Port & other fortified wines
Some of the longest living wines made are fortified. The three main areas of fortified wine making is the Douro for Port, Jerez for Sherry and Madeira for...Madeira. The common theme with all fortified wines is that a grape spirit is added after fermentation, which lifts the alcohol to around 20%.
Port – coming from the beautiful Douro valley in Portugal is normally a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca Tinta Barroca and indeed in the case of Colheita and aged Tawny they can mature in cask for many many years. These ports tend to be nuttier, lighter and a little less sweet; a great way to serve them is slightly chilled with pudding – delicious, barrel tannins. Once mature, they are soft, elegant and beautifully structured. Barrel aged ports, such as Tawny and Colheita, when young, are full of wonderful fruit. Bottle aged ports are Vintage Ports and Single Quinta Vintage Ports. These wines spend a short period of time in barrel and slowly mature in the bottle.
Sherry - Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado and Oloroso. Sherry starts life as a still white wine and after the addition of grape spirit it is aged in a unique way with a Solera being used. This is the practice of the Sherry being aged in a number of barrels, each being topped up with a younger wine as the finished wine is tapped out. Whether the wine ages under a film of yeast, called a flor, determines the style and name of the sherry. Finoand Manazanilla are aged under a flor and this gives them a freshness and crispness; the main difference between the two is that Manzanilla is made in the coastal town of Sanlucar de Barrameda. If the flor doesn’t develop on a Fino then it is named an Amontillado, and if the flor is suppressed by human hand the wine is labelled Oloroso. These wines are darker and richer than a Fino and Manzanilla. The centre of Sherry making is the southern Spanish town of Jerez.
Madeira – a Portuguese island off the north west coast of Africa has a long and rich wine making history. The wines made there can range from the wonderfully crisp and dry Sercial to the rich and robust Malmsey. Similar to Sherry, the wines start off life as dry table wines and after fortification they enter another unique way of ageing; the Estufagem process. This is essentially heating the wines and represents the long voyages the wines spent in the holds of ships in the 17th Century, creating Madeira. The main styles of Madeira that range from dry to sweet are Sercial, Verdelho, Boal and Malmsey - these are also make up the noble grapes varieties. Now however, most Madeira is made from one grape – Tinta Negra Mole. There are also three levels of quality – Reserve, which has been aged for up to five years. Special Reserve – 10 years and Extra Reserve – 15 years. Occasionally, they can be from a specific harvest or Colheita – these are amongst the rarest Madeira to be found.