9 Different Types of Fortified Wine

Different Types of Fortified Wines
Photo by Anthony DELANOIX

When it comes to entertaining, it’s important to have wine on hand to make your guests feel as though you’ve gone all out.

Traditional wines don’t always provide the right impression and sometimes leave your guests wanting more because they don’t seem rich or flavorful enough. Luckily, several different types of fortified wines can fill this need perfectly. 

Also, here are the best types of fortified wines to impress your guests at any party. That is from wine tastings to romantic dinners for two.

What Is a Fortified Wine?

Fortified wine is a type of alcoholic beverage with something added to it to increase its alcohol content. This can be done before or after fermentation, depending on what kind of fortified wine you’re talking about.

A form commonly consumed around the world is Port. This fortified wine originated in Portugal and has a long history. It was used as an antiseptic for naval crew members on long voyages.

However, there are different types of fortified wine. If you’re looking for tasty fortified wines, try Sherry, Madeira, and Marsala. These wines are all aged in barrels.

The barrel aging adds color and flavor to them, creating more complex spirits than unfortified wines would have on their own.

How to Make Fortified Wine?

Fortified wines can be made from any wine with a naturally high sugar level. Most commonly, however, fortified wines are made from red or white table wines that have been fortified with a distilled spirit (usual brandy) added after fermentation. If a sweet dessert wine is desired, winemakers may add extra sugar before fermentation. 

This process can alter much more than just flavor and alcohol content. It can also modify physical attributes like color and residual sugar content; in some cases, it could make a formerly dry wine sweet enough to qualify as a dessert wine.

The different types of fortified wine you might want to serve your guests include: 

  • Fino Sherry: light-bodied, bone-dry SherrySherry that’s aged for years in American oak barrels 
  • Pedro Ximenez: Made from grapes grown near the border between Spain and Portugal, this rich and dark SherrySherry has an aroma reminiscent of raisins and figs 
  • Bual Port: Made by adding grape spirits to ruby port

Types of Fortified Wine

Below is the list of different types of fortified wine.

1. Vermouth

This fortified wine is made by macerating herbs, barks, roots, and spices in a neutral white base wine. Vermouth is often used as an ingredient in cocktails, but it’s delicious on its own or with just a dash of orange bitters. 

Aperitif wines like vermouth are known for their strong alcohol content so that they can be enjoyed before meals and throughout them. Vermouth comes in two primary styles: sweet and dry.

Dry vermouth tends to be slightly bitter and herbal; sweetness can come from botanicals like cardamom or elderflower liqueur. 

Sweet vermouth is excellent over ice with lemon zest. Or you can make a classic martini using dry vermouth instead of gin!

2. Marsala

An Italian fortified wine, Marsala comes in red and white varieties. To make it, brandy is added to the wine before bottling; as a result, it’s a sweet red or white with a light texture.

While some consider it too sweet for drinking on its own, it’s often served with fruit desserts. This is one of the types of fortified wine that adds a subtle sweetness to certain dishes.

If you want your guests to be impressed by what they drink instead of eating, try serving them a glass of full-bodied red or white Marsala after dinner.

3. Madeira

This fortified wine originated in Portugal and is made from grapes grown on Madeira’s volcanic soil. It’s named after the island where it was first produced and exported.

Its relatively high alcohol content makes it quite powerful, with a sweet taste thanks to its high sugar concentration during fermentation. 

Some say there’s also a slight vanilla flavor, but that comes from aging more than anything else. Madeira is generally served as a dessert wine.

If you want to impress your guests without breaking out something expensive or scarce, you could do it with beef or game meat dishes.

4. Sherry

 This is among the types of fortified wine from Spain and Portugal. Sherry comes in a variety of styles: Dry (fino and manzanilla), medium-dry (amontillado), semsemisweetloroso), and sweet (cream). 

Also, SherrySherry pairs well with seafood, roasted meats, and hearty stews. You may be surprised by how dry SherrySherry can be!

Though traditionally served chilled, SherrySherry is delicious at room temperature or slightly chilled—especially when paired with cheese. 

Our favorite sherries include the following varieties: Finos and Manzanillas are light and crisp, Amontillados are medium-dry, olorosos are semsemisweetd cream sherries sweet.

Cream sherry is a bit heavier than the other varieties; we recommend serving it as an after-dinner drink with dessert-like crème Brulee or ice cream sundaes. 

