Monday, September 18, 2023

Rant: Where's The Love For Fortified Wines?

Madeira, Marsala, Port, Sherry, and Vermouth are some of my favorite wines, yet they receive far less attention than they deserve. These wines are "Fortified" wines, meaning that a distilled spirit, often brandy or a neutral spirit, is added to the wine. As such, their alcohol content is commonly 15-20%, higher than the average wine, but at least half as much as the typical spirit. Other types of fortified wines exist as well, although the five I mentioned are the most common. 

Why don't these fortified wines receive more love?

Even many ardent wine lovers don't give much attention to these wines. Vermouth is often relegated to being a mere cocktail ingredient. Marsala is often seen as merely a cooking wine. Sherry is too often seen as something only one's grandparents would drink. Port might receive the most attention of any fortified wine, yet the diversity of Port is still largely ignored. For example, many people are unaware of white port, especially the aged versions. 

A number of wine drinkers enjoy sweeter wines, but even though some of these fortified wines are sweet, these wine drinkers still don't pay much attention to them. Sherry may be the king of wines for food pairings, yet it's rare a wine drinker seeks out Sherry for their dinner.  When's the last time you had a sommelier recommend a Sherry for your dinner? In fact, when's the last time a sommelier recommended any type of fortified wine to you for dinner? At best, they might recommend one for dessert, but not for your savory courses. 

One benefit to these wines not receiving much attention is that you can find some special values, far less expensive than similar wines of similar age and quality. For example, over the summer I enjoyed a 60 year old Port, which cost less than $200. If you tried to purchase a still wine, of similar age, you would likely pay at least double, if not triple that price or more. 

Wine lovers, you should expand your palates and experience the marvels of fortified wine. There is so much diversity in these wines, from bone-dry Sherry to sweet Port, from herbal Vermouth to dry Madeira. These are also wines with rich histories, and once were much more popular around the world. It's time for a comeback for these wines, and I strongly encourage you to explore this fascinating wine category. 

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