With the release of my fortified ginger wine (Hoo-Wee!) I thought it would be timely to write about fortified wines.
In a nutshell, fortified wines are wines that have had brandy or another distilled spirit added to them; traditionally during fermentation, (therefore ceasing the fermentation whilst there's still sugar remaining in the wine) or at the end of a fermentation of a sweet wine.
The most famous of fortified wines of course is Port. Port, like Champagne, is actually an appellation (since 1756!!), meaning only grapes grown and wine produced and fortified in the Douro region in Portugal can be called Port (or sometimes Oporto in Europe, Porto in U.S.A.). Port is named after Portugal's seaport city, Porto.
Brandy if you didn't know, is fruit wine distilled. Grape wine and apple wine being the most common. Once distilled the brandy is then aged in oak or chestnut barrels which gives it its colour and the winemaker/brandy makers mark if you like.
When you add brandy to wine it does a couple of things- obviously it ramps up the alcohol level in the wine. But it also ceases all possible fermentation and preserves the wine. Making it stable enough for you to crack open a bottle, have a lovely little nip when the moment takes you, then pop it away for another special time. One for the liquor cabinet if people still have those these days!
How much brandy contained in each bottle is up to the winemaker, but traditionally and most usually it is a 4:1 ratio making for a 20% ABV in the finished product. I use substantially less (about 15:1) but I fortify my wines after allowing a purposefully sweet wine ferment out (or in the past, as a fall back solution to stuck ferments, home winemakers will know what I'm talking about!). The finished ABV for my fortified wines tend to be between 15.5% and 18%.
A fortified wine is a real sit back and enjoy life type of wine; you can give it a shot with my Fortified Ginger Wine then wait in anticipation for my December release - All The Wineium, a fortified wine made from plums, blueberries, pumpkin and rosemary. Has Christmas Pleaser written all over it!