Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 104, February 2012   
Mature Fortified WinesMature Fortified Wines Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 103, January 2012 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 105, March 2012

Mature Fortified Wines

Wines of a glorious past, wines which challenged the seas in order to please the palates of the world, fortified wines are an endless source of emotions increasing with time

 Fortified wines have written memorable pages in history, not only for the history of wine making. These wines have in fact contributed to the commercial history and development of the 1800s, as well as associating their names with military successes, wines beloved for the celebration of significant moments of the society. In this sense, it can be mentioned, for example, the history of Marsala - one of the greatest wines of Italy - a wine for which was created a florid trading, protagonist of cut-throat commercial competitions. A wine of long and glorious history, Marsala was a wine very appreciated by admiral Horatio Nelson, who defined it as victory wine, also in occasion of the famous battle of Trafalgar in 1805, in which he obtained his last and most notable victory. A similar fate has been common to all the other glorious and precious fortified wines, still today representing an extraordinary wine making expression, such as Jerez - also known with the name “Sherry” - Port, Madeira and Malaga.


 

 The predilection of admiral Nelson for Marsala wine was such that, after having tasted this wine for the first time, he ordered 500 barrels to be taken on board. The success of Marsala - and of the other fortified wines of Spain and Portugal - was such that from the ports of the respective production cities were continuously sailing ships loaded with the precious barrels, of which most of them destined to England. Moreover, some famous English families of merchants moved to the places of production and started themselves wineries for the production of these wines, such as Woodhouse and Ingham families at Marsala, or Dow, Graham and Taylor at Port. The same happened for the famous fortified Spanish wine - Jerez - as many of the wineries devoted to the production of this wine have been established by families of English merchants. Jerez is the name with which the famous city of Andalusia and its wine are today known in the world, however in English speaking countries, the wine is still known with the historical name of “Sherry”, a term coming from “Sherish”, name with which the city was called at the times of Moorish dominion

 Fortified wines are characterized by a particular productive element, common to all wines belonging to this category. It is called fortified a wine to which, in a particular moment of its production, is added a certain quantity of wine distillate in order to increase alcohol volume. In Italy, this style of wine is also called liquoroso, a category which must not be confused with the liquoreux definition of the French, a term with which in France are identified sweet and dessert wines, such as Sauternes. In France, fortified wines are defined as Vin de Liqueur. The addition of alcohol also produces other effects according to the productive tradition of each wine, last but not the least, it effectively contributes to its keeping. Alcohol by volume in these wines can also reach 20%, in some cases it can also reach 22%, and, according to European laws, it cannot have an alcohol by volume lower than 12%.

 From a historical point of view, alcohol was added to wines in order to let them “survive” to the stress of the sea journey, kept in barrels loaded into ship's holds, so they could reach their destinations in a drinkable and sound condition. The hold of ships of two hundred years ago was certainly not the most aseptic and welcoming place a wine could have, a reason that forced wine - also because of the meteorological conditions and, in summertime, a high temperature - to undergo remarkable transformations, therefore turning it into something not so enjoyable. The most frequent destination of sea trade of wines was England - something happening since the times of ancient Rome - whereas the hold of ships were loaded at thousands of kilometers away, mainly in countries of the Mediterranean sea. Journeys lasting many weeks, a time during which the wine underwent substantial changes.


Color of mature fortified wines:
to the left, Marsala Vergine, to the right, Port
Color of mature fortified wines: to the left, Marsala Vergine, to the right, Port

 Merchants thought of adding to the barrels some wine distillate and, thanks to the antiseptic properties of alcohol, they were successful in strongly limiting the damages which unavoidably were caused by the journey. This practice also changed organoleptic qualities of the wine, by adding a new dimension which was soon appreciated by the English noble classes. But also the favor of admirals and sailors, as they could have a “corroborating” and inebriating beverage, without making use of the more alcoholic distillates. The custom of adding wine distillate to these wines is now strongly associated to their organoleptic quality and to their production, as today it is almost impossible to think of them without the typical fortification. As in case of Marsala, a wine of a oxidized and complex character and which before its “commercial” discovery by John Woodhouse, it was produced with the perpetuo method (literally, perpetual) and no fortification was added to the wine.