Also, one of our favorites is the Gran Duque de Alba Fino Tio Pepe. Oloroso Dulce Canas Dulces, Montilla Moriles Pedro Ximenez and Palo Cortado Solera 1874 Seleccion Privada are all medium-dry olorosos that pair well with almost any dish.

We love manzanillas for their zesty acidity, but, most importantly, they’re perfect for pairing with fresh fish dishes like ceviche or sushi.

The best amontillados often have notes of caramel and spice flavors due to aging in clay jars called butts that absorb these flavors over time.

5. Cava

Originating in Spain, cava is a sparkling wine typically a blend of Macabeo, parellada, and xarel-lo grapes. If you’re hosting a party with Spanish food and different types of fortified wine, choosing cava will complement your meal. 

Cava has fewer calories than most types of champagne and is accessible on your wallet. The only downside is that it can be challenging to find if you don’t live near an international grocery store.

Look for Gran Coronas Cava or Rocar Brut Cava. Neither of these costs more than $10 per bottle. You’ll have trouble finding them at liquor stores unless they specialize in imports, but they are often stocked at supermarkets and international stores like Trader Joe’s.

6. Tokaji Aszú

This fruity and sweet wine is made from grapes native to Hungary and is best served with dessert. It’s a must-have at any party.

Be careful, though: it can be highly potent, so you might want to avoid sharing a bottle with friends at dinner if you plan on partying late into the night! When you buy Tokaji Aszú, don’t worry about where it comes from because they come from all over Hungary. 

What’s more important is when it was bottled; if it was bottled less than 15 years ago, go for the younger ones. These have more flavor and better consistency compared to older bottles. However, if your bottle of wine is over 15 years old, then savor every drop!

7. Vin Santo

This Italian dessert wine is created by adding brandy (usually between 10 and 12 percent alcohol by volume) to fully fermented grape juice. After fermentation, a rich, sweet, nutty liquid with an ABV between 15 and 17 percent remains. 

Vin Santo has a short production window that lasts only three months, and only a few companies in Tuscany are permitted to produce these types of fortified wine.

If you can find one, you won’t be disappointed. Like other types of fortified wine, it pairs well with desserts like cakes or pies or fresh fruit like figs. 

It’s also worth noting that while the spirit fortifies the drink’s ABV, Vin Santo doesn’t have any residual sugars from the grapes left behind during the process. Therefore, those on a diet should take note!

8. Sauternes

Here’s a white wine that gets fortified with brandy. You’ll typically see it as dessert wine or liquid gold, and its flavor is often compared to honey, peaches, apricots, and other stone fruits. 

And if you’re looking for a unique way to treat your guests after dinner, Sauternes is one option worth considering. It pairs particularly well with decadent desserts like puddings and crème brûlée.

Are you sweetening up your dessert? Sauternes might be just what you need. If you’re not quite sure which bottle to go with, there are plenty of good options of types of fortified wine from Chateau d’Yquem to try.

9. Port wine

A fortified wine from Portugal and Spain known for its dark color and high alcohol content. It pairs well with cheese but is still sweet enough to enjoy on its own.

Port wine: You’ve likely tasted apple if you’ve had a flute of sparkling wine or a gimlet; however, Apple doesn’t sparkle at all—and it can be made from white, rose, or black grapes.

What Happens When You Add Brandy to a Fortified Wine?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes the types of fortified wines as being made from grapes, fruits, or other agricultural products containing natural alcohol.

These have been fermented and stored in cellars or other facilities so that their alcohol content is increased by adding distilled spirits.

Adding distilled spirits changes a wine’s flavor profile substantially. With added brandy, fortified wines such as SherrySherry are less sweet than before and contain high levels of alcohol.

The amount of distilled spirit added can be anywhere from 2% to 20%, depending on whether it was initially a white or red wine; higher amounts result in more robust flavors.

White fortified wines tend to be drier but lose more fruity aromas than reds over time due to oxidation during aging.


The best types of fortified wines are those that you enjoy drinking. Hopefully, we’ve provided you with enough information to choose at least one (or two) new favorites! The bottom line is that what tastes good and makes you happy ultimately matters most. 

If certain fortified wines have never appealed to you in the past, be open-minded and try a few new ones that sound appealing. The beauty of wine is its diversity; there’s something for everyone!

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