Fortified Wines – How Are They Made?

Fortified wines result from adding a spirit (usually brandy) to a table wine. The resulting mix, will have an alcoholic content, between 17% and 20% vol/alc. There are two commonly used methods of producing fortified wines. They are the “sherry method” and the “port method”.

After picking and crushing the remaining mixture of skins, pulp, seeds and juice is allowed to ferment in the “sherry method”. At the correct time a spirit is added leaving a dry wine, to which sugar is added for sweetening.

Under the “port method”, the mixture of skins, pulp, seeds and juice is only allowed to partially ferment. This is added to the spirit, which kills the yeast and stops the fermentation process, resulting in a sweet port. (No sugar need be added when bottling)

Sherry styles of fortified wines undergo a number of blending processes with different vintages until they reach the required state. The blending process uses stacks of barrels with the younger vintages at the top and the older vintages at the bottom. Small amounts are taken from the bottom barrels first and these are topped up with the barrels above them. So each time liquid is removed from a lower barrel, it is filled from the barrels directly above them. New vintage is only added to the topmost barrel. This is the traditional method of blending.

Ports are categorized into two type, “tawny” and “vintage”. Some interesting facts about port production:

1. There are specified grapes for the production of fine port.

2. The grapes are picked later for port production than for red wine production, that is they are riper than when picked for red wine production.

3. Tawny ports are a blend of ports from different vintages.

4. The wine-maker aims for color and sweetness, prior to adding the spirit, that halts the fermentation process.

5. The tawny color is achieved through the racking process. The process of drawing off wine and leaving the sediment.

6. Tawny ports are best consumed soon after bottling and will retain taste for up to a month from opening the bottle. They will not improve in the bottle.

7. Vintage ports should be consumed soon after opening the bottle.

Muscats are produced from very ripe Frontignac grape varieties, and are generally sweeter than ports. Long term aging in wooden casks will produce great muscats. oregon wine tours


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