What do Fortified Wines Mean?
Wines are classified in many ways. On the basis of grape varieties used to make wine, these are classified as Red, White or Mixed. On the basis of ingredients which give it a special character, these are classified as Sparkling and Fortified. These are also classified on the basis of taste, such as Sweet or Dry. Then there are Dessert wines to be consumed after the meals. Among these varied classifications, it is the fortified wines which are made by addition of another type of alcohol to the wine. In these wines, brandy is added to the wines and this makes it different from the others.
How did it all began?
Fortification in wines, or addition of ethanol (brandy) to the wine, began around the middle of the 17th century. It is said that this addition happened due to some accident. Fortification helps in preserving the wine for a long period of time. Ethanol has antiseptic properties and this is what prevents the wine from getting damaged. But, this knowledge is unlikely to have contributed to the making of fortified wines because the antiseptics were discovered about a century later.
Is only brandy used in making of Fortified wines?
Brandy is the most common and also the most preferred item to be added to the wine to make it fortified. But, it is not the only item which can be added. The spirit to be added can be derived from a number of products, such as grapes, sugarcane, sugar beet or even grains. However, the local laws determine which spirit is to be used in making of fortified wines. So, you would find different flavours of these wines from different regions of the world. It is always interesting to know how different wines are fortified.
With respect to the flavour of these wines, it can be said that besides the nature of spirit, another important factor which determines the flavour is the method of distillation used. Generally, two methods are used: column still and pot still. Column stills are used for continuous and sustainable distillation process whereas pot stills are used for distillation in batches. These impart different flavours to fortified wines. Regional laws determine which of these would be used to make it.
What are some of the famous fortified wines?
Madeira (produced in Madeira Islands), Marsala (produced from Sicily), Mistelle, Moscatel de Setubal and Port Wines (from Portugal), Sherry (from Jerez region of Spain) and Vermouth are some of the world renowned fortified wines. These vary in flavour and style.