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Fortified wine

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Liqueur wine, more famously known as fortified wine, has a higher alcoholic degree than normal wines and usually are sweeter. The production of liqueur wines has its origin in South European countries which is why we often speak of fortified wine as Southern wine. Regarding the wine production, these countries have two issues: On the one hand, the higher temperatures and must weight provoked a quick start of the fermentation process that could stop at any moment just as quick. On the other hand, local winemakers did not yet domain the conservation method through sulphur dioxide. A method that had already been used by the ancient Greeks. In order to increase storage life to enable shipment to England as one of the most important target markets, people added neutral alcohol during the fermentation. Later, they discovered that one can control the sweetness by adding alcohol in the right moment. Today, liqueur wines show the longest shelf life. You can still enjoy a fortified wine after 100 years.

There are two types of fortified wines:

  • Concentrated or natural liqueur wines: The winemaker uses very ripe to overripe grapes including with noble mould. The must has a higher sugar content and therefore develops more alcohol. the alcohol kills the yeast, which is why the rest sugar doesn't turn into alcohol and a rather high rest sweetness remains in the wine. Thanks to this characteristic, those fortified fall under the category of sweet wines according to the official wine law.

  • and fortified liqueur wines:_ In this case, you interrupt the fermentation process by adding alcohol or fortified must. Just like before, the alcohol kills the yeast which is responsible for turning sugar into alcohol. A high rest sweetness remains.

Apart from that, we separate the liqueur wines in two more groups according to alcohol and sugar content.

  • Sweet fortified wines have a very high sugar content of up to 30% and a lower alcoholic degree of up to 15%. Natural or concentrated fortified wines fall into this group.

  • Dry fortified wines show a high alcoholic degree of up to 22% Vol. and a lower sugar content of up to 6%. These are the fortified wines.

Definition and EU norms:

According to the law stated by the EU, the basis wine has to have a minimu of 4% Vol. alcohol before interrupting the fermentation by adding sugar. Winemakers are only allowed to use neutral wine brandy with a minimum of 96% Vol. alcohol or other distillates between 52 and 86% Vol. After the fermentation, a fortified wine has to show a minimum alcoholic content of 12%. After the ageing, the wine has to show an alcoholic degree between 15 and 22% Vol. Only if the product fulfils all of the requirements then the label can show the title fortified wine on the label.

The most famous fortified wines:

  • Portugal: Portwein, Madeira

  • Spain: Sherry, Malaga, Tarragona, Lacrimae Christi

  • Hungary: Ruster Ausbruch, Tokajer

  • France: Sauternes, Pineau des Charentes

  • Greece: Samos, Mavrodaphne

Fortified wines as food pairing:

Whether sherry, port or Sauternes, fortified wines are intensive in colour and taste. Nonetheless, this type of wine can be rather dry or sweet. Depending on their taste, they pair better with different kinds of dishes. Dry fortified wines are perfect aperitives before the meal, great companions for cold and salty dishes like cheeses, ham or salad. Sweet wines are better apt for dessert or as a companion for dessert.

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