 It seems that for the production of Port wine, in the style we know it today, wine distillate has always been used, a technique probably used in some monasteries. The legend has it that two English merchants, while they were searching for new Portuguese wines to be shipped to their homeland, arrived to a monastery near Lamego, and here a monk offered them a sweet and strong alcoholic wine. To the amazement of the two merchants, the monk told them that wine was produced by adding wine distillate to the fermenting must in order to keep its natural sweetness. It was the end of the 1670s and the world and England discovered the glorious Port wine: not really a wine; indeed a fortified must to which the magic of time gives it elegance and absolutely unique qualities. The production of the other great fortified wine - Jerez, or Sherry - brought the intuition of the Solera y Criaderas system, a method today used also for the production of other wines and, last but not the least, of distillates, including the extraordinary brandy of Jerez.

 Also Madeira wine, produced in the homonymous Portuguese islands of the Atlantic ocean, has a special story to tell, a characteristic making it absolutely unique in regard to all the other fortified wines. The factor characterizing Madeira is in fact the particular production process, or - better said - a particular phase of the production process. Madeira in fact undergoes a “heating” process called estufagem consisting in keeping the cask in which the wine is aging at a temperature sometimes reaching 55°C (130°F). This process tries to “simulate” what happened in ship's hold in past centuries, during its journey, when casks were subjected to the warm tropical climate. They in fact understood the tropical “torture” to which Madeira was forced, was the main factor giving the wine its particular personality. As Madeira does not travels in ship's holds anymore - however knowing how that journey was beneficial to the quality of that wine - today they try to “simulate” the tropical climate in the winery, by leaving wine casks at a temperature and humidity similar to those of ship's holds which transported it to the ports of the world.

 A common characteristic to many fortified wines is the evident aroma produced by the remarkable oxidation which develops during aging. This characteristic is always considered as a serious fault in every wine; in fortified wines this is considered a quality. It is not by chance in table wines, when it is being perceived an evident oxidation, it is said the wine is maderized, as it directly recalls the aroma of Madeira wine. This “fault” is also called in Italy as marsalato, as it directly recalls Marsala wine. This particular aroma, recalling in part the aroma of hazelnut, both to the nose and to the mouth, is defined by producers and connoisseur of Jerez with the Spanish term rancho. It should be said rancho does not refer to the effect of oxidation only, but also - and in particular - to the effects of the particular production technique used for Jerez.

 Casks in which this wine is aging are left partially empty on purpose, a procedure favoring not only oxidation, but also the development on the surface of the wine of a particular yeast culture called flor. The development of flor is not however an exclusive characteristic of Jerez wine. This particular yeast culture is in fact fundamental for the production of one of the greatest wines of Sardinia, Vernaccia di Oristano, which - it should be said - it is a white wine and no fortification process is used for its production. The container used for the aging of fortified wines is, in all the cases, the cask. Fortified wines are always allowed to age in wood, not for getting the typical organoleptic qualities commonly associated to these containers, indeed for favoring oxidation, more or less strong, an absolutely typical quality for these wines. Moreover, it should be said, as opposed to what happens for the production of table wines, for which casks are usually replaced every three or four years in order to restore the organoleptic influence of wood, in fortified wines casks are rarely replaced.

 A used cask in fact represents a high value for fortified wines, not only for the fact wood pores are more “open” - therefore favoring oxidation - but also for the fact it is strongly impregnated with the wine produced in past vintages and its organoleptic qualities. The typical character given by wood is however present in fortified wines, however, as opposed to other wines, in this case to the tertiary impact of wood, is added the remarkable complexity given by time and oxidation. It must however be said that, in order to keep their typical personality, in fortified wines the wood character rarely plays the role of the protagonist. Defining the aromatic profile of fortified wines is among the most difficult tasks for the sense of tasters. Their aromatic qualities are in fact so distant from what we usually find in table wines, sometimes expressed with descriptors that, apparently