May 18, 2023 by
Maytte Rivera

Fortification is the process of adding a neutral spirit (usually grape brandy) to wine to increase its alcohol content.  The practice started as a means of protecting the wines from spoilage so they could travel longer distances.  The final product has approximately 17%-21% of alcohol by volume and can be dry or sweet.  Some of the most famous fortified wines include Portuguese port and madeira, Spanish sherry, and Italian marsala.

During the process of fermentation, yeast feeds off the natural sugars found in grape juice, converting it to alcohol.  If the wine is fortified before the yeast eats up all the natural sugar, the final product will be sweet.  This is the process used to make Graham’s and Osborne ports, and Blandy’s “Malmsey” Madeira. If the wine is fortified after the yeast converts all the natural sugar the final product will be dry, as in Emilio Lustau Jerez Fino and Carlo Pellegrino Marsala Secco.

Depending on the style, fortified wines can be used before a meal as an aperitif, as an ingredient on various recipes, or with various desserts and cheeses.

Author: Maytte Rivera

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