Fortified Wines Explained

Do you know your Sherries from your Ports? Are you baffled by Madeira? Banish your bafflement and learn to identify what the wines will taste like from reading the label.

Watch this relaxed and informative video. With food pairing suggestions, explore the wonderfully rich world of Fortified Wines.

 What does Fortified Wine mean?

Fortified wines are wines that have had a spirit added to them and are very old styles of wine. They date back centuries and fortification was simply a method of preserving the wines.

Fortified wines are made by all the historic wine making countries, Spain has Sherry, Portugal has Port and Madeira and French fortified wines, Vins Doux Naturels (VDNs), are made in many of their wine making regions.

Lower alcohol cocktails

Fortified wines make a great alternative to spirits in cocktails. Not only for their abundance of flavours but because of their significantly lower alcohol.

One of our favourites is Muscat de Beaumes de Venise as an alternative to gin in a G&T, at around 15% alcohol compared to gin’s 40%, you get a refreshingly fruity lower-alcohol aperitif.

What they taste like

Watch: Introduction to Fortified Wines

Many people think that all fortified wines are sweet but that is not the case. Fortified wines range from dry to sweet, with some being very sweet indeed.

They range in flavours, partly due to the grape varieties used but the way the wines are matured is a key driver of flavour in these wines.

Oxygen is the key

There are two fundamental types of maturation, one where the wine is protected from oxygen, the other where oxygen is deliberately included as part of the maturing process.

Where wines have been matured in the presence of oxygen they gain wonderfully rich flavours of toffee, chocolate and caramel, together with nuts and dried fruits. By knowing from labelling terms which styles have been matured in the presence of oxygen will give you a head start in understanding what they will taste like just from reading the label


Deliciously varied wine styles


Watch: Madeira Wines Explained

In many ways these are the easiest fortified wines to understand. They are all aged in oxygen with the addition of heat. This gives them a delicious caramel and toffee character. With sweetness levels varying from dry/off-dry to sweet. They have high acidity which makes them refreshing, particularly when compared to a Sherry or a Port. Read more... 

Port Wine

Let’s understand Port!


Watch: Port Wines Explained

All Port is sweet and has alcohol of around 19% to 22%. Most are red but you also get White Ports and since the early 2000s Rosé Port. There are many different types of red Ports and a multitude of labelling terms. A good way to understand Port labelling is to start with Tawny Port. Read more...


Can we find a Sherry for you!

Watch: Sherry Explained


French VDN: Beaumes de Venise

Could this be the best fortified wine!


 Watch: French VDNs Explained: Muscat Beaumes de Venise

Rutherglen Muscat

Refreshingly aromatic and sweet wine from Down Under!

Watch: Rutherglen Muscat Explained


What We've Seen (Or Drunk!)

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