On the blogby Alfred
December 19 2019

Fortified wines

by Sébastien Légasse

For Porto wines, five grape varieties are chosen, especially to make quality products: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cão. A sweet red wine is normally made, stopping fermentation when it reaches 5% to 9% alcohol rates. Since the fermentation time is reduced, strategies must be adopted to extract the color and tannins.

The ancestral method was to have a team that treads the grapes barefoot. Once the fermentation began, the solids that rose to the surface were pushed down. We can imagine the costs and all the required work of this method but, know that it is still used for some great cuvees. Another more modern way of proceeding is to have pistons which, imitating the feet, will do the punching by pushing the contents in the tanks. The wine then becomes fortified by adding alcohol, thus killing all yeasts alongside any risk of a resumption of fermentation. Two styles of portos are produced, the Ruby and the Tawny. The first emphasizes the primary aromas of fruit and is usually a blend of wines between one and three years old. For the Tawny, the oxidative style will be in evidence and the color garnet, while the aromas will be an amalgam of raisin, chocolate and walnut.

The vintage concept applies just like it was the case for champagne. If the quality of the vintage allows it, a producer has the opportunity to produce a port with the mention of the year. The wine is then among the most concentrated and tannic, hence the success of their longevity. It is not uncommon to see auctions of Port products of more than 100 years old. The combination of alcohol, sugar and tannins ensures a long life span to the product.

Other wines of the same type include the Xérès from southern Spain which is also known as Sherry in England. Part of the production will be raised in Solera, the famous aging system. Imagine a stack of barrels filled with wine from which the wine is removed from the lower row for bottling and the wine is poured from top to bottom to fill the void. The new vintage is then used to fill the upper row of barrels. The advantage of this system is that it allows to make constant products.

The Maury, north-west of Perpignan, offers a sweet natural wine to discover as well as Banyul, not far from Collioure, which offers a range of wine with an oxidation bringing the characteristic aroma of rancio. Muscat, this grape typical of warmer regions, is widely used to make fortified wines around the globe. To name but a few, Muscat de Rivesaltes or Frontignan, fermentation is stopped by mutating these wines with 96% alcohol to retain residual sugar. In some cases, the grapes will even be dried in order to be even more concentrated.

Here are some suggestions to accompany these words:


José Maria da Fonseca Moscatel de Setúbal 2012

White wine, 750 ml

Code SAQ : 00357996 | Regular price: 16,05 $


Muscat des Papes

Muscat, 750 ml

Code SAQ : 00093237 | Regular price : 23,95 $

Mas Amiel Prestige 15 ans d’âge

Red wine, 750 ml

Code SAQ : 00884312 | Regular price : 53,50 $

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