What Is Port Wine Fortified With

Port wine has been relished for many years as a luxurious and indulgent wine. Being a wine enthusiast, I have always been fascinated by the distinctive qualities of port wine. A question that frequently arises …

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Port wine has been relished for many years as a luxurious and indulgent wine. Being a wine enthusiast, I have always been fascinated by the distinctive qualities of port wine. A question that frequently arises in my mind is: what is port wine fortified with exactly?

To understand what port wine is fortified with, we need to take a closer look at the winemaking process. Port wine is made from a blend of indigenous Portuguese grape varieties, predominantly Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca. These grapes are grown in the Douro Valley region of Portugal, where the unique terroir lends itself to producing exceptional quality grapes.

After the grapes are harvested and crushed, the winemakers add a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente to the fermenting grape juice. This process is called fortification and it is what gives port wine its distinct flavor profile and higher alcohol content. The addition of aguardente stops the fermentation process, leaving behind residual sugar and creating a sweet and fortified wine.

The aguardente used in the fortification process is typically distilled from locally grown grapes. This spirit is added to the fermenting grape juice at a specific moment to ensure the desired level of sweetness and alcohol content is achieved. The addition of aguardente also helps to preserve the wine, allowing it to age gracefully for many years.

It is interesting to note that the use of fortification in winemaking has a long history dating back to the 17th century. The technique was developed by British merchants who wanted to ensure that the wines they imported from Portugal would survive the long sea voyages. By fortifying the wines, they not only increased their durability but also created a unique and appealing taste.

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As a wine enthusiast, I appreciate the complexity and depth of flavors that fortification brings to port wine. The combination of rich berry fruit flavors, hints of chocolate, and a warming alcohol presence creates a truly indulgent sensory experience.

In conclusion, port wine is fortified with a neutral grape spirit called aguardente. This fortification process not only increases the alcohol content but also enhances the wine’s sweetness and overall flavor profile. It is this unique fortification technique that gives port wine its distinct character and makes it a beloved choice for wine enthusiasts around the world.

John has been a hobbyist winemaker for several years, with a few friends who are winery owners. He writes mostly about winemaking topics for newer home vintners.
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