Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I want to know, what does “fortified” really mean? Does it mean that you added alcohol to the wine?
—Denise B., Brockton, Mass.
You’re on the right track. A wine that is fortified—like a Sherry, Port or Muscat—has spirits (usually neutral, distilled grape spirits, sort of like a clear brandy) added to it. The spirits may be added at or near the beginning of fermentation (as in France’s vin doux naturel), during fermentation (as in Port) or after fermentation (as in Sherry).
Fortification was developed in the 17th century. Port was initially a dry red, but back then, winemakers discovered that a little brandy improved the wine and strengthened it for shipping. Since Port is fortified during fermentation—while sugar is still being converted into alcohol—it remains on the sweet side, because the spirits halt fermentation by killing the remaining yeasts. And I’m glad they kept the method up, because the wines can be so gosh-darn yummy.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions