So I am back after quite a while since we have discussed the How’s and Why’s of wine cellaring and what wines cellar best. In this section, I am going to discuss fortified wine. What is a fortified wine? This is a wine to which a distilled beverage has been added.
The region of Douro in Portugal, were the most notable fortified, Port wine is produced. It was established in 1756, and is the third oldest wine region that is protected by law. In France, fortification only began when they shipped wine to England in 1703 after the war between the two countries ended and the Methuen Treaty was signed. The long journey spoiled the wine, and in order to preserve their product they began adding more alcohol to act as a preservative.
The addition of alcohol is the same reason why fortified wine makes a great collector wine today. However, today there is more of an art with the addition of alcohol than strictly for preservation. Port wine is made from five main grapes; Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Touriga Francesa, Tempranillo, and Touriga Nacional, though there are over one-hundred varieties that can be used for production. These special varietals are chosen because they have the ability to make a wine with enduring flavors and ideal for aging. Port is divided in two categories; wines that are left to mature in barrels, that allow a small amount of oxygen exposure, referred to as ‘oxidative aging’. The barrels will also impart tannin into the wine, which I have mentioned before is a natural preservative. The other category are wines matured in glass bottles that have been sealed, Vintage Port, allowing for ‘reductive aging’. This will produce a wine that is much smoother and less tannic. There are many styles of Ports that can be devided into these two categories: Tawny, Colheita, Garrafeira, Ruby , Reserve or Vintage Character, Rose, White, Late Bottled Vintage, Crusted, Vintage, and Single Quinta. No matter the style, true Port wine will preserve for decades and even centuries. Other fortified wines are Marsala, Madeira, Sherry, and Vermouth.
The reason for all of their age-ability, is because they possess a significant amount of sugar and as already stated, alcohol.
Even with all these natural preservative qualities working in their favor, they should still be stored in wine cellar conditions, kept on their side, in a cool and dark place with slight humidity.
One additional thing I would like to add, as some of you might ask, is what to do with your fortified wine once it has been opened and not finished. The great thing, that even with these wines open, they still have amazing staying power. You should re-cork the wine and if you have it on hand, a little gas before you re-cork it. You can place it back in your wine cellar for safe keeping, but do not forget about it, as it will only last a couple months until it is spoiled. So share it with friends or make yourself a note, so that you remember that it has been opened.
That concludes this section. In part 4, we will end with dessert wines. Until then, if you have any questions regarding this section or the previous, I would be happy to discuss them with you. Cheers.