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Other Fortified Wine

Fortified wine, a category best known for popular styles like Madeira, Port, and Sherry, extends far beyond these familiar names. It's a diverse and fascinating group of wines that have been enriched with a distilled spirit, typically brandy, to increase their alcohol content and stability. This process of fortification has a long history, with roots in various cultures and serving a variety of purposes from preservation to flavour enhancement. While Madeira, Port, and Sherry are the most recognised, there are many other types of fortified wines worth exploring.


Hailing from Sicily, Marsala is an Italian fortified wine that gained popularity in the late 18th century. Its creation was a matter of practicality; a local winemaker, John Woodhouse, fortified local wine to endure long sea voyages. Marsala comes in dry and sweet varieties and is used both in cooking and as a drink. The flavours range from tawny fruit notes to nuttier, woody tones, depending on the ageing process. Fine Marsala wines are aged in wooden casks and exhibit a complexity that can rival more famous fortified wines.

Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise

From the Rhône Valley in France, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise is a sweet fortified wine made from the Muscat grape. It showcases the grape's characteristic aromatic profile - rich and perfumed with notes of orange blossom, peaches, and lychee. The wine is fortified with a neutral grape spirit to halt fermentation, preserving the natural sweetness of the grapes. It's a delightful dessert wine, often served with fruit-based desserts or as an aperitif.

Rutherglen Muscat

Australia offers a unique contribution to the world of fortified wines with Rutherglen Muscat. It's produced from the brown Muscat grape in the Rutherglen region in Victoria. The wines are known for their rich, raisin-like flavour and incredible depth that comes from the solera ageing process, a fractional blending system that allows the wine to develop over many years. Some of these wines can be aged for decades, developing intense flavours of caramel, toffee, and nuts.


Commandaria is often cited as one of the world's oldest named wines still in production. From Cyprus, this amber-hued wine is made from sun-dried grapes, which concentrates their sugars before fermentation. It's then fortified and aged in oak barrels. The result is a sweet wine with flavours of chocolate, coffee, and raisins, often with a spicy edge. Commandaria holds a place in history, dating back to the time of the Crusades, and continues to be celebrated for its richness and depth.

Pineau des Charentes

Pineau des Charentes is a French fortified wine from the Charente region, the home of Cognac. It's made by mixing unfermented grape juice with Cognac eau-de-vie, resulting in a smooth, velvety drink that's not too high in alcohol and carries a fresh, fruity sweetness. This blend is then aged in oak barrels, allowing the flavours to mellow and integrate. Pineau des Charentes can be found in both white and red varieties, each expressing the characteristics of the base wines and spirits.

Banyuls and Maury

These are two similar types of fortified wine from the Roussillon region of France, close to the Spanish border. They're made primarily from the Grenache grape, which provides a sweet, rich base for these wines. They can range from chocolatey and nutty to fresh and fruity, with the best examples showing a balance of sweetness and acidity alongside complex oxidative notes from barrel ageing.


Vermouth may be best known as a cocktail ingredient, but it's a fortified wine with a rich history of its own. It's aromatised with a variety of botanicals, herbs, and spices, making it one of the most flavourful fortified wines. Italian and French vermouths are the most prominent, each with their own distinct styles—Italian being sweet and red, French traditionally dry and white. Modern craft producers around the world are now offering their own takes on vermouth, making it an exciting time for this versatile fortified wine.

Vins Doux Naturels

These "naturally sweet wines" from the south of France are fortified to halt fermentation early, preserving the natural sweetness of the grapes. The Grenache and Muscat varieties used for Vins Doux Naturels give these wines a lovely fruit character, often with a hint of spiciness or earthiness, depending on the terroir. They're excellent dessert wines, particularly in regions like Rivesaltes, Maury, and Muscat de Frontignan.

Fortified Wines Beyond Europe

The New World has embraced fortified wine production with enthusiasm. South Africa produces its own version of sherry-like wines, known locally as "Cape Sherry," and in the United States, there are producers creating port-style wines with indigenous grape varieties. These wines often reflect the unique climates and winemaking philosophies of their regions, offering a new take on an old tradition.

The Role of Fortified Wines

Fortified wines have long played a role in wine culture, often seen as a bridge between the wine and spirit worlds. They are sipped and savoured for their intensity and complexity and treasured for their ability to convey the essence of their ingredients and the land from which they come.

The variety of fortified wines across the globe is a testament to the versatility and creativity of winemakers. Each type provides a window into the history, climate, and culture of its region, offering an extensive palate of flavours for the curious drinker. Whether used in cooking, as a part of a cocktail, or enjoyed on their own, fortified wines enrich the tapestry of global wine culture.

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