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What the heck is a fortified wine and why should you care?

Updated: Feb 29

You hear the term but are you really sure what it is?

Because among other things, it is the base for Ports, Sherrys, Madeira, and Vermouth.

A fortified wine is a type of wine that has been supplemented with the addition of a distilled spirit, usually brandy. The process of fortification involves adding the spirit to the wine during or after fermentation, which increases the alcohol content and alters the flavor profile of the wine.

The purpose of fortification is primarily to preserve the wine and enhance its longevity. The addition of the distilled spirit raises the alcohol content, making the wine less susceptible to spoilage by bacteria and oxidation. Fortified wines can be aged for extended periods, resulting in complex and unique flavors.

Fortified wines offer a wide range of flavors and styles, making them versatile for both sipping and mixing in cocktails. They are often enjoyed as aperitifs, digestifs, or paired with specific types of cuisine.


A fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley in Portugal. It is typically sweet and rich, with flavors of dark fruits, chocolate, and spices. There are different styles of Port, including Ruby Port (young and fruity), Tawny Port (aged in wooden barrels, with nutty flavors), and Vintage Port (made from the best grapes of a single vintage).


A fortified wine produced in the Jerez region of Spain. It comes in various styles, ranging from dry to sweet. Fino and Manzanilla are dry styles, while Amontillado and Oloroso are richer and nuttier. Pedro Ximénez (PX) is a sweet style, with flavors of raisins, figs, and caramel. Sherry is known for its unique aging process under a layer of yeast called "flor."


A fortified wine produced on the Portuguese island of Madeira. It is known for its oxidative aging process, resulting in complex flavors of caramel, nuts, dried fruits, and spices. Madeira wines can be dry or sweet and are often used in cooking or enjoyed as a dessert wine.


A fortified wine that is aromatized with various botanicals such as herbs, spices, and roots. It is most commonly used as a key ingredient in cocktails such as Martinis and Negronis. Vermouth comes in two main styles: sweet (red or rosso) and dry (white or bianco).

These are just a few examples of fortified wines, each with its own unique characteristics and uses. I hope you find this information helpful! Let me know if you have any more questions.

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