermentation process. This can be used to control the sugar content in the final product.

This is because once the grape spirit is added, it stops the yeast converting sugar into alcohol. Therefore when the producer wants a dry or a less alcoholic fortified wine, they let the fermentation process run its full course before adding the brandy. However, if they want a sweeter or more alcoholic product they’ll add it once the base wine has fermented for a day and a half. After fermentation, fortified wine is aged in oak wood casks.

Why should you drink fortified wine?

The truth is that there’s no one reason why fortified wine makes a fantastic after dinner treat. The tipple’s production process has a lot of variables and this means that there are a range of fortified wines on the market and they each have different characteristics and qualities.

Yet most fortified wines have one thing in common. Even when we’re talking about a “dry” variety, fortified wines are stronger and sweeter than other wines. This is why it has traditionally served as a desert wine and can be paired beautifully with after dinner staples such as chocolate desserts, fruit torts and cheese platters.