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A fortified wine is a delicious, viscous wine-based sipping treat that is often enjoyed as a drink before or after dinner. The most common types of fortified wines are Madeira, Marsala, Port, Sherry and Vermouth. They are achieved by adding to the wine a distilled spirit, usually Brandy, for either a dry or a sweet style. The middle ground of medium-sweet or medium-dry is covered in virtually all the fortified wine categories and they vary from one producer to the next.
Initially the reason to fortify a wine was to preserve it, as ethanol has antiseptic effect, but now that we have other methods of preservation, fortified wine is still produced because the process adds singular flavors and characteristics to the finished product.
Madeira – Made in Madeira Islands, Portugal, this fortified wine ranges from dry to sweet (dessert wine), with distinctive flavours. The wine is heated and oxidised in the maturation process, giving it an unusually long lifespan after the bottle is opened.
Marsala – Fortified and unfortified wine produced in Sicily since 1772, named after the Port of Marsala. The fortified one can be called Fine or Superiore. Both are fortified with Brandy, the first being aged for at least four months and the later for at least two years.
Port – Produced in the Douro Valley, Portugal, usually gets served as a dessert wine. It is higher in alcohol, heavier, sweeter and richer than unfortified wines. The production method consists in adding distilled grape spirits to halt the fermentation prior to having all the sugar converted into alcohol.
Sherry – Product of Jerez, Spain, made from white grapes and fortified with Brandy after the fermentation ends.
Vermouth – Dating back to 1786 it is a fortified wine flavoured with spices and herbs like chamomile, marjoram, cinnamon and cardamom. Originally developed to mask bad flavors of cheap wines.
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