Port & Sherry

Fortified wines — the most notable being Port and sherry — are made by adding a neutral spirit (usually brandy) to stop fermentation and raise the alcohol level of the wine. This process allows fortified wines to age longer in the bottle and to remain fresh for a longer period after they have been opened. Fortified wines can be made from white or red grapes and run the gamut from dry to sweet, introducing a range of distinct styles. A favorite dessert wine, Port, is a fortified wine made in the Douro region of Portugal from a variety of different grapes. Port can be unaged or aged in wood barrels to create Ruby Port or aged for extended periods of time, even decades, to create Tawny. The best Port vintages are extensively aged to create Vintage Port, which can develop and improve for decades. Madeira is also a Portuguese fortified wine, but it is made on the Madeira Islands off the coast of Africa. Styles of Madeira run from the very dry Sercial, which is typically enjoyed as an aperitif, to the decadently sweet Malvasia, which is usually paired with desserts. Showing similar versatility is the Spanish fortified wine Sherry. Sherry is typically made with the Palomino grape and ranges from the dry Fino to the very sweet Jerez Dulce, which is often made with Pedro Ximénez grapes. Marsala is Italy’s versatile fortified wine, drawing from the city of Marsala in Sicily, and it too can range from dry to sweet. Today, Marsala is most commonly used in Italian cooking — dry versions appearing in sauces and sweet versions appearing in desserts. A final wine that deserves note is Vermouth, for which we have a dedicated section.

Top Port & Sherry Posts:

Exploring Port Wine: Touring Porto and the Douro Valley
What is Fortified Wine and How Is It Made?
2016 Vintage Port (and Beyond)
Madeira Wine 2018
Hidalgo Fino and Bodegas Dios Baco Oxford 1.970 Pedro Ximenez Sherry

Review: Dow’s Tawny Port 10 Years Old and 20 Years Old (2019)

By Christopher Null | May 6, 2019 |

Port powerhouse Dow’s recently rebranded its Tawny Port line, with Charles Symington “tweaking his rule-book to create and re-launch a striking range of tawny Ports.” Those changes involve aging the wine for a longer period of time in smaller oak vessels, with the goal of building up the body of the wines and darkening their…

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Review: 2012 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port

By Christopher Null | January 3, 2019 |

As a reminder, Late Bottled Vintage Port is officially “ruby Port from a single year, chosen for its high quality and bottled after aging for four to six years in wood.” It’s designed to mimic Vintage Port somewhat, but at a far lower price. Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage release for 2012 is extremely mild, a subtle…

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Tasting Report: Madeira Wine 2018

By Christopher Null | November 9, 2018 |

It’s been two years since we took a deep dive into Madeira, but recently representatives from this unique, fortified, island-grown wine style arrived in San Francisco with their latest wares in tow. This includes some classic brands and one new one — a cooperative of all-female winemakers called CAF being the first new winemaking operation…

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Review: 2018 Tio Pepe Fino En Rama

By Christopher Null | October 14, 2018 |

“Tio Pepe En Rama” is a special version of Tio Pepe’s Fino bottling, released once in a year (this is the 9th time), bottled unclarified and unfiltered. For 2018, En Rama is drawn from 62 casks, pulled from its “dense veil of flor” to showcase fino sherry at its finoest sherriest. If fino sherry is…

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Tasting Report: 2016 Vintage Port (and Beyond)

By Christopher Null | May 27, 2018 |

For the first time since 2011, a Vintage Port year is being widely declared for 2016. (A smattering of 2015 vintage wines were also released in limited rotation.) 2016 was a hot, hot year for the Douro — I know, because it’s the summer we were touring there — but numerous producers, who visited San…

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Review: A Trio of Pineau des Charentes – Tiffon, Reviseur, and Chateau de Beaulon

By Christopher Null | February 26, 2018 |

Pineau des Charentes is perhaps the most unique “wine” you’ll ever encounter — in part because there’s actually no wine in it. What’s Pineau? Pineau des Charentes hails from the Cognac region of France (and thereabouts), where winemakers take (typically white) wine grapes, crush them into must, then — before it ferments (and turns into…

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Review: Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Tawny Port

By Christopher Null | October 6, 2017 |

The Port house of Taylor Fladgate celebrates 325 years of operation in 2017, so what better time than to put out a unique expression of Port? This is a tawny port with no age information (though on tawnies, an age statement doesn’t mean much anyway), but the winery does offer some information on its production:…

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Review: NV Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto Special River Quintas Edition

By Christopher Null | August 19, 2017 |

Port fanatics may recall that three years ago, Graham’s released a special edition of its Six Grapes flagship bottling, Six Grapes Special Old Vines Edition. Now owner Symington is out with a follow-up, Six Grapes Reserve Porto Special River Quintas Edition, which is sourced from two river estates close to the Douro: Tua and Malvedos. As…

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Review: Gonzalez Byass Sherries – Leonor Palo Cortado and Gonzalez Byass Nectar

By Christopher Null | July 30, 2017 |

Sherry continues to attempt to muscle onto American wine menus but it’s having more success in cocktails, where it can stand in for spirits to create a lighter, less boozy cocktail. Here’s a look at two very different sherries from major producer Gonzalez Byass, and a cocktail idea on how to use one of them.…

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What is Fortified Wine and How Is It Made?

By Ivan Lauer | June 14, 2017 |

“Silver and ermine and red faces full of port wine” – John Betjeman Fortified wine, that is, wine with a spirit (usually brandy) added to up the alcohol content, is a style that fell out of fashion decades ago. While once enjoyed in the salons of well-off aristocrats throughout Western Europe, these days ports, sherries, and their fellow…

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