These wines are preserved with the addition of a neutral spirit. Brandy was originally added to table wines to ‘fortify’ them for passage on the high seas to far flung colonial outposts. This style of wine became increasingly popular and developed into a style of its own. When the sweetness in the fermenting grape must reaches a predetermined level of alcohol (normally around 7%abv), a clear alcohol brandy is added to stop fermentation. In the case of Port, this is typically a 77%abv spirit. The wine may then be aged in barrel or cask to allow the alcohol, tannin and fruit to mesh together. While different types of fortified wines have differing production methods, the principle remains the same. The three main styles of fortified wines are – Sherry, Madeira and Port.
On the wave of a recent renaissance, the brilliant fortified wines of the chalky soiled Jerez-Xérès-Sherry region in Cadiz at Spain’s southern tip, are unique in the world of wine. Made up of three cities of El Puerto de Santa Maria, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and, most famously, Jerez de la Frontera, Sherry is made as a dry white wine then is fortified with grape spirit. Wines are blended through a solera – tiers of barrels with three to nine stages called criaderas. New wine is put in the top and the final Sherry is taken from the bottom in small amounts so parts of a Sherry may be 50+years old. Añada Sherry does not employ this method and is the result of a single year’s harvest. Sherry can be made from three grape varieties: Palomino Fino, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel. Famous names include: Gonzalez-Byass, Emilio Lustau, Fernando de Castilla and Bodegas Hidalgo.
From the exposed Atlantic isles of Madeira and Porto Santo, this type of wine was discovered by chance thanks to unsold stocks. Boats returning to Madeira with unsold wine discovered that the ageing effect that the warmth below deck gave the wines an amazing complexity. Madeira today is aged with the Estufagem method of heating the wines as they age. This can be achieved in a number of ways – Canteiro where the wines are exposed to natural heat in the winery, Armazém de Calor where the ageing room becomes a steam rich sauna style area or Cuba de Calor where the wine is artificially heated by heating coils or warm water pipes. Madeira is made from the grape varieties Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey with Sercial being the driest and Malmsey the sweetest. The variety Tinta Negre is a workhorse variety that became popular following the 19th century’s Phylloxera epidemic. Madeira still represents outstanding value for money and thanks to the Estufagem ageing method lasts almost indefinitely once opened. Famous names include: Henriques & Henriques, Blandy, Barbeito, Cossart & Gordon and Pereira d’Oliveira.
One of the finest styles of wine and arguably the most noble! Rich, sweet and fortified with intense flavours, these are wines that demand your attention and, when at the top of their game, envelop your senses. Port comes from the Douro region in Portugal and the Cima area is the heart of Port production. Most high-quality Ports come from its uncompromisingly steep with hostile schist and granite soils that are baked in the summer sun. Steep vineyards on rivers always trend to be beautiful and this region is truly breath-taking.While there is a multitude of Port styles they can be broken down into two very simple styles of wine – bottle matured and cask/barrel matured. Bottle matured Port spends a short time in cask or tank before bottling and then is matured in bottle. These Ports are full and rich with lots of dark fruit flavours. Cask or barrel aged Ports age in contact with small amounts of oxygen so will develop more spice and nut characters. As there is a degree of evaporation they are also more viscous than bottle-aged Port. The main styles of Port are: Late Bottled Vintage, Crusted, Vintage, Tawny, Colheita and White. Famous names include: Taylor, Fonseca, Graham, Dow, Warre, Croft, Kopke and Krohn.
Below you can view our hand-picked selection of Fortified Wines available to buy in-store or online at Hennings Wine Merchants.