FORTIFIED WINE AT THE OXFORD WINE COMPANY
A fortified wine is simply a wine which has been made stronger - more alcoholic, that is - with the addition of a spirit. Since alcohol is a good preservative agent, centuries ago producers or shippers who wanted to ensure their products would last a little longer before turning to vinegar would simply add a healthy dash of brandy, and bingo! Their wines would stay fresher, for longer.
The three most famous categories of Fortified wine are Port, Sherry, and Madeira. We'll take a brief look at each below, and will be posting more detailed information throughout the month both on our website and social media pages. We'll give you an outline of the styles that are available and what to expect from each. We will talk about how to serve the wines, which foods to pair with them, and more. We will even be holding a Madeira tasting in the Turl Street Cellar!
Sherry is produced in Jerez, in Southern Spain's Andalucia. It must be produced using a very specific method of fractional blending, which involves wines produced decades apart being combined in a system of barrels called a Solera. Sherry comes in styles from the very driest, such as Manzanilla and Fino, with their characteristically fresh salinity; to the very sweetest, Pedro Ximenez, which feels half way between a wine and a sauce, and is very much at home poured over vanilla ice cream. There truly is a sherry for everyone, and they can be paired with a vast variety of foods, right through from the aperitif to dessert.
To see our full Sherry selection, click here.
Produced on the banks of Portugal's River Douro, Port is probably the most well established fortified wine here in Britain. In fact, it was British merchants who first added brandy to the wines they were shipping home from Portugal in an effort to prevent spoilage, who created the world's first proto-Port. Produced in styles from White, to Ruby, to Tawny, there is more variety to Port than first meets the eye.
To see our full Port selection, click here.
Madeira is a unique 'accidental' fortified wine. It is produced on the island of Madeira, which is situated in the northern Atlantic Ocean, and is owned by Portugal. It was a natural stopping-off point for boats on the way to the West Indies. As with Port, the sailors fortified their wines with grape spirit (a very heavily distilled form of Brandy). When they brought unsold wines back to the island, they had been transformed by the repeated heating and swaying in the bottom of the boat. The style was a huge hit, and has since been performed on purpose - albeit, not in boats.
To see our full Madeira selection, click here
VINS DOUX NATURELS
This is a broad category of wines, produced in the South of France. A dazzling array of techniques are used to make them, but they share one common aspect - fortification. The name means wines with natural sugars - this is because when a wine is fortified above 16% ABV, the process of fermentation stops. Sugar ceases being converted into alcohol. Thus, the wines contain their natural sugars, rather than artificial sugars which have been added.