What is Fortified | Facts About Fortified Wine | Signature Cellars
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Fortified Wine Facts


12 Apr Fortified Wine Facts

Fortified wine is a delicious treat that many enjoy sipping either before or after dinner. The most common fortified wines available are- Madeira, Port, Sherry, Marsala, and Vermouth. Distilled spirits like brandy are used to “fortify” these wines. 

The primary and original purpose of fortification was to preserve the wine as casks turned the wine into vinegar over long sea voyages. The spirit added, would also enhance the natural flavours of the wine. 

The base wine is fortified with liquor during the fermentation process which also increases the alcohol content to 17-20 percent. Sweet or dry are the two styles of fortified wines. You will also find medium-sweet and medium-dry fortified wine categories and their alcohol content varies from one producer to the next.

How Is Fortified Wine Made?

Fortified wines are usually blends of different grapes & vintages. Most of these wines are stylistically similar to the classifications of wines that go into the blend.  Many make the mistake of classifying fortified wines as liquor, however, they are not distilled. 

Classifying the wine as sweet or dry, depends on the amount of time it is allowed to ferment. Additional flavouring is generally not used for fortified wines. However, botanicals are added in Vermouth to give it an herbal flavour.  It is these little additions and processes that lend fortified wines their unique flavour, body, and texture. 


Wooden casks are used for aging of fortified wines. The duration is solely based on the type fortified wine. If the wine is cheaper it means that it spends less time aging in oak. Most fortified wines benefit from decanting and aeration as a direct result of wood aging. 

Types of Fortified Wine

There are five basic styles of fortified wines. They vary by regional preferences or the method that is used to produce them. Here is a list of the five styles:

  • Marsala
  • Port
  • Madeira
  • Sherry
  • Vermouth

There are quite a few different fortified wines, however, they all fit into one of these categories. This classification is done based on the recipes or the utilisation of different herbs or botanicals in the production process. It is these aspects that set them apart from each other. 

Storing Fortified Wines

Every fortified wine varies in style. This makes it quite difficult to have set guidelines for storage. Here are a few suggestions you can keep in mind.

  • Unopened bottles can be stored in a cool and dark location. 
  • Bottles like Manzanilla Sherry or Fino should not be on a shelf for an extended period of time, while the rest will do just fine. 
  • Consider finishing the fortified wine as soon as possible once the bottle has been opened. Vermouth can easily retain its flavour for up to three months. 
  • Store all fortified wine upright in a refrigerator, after you have opened them.

It’s important to make sure that the wine you buy is stored properly and the best way to do this is to get have the right kind of racking system in your custom cellar. The appropriate temperature and humidity levels in this space can go a long way in ensuring that your wines stay in a good condition. 

Custom Wine Cellar Design 

We can design and install a custom wine cellar based on your specific needs. Our team of designers will work closely with you to ensure that your objectives are met and that you get a wine cellar that will add to the value of your property as well. 

To find out about how Signature Cellars can help you design and build a wine storage solution that can help protect your investment and add value to your home, call us on 1300 570 636 or email info@signaturecellars.com.au.

Thanks for reading,
Neil Smallman
Signature Cellars
1300 570 636

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