What Is Fortified Wine: A Guide to Fortified Wines

fortified wines in glasses

For all wine aficionados, there is nothing better than discovering new wines that come from great wineries from all over the world. But when you are not so familiar with all types of wine, it can be intimidating seeing new wines that you haven’t tried before, such as fortified wines. So what is fortified wine? Have you tried it before without even knowing that you are drinking a glass of such wine?

In order to help you embrace new wines, here is what you need to know about fortified wine that will help you understand it and choose it the next time you shop for wines.

What is fortified wine?

Fortified wines have a long history of being firm favourites of many in the winemaking industry. This is because they have been produced for centuries, served throughout the world and being a rather popular choice for many wine lovers.

Fortified wines have been created centuries ago to prevent wine spoilage.

In the old days, it was hard to preserve wine for longer periods of time, especially during long sea voyages. So what winemakers did is they added a distilled spirit to wines in order to increase the level of alcohol – thus fortifying it. Such wine was less prone to spoilage and could survive long sea voyages.

Even though nowadays there are plenty of options to preserve wine, winemakers have continued to add a distilled spirit because fortified wines have a distinct flavour many love. So this method is no longer used to preserve wine, but to produce exquisite wines.

How is fortified wine produced?

There is a set of regulations to follow when producing fortified wines. These regulations are put in place to ensure that these wines meet certain standards, regardless of where they are produced. The type of base wine, type of base spirit, range of alcohol by volume, amount of sugar and ageing length are all included in these regulations.

The basic process involves adding distilled spirits to already fermented base wine. By adding spirits at different stages of the fermenting process, the wine producers decide how sweet or dry the fortified wine will be.

For example, by adding spirits before the fermentation process is complete, winemakers create sweet fortified wines. On the other hand, when spirits are added after the fermentation process is finished, they produce dry fortified wines.

Popular types of fortified wine

There are quite a few types of fortified wines out there, and we bet you have already tried some of them without even knowing they are called fortified wines. Since they are usually served before or after meals, it is very likely that you have been offered at least some of these popular types of fortified wine.


Originated in Portugal, or to be more specific in the Duoro Valley, Port is definitely one of the most famous and popular fortified wines. There are a few varieties of Port to choose from, but sweet, red Port is usually the first choice of many.

For those of you who want to explore different types, make sure to try white Port and prepare to be impressed.

Quinta Do Portal Fine White Port


Even though Muscat is a family of grapes, a fortified wine is often referred to as Muscat as well. This wine is sweet, which makes it a perfect choice as an aperitif or a digestif after dinner.

Stanton & Killeen Classic Rutherglen Muscat NV


Sherry is a fortified wine, traditionally produced in Spain. It comes in a variety of styles, from the lighter style called fino which is dry and lighter-bodied to the darker oloroso which is richer in flavour.


Coming from Portugal once again and getting its name from the Madeira Islands, Madeira is another type of fortified wine that is very popular. There are quite a few styles to choose from when it comes to Madeira wine and you can always find one that will suit your needs. Whether you are looking for an aperitif or a digestif, Madeira wines have a lot to offer.

Ready to try fortified wines?

From answering the question what is fortified wine to exploring some of the most popular fortified wines, this guide to fortified wines is there to help you make an informed decision when purchasing wine online.

So the next time you are looking for a perfect wine to pair with your favourite dessert or when you want to explore new wine types from all over the world, don’t forget to browse fortified wines. You may be surprised how enchanting these wines can be.

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