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: Dry Sack Oloroso 15 Years Old Solera Especial

By Christopher Null | May 11, 2009 |

One reader recently asked why we don’t review much sherry around here, and the answer is simple: They don’t send us much sherry to review, and in fact they don’t sell much of it in the U.S. at all. In fact, Williams & Humbert’s Dry Sack 15-year Oloroso is the first sherry we’ve formally reviewed…

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Tasting Report: 2007 Vintage Port

By Christopher Null | May 1, 2009 |

For the first time since 2003, Portugal has declared a vintage Port year: 2007, which was characterized by relatively cool weather, followed by some heat near harvest time, just enough (they say) to ripen the grapes. I had the chance to sample the 2007 vintage from 12 different producers this week (total production of all…

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Review: Warre’s Otima Tawny Port 10 Years Old and 20 Years Old (2009)

By Christopher Null | April 16, 2009 |

Eschewing traditional design — those white-stenciled bottles look cool but they’re certainly not “modern” — for a more contemporary approach, Warre’s Otima line aims to “change the perception of Port” through new packaging. What’s inside the bottles is different too, a tawny Port with a lighter structure that Warre positions as good for drinking any…

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Review: Charbay Pomegranate Dessert Wine

By Christopher Null | April 2, 2009 |

Yes, pomegranate rage has now reached all the way to the wine world, with Charbay knocking out this non-vintage, pomegranate-based dessert wine (the company makes two other pomegranate products already), ready to give your digestive system a kick in the glands. Charbay starts with 100% organic pomegranates, ferments them, then arrests that fermentation when there’s…

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Review: Inniskillin Ice Wines, 2008 Releases

By Christopher Null | November 26, 2008 |

Rarely have dessert wines vanished from Drinkhacker HQ so quickly as Inniskillin’s Ice Wines (or Icewines). Traditionally made icewine from Canada, these low-alcohol, high-sugar, high-addiction-level wines vanished in days. Icewine is a very sweet and flavorful wine made from grapes that are left on the vine until winter’s frost arrives, freezing the grapes only after…

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Review: NV Smith Woodhouse Lodge Reserve Port

By Christopher Null | September 30, 2008 |

Smith Woodhouse isn’t the biggest name in Port, but the company’s Lodge Reserve Port is a winner in the nonvintage world. This is a rich and vibrant ruby Port, full of fruit and jam flavors. The finish is impressively long. It stays with you in the back of your mouth for minutes, fading from sugary…

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Review: Sandeman Tawny Port 20 Years Old (2008)

By Christopher Null | July 14, 2008 |

I always seem to have a bottle of Port open and at the ready… but never get around to drinking it. Memo to self: Drink more Porto. Sandeman’s 20 Year Tawny is a nicely mellowed tawny, not too rich or sweet (which I know turns many Port drinkers off), but still bearing some nice complexity.…

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Tasting Report: Vini Portugal, April 2008

By Christopher Null | April 24, 2008 |

In the world of wine, Portugal is known for two major things: Expensive, fortified dessert wines (Vintage Port), and super-cheap whites (primarily from the Vinho Verde region). Recently, nearly 40 Portuguese wineries, importers, and distributors gathered in San Francisco to offer an updated perspective on the wines of Portugal. The verdict: About the same as…

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