what is fortified wine

What is Fortified Wine? – Day 20

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What is fortified wine? Sherry, Port, and Marsala are all examples of fortified wine. Learn about how they are made and how to taste and talk about them.

Wine of the Day

Barbadillo Pedro Ximénez Sherry
Find a Sherry at Wine.Com


Tobacco, Honey

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Video Transcript

I’m Annie Shapero, certified sommelier, and DiVino Wine School is back in session.

We are almost at the end you guys.  Today is Day 20 and it is hot. We are talking about FORTIFIED wines.  Ready to get started? (walk off)

TITLE/SCREEN: DAY 20 – What is Fortified Wine?

The family of fortified wines is huge and fascinating. I brought a Sherry today, for example.

If you are subscribed and enrolled, you might have one too. Feel free to pour yourself a splash and let it breath.  Let me know in the comments what you brought.

I also have some honey, dried dates,  and tobacco, three scent notes that definitely show up in Sherry, and a lot of other fortified wines.

This also a perfect time to remind you subscribe to this channel.  You can still enroll for free and get a copy of all our class notes, as well as a head’s up on what’s coming next on Day 21 (or what’s happening on Day 21).

TITLE/SCREEN: Subscribe for more. Arrow.

**I SEE A note “our senses” – no idea what it means.

21 Days of Wine may be rounding the finish line, but I have a lot left to share with you. And I’m sure you have questions.

TITLE/SCREEN: Ask me anything!

 Fill up my comment section. You might inspire my next video!

So we’ve been talking about all the steps to a multisensory evaluation of wine, but as you know there are exceptions to every rule.

Fortified wines fall outside the standard tasting method because, as their name implies, they are fortified, which means something has been added to make them stronger.

TITLE/SCREEN: Like a fortress, fortified wines are built strong and built to last.

In this case, that thing is distilled alcohol, most often, Brandy.

TITLE/SCREEN: Fortified wine = wine + distilled liquor.

Alcohol is volatile, which means those aromatic molecules get an extra lift, which makes fortified wines not only stronger, but also intensely aromatic.

TITLE/SCREEN: Fortified wines are intensely aromatic.

The added alcohol also gives them a longer shelf life, which means you can really take your time and enjoy them, so buy a nice bottle don’t worry about finishing it right away.

So What are some examples of Fortified Wines? And How are they made?

TITLE/SCREEN: Examples of Fortified Wines include: List

Port, Sherry, Marsala and Madeira, Banyuls, and Vermouth

Examples of Fortified Wines include: Port, Sherry, Marsala and Madeira, Banyuls, and Vermouth,

They range in color, sweetness, and strength and are known for their complex bouquets with notes of honey, flowers, caramel, dried fruit, spices, sweet tobacco, leather, and burnt sugar.

TITLE/SCREEN: Notes of Fortified Wines include: (list) honey, caramel, dried fruit, spices, leather, sweet tobacco, burnt sugar.


We could spend hours on the details of their production, and the grapes utilized for each one.  But I’ll do my best to sum it up.

Essentially a distilled spirit is added during or after fermentation.

TITLE/SCREEN: When you add alcohol to the fermenting grapes it kills the yeast and stops fermentation. 

When you add alcohol to the fermenting grape must, it kills the yeast and stops fermentation. 

 So going back to our science lesson, the sooner fermentation stops, the more sugar is left over.

** Graphic on fermentation and levels of sweetness.

At the same time, the longer fermentation continues, complex flavors have a chance to develop. Like in this Sherry for existence. (TBD).

Even the Sherry process varies like crazy and the flavor profile.

So more importantly, I want to give you a general idea of what to expect in these wines and how to taste and talk about them.

So this is a quintessential fortified wine. In the Sherry family.


Production of fortified wines can be traced to the late 1600s.

Under English Imperial rule, wine traders in Southern Italy, Spain and Portugal devised ways to transport the sweet and aromatic wines grown along the coast.

TITLE/SCREEN: Adding brandy, or other distilled liquor stopped the wines from going bad or re-fermenting on their long ship ride home.

They found that adding brandy, or other distilled liquor stopped the wines from going bad or re-fermenting on their long boat ride home.

During the journey the wines also had a chance to oxidize in oak barrels as they made their way across the sea.

This combination of oxidation, aroma (?) and the added brandy, which made the whole thing possible, became so popular, that fortified wine production exploded.

Over the years, like any normal wine appellation, local laws were put into place to protect the style and traditional grape growing.  Marsala, Port, Sherry, and Madeira all come in varying degrees of color, sweetness, and age.

One thing they share is some degree of oxidized quality, as barrels are rarely filled to the top during the months or years of aging. 

How does this translate to aroma?

TITLE/SCREEN: Oxidation in Aroma

Depending on how long the wines are aged in wooden casks, they take on degrees of Dried fruit, over-ripe fruit, and a fleshy, nutty quality, leather and spice.

One of the pleasures of fortified wines is that in a way they offer the best of both worlds.

The spectrum of aromas is so complex and often quite sweet, but the wine itself can  be extremely fresh, depending on when they added distilled liquor and  how much sugar is left over.

For example, Sherry Fino and Manzanilla have fresher, citrusy notes because they are not aged as long in barrels, and they were fermented to nearly dry white wine status.

Whereas a Pedro Jimenez, which is made from super ripe grapes and aged for at least three years in oak barrels has mountains of beautiful ripe and dry fruit notes, but a clean tannic palate.

(Did I say this?) This is what makes fortified wines so wonderful with cheese.  All those things that come on a cheese plate, like dried fruit and honey/ They’re in the wine!

TITLE/SCREEN They are super aromatic and feel like satin on your palate, rich and smooth, like honey, but they finish clean and even a little tingly.

They are super aromatic and feel like satin on your palate, rich and smooth, like honey, but they finish clean and even a little tingly.

Try pairing a Sherry with cheese and let me know in the comments how it goes.

See you next time, for our day 21, our last lesson: An introduction to food and wine pairing.

Cheers! (walk off!)

END TITLE/SCREEN: Wine is a language. Learn how to speak it.

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