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

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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Tasting the Symington 2015 Port Lineup (And Retrospectives) – Graham’s, Dow’s, Quinta do Vesuvio, and Cockburn’s

By Christopher Null | June 5, 2017 |

For the most part, the hot, dry, and low-yielding 2015 will not be a declared vintage from the major vintage Port houses. Even though the year wasn’t perfect, it hasn’t stopped Symington, which owns Graham’s, Dow’s, Quinta do Vesuvio, and (since 2010) Cockburn’s from releasing 2015 vintage-dated Ports in some fashion. Recently the Symington family…

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Review: Warre’s Otima Tawny Port 10 Years Old (2017)

By Christopher Null | March 15, 2017 |

I’ve reviewed Warre’s 10 year old Tawny Port twice before, in 2009 and 2012. Now it’s 2017 and time to give this venerable bottling a fresh look. I’ve commented on the relative simplicity of this bottling in the past, and little has changed here, except perhaps for my palate (and level of experience with these…

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Recipes: Making Cocktails With Port Wine

By Kim Richards | January 31, 2017 |

Port wine is having a bit of a renaissance with bartenders and mixologists, as Facundo Rum has brought to our attention, sharing the Facundo Bishop recipe with us. It is indeed warming and lovely to relax with and we highly recommend it. The cloves spice up the orange, which hugs the warming rum and sweet port. Here’s the…

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Tasting Report: Madeira Wine 2016

By Christopher Null | December 20, 2016 |

Madeira is one of the most enigmatic wine styles in the world. A fortified wine made from grapes grown on a single island and aged in a hot environment, Madeira has a flavor unlike any other wine you’ll encounter. A small variety of grapes are used, including dry sercial, medium dry verdelho, medium rich boal…

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Review: Graham’s Tawny Port 10 Years Old (2016)

By Christopher Null | November 13, 2016 |

Graham’s 10 year old tawny has been repackaged and relabeled in a squatter, fatter bottle since we last saw it in 2012, but little seems to have changed with this engaging, entry-level tawny. (Though prices are coming down a bit.) Prominent notes include the expected raisin notes, backed up by spicy gingerbread, cloves, and tea…

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Review: Blandy’s Madeira Collection, 10 Years Old

By Christopher Null | October 8, 2016 |

Not too long ago, we rounded up the world of Madeira as Blandy’s sees it. I won’t go into the full Madeira backstory; click the link if you want the deep dive into what Madeira is and where it comes from. In that review we looked at five year old Madeiras. Now we kick it…

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Exploring Port Wine: Touring Porto and the Douro Valley

By Christopher Null | August 11, 2016 |

Port is unlike any other wine you’ve tasted, and as such it’s only fitting that the place the make it — Porto and the adjacent Douro Valley — is unlike any wine region you’ve visited, either. For those unfamiliar with Port wine, a brief primer is in order. All Port is made here in northern…

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Review: 2011 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port

By Christopher Null | May 10, 2016 |

A new LBV release has arrived from Port titan Dow. Surprisingly restrained, the omnipresent raisin character of this Port is muted by heavy milk chocolate notes, vanilla, and notes of pie crust. The body is loaded with sweetness, but lacks some needed gravity, coming across more like a candy bar than the bold dessert wine it…

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Review: NV Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto (2016)

By Christopher Null | February 10, 2016 |

Here’s a fresh look at Sandeman’s widely-available nonvintage Ruby Port, which is sold in the squat bottles labeled Founders Reserve. (We last reviewed it in 2012.) It’s a rather alcohol-forward Port, which dulls the raisiny core more than a bit with some hospital character. Secondary notes of weak tea, rhubarb, and caramel sauce find an…

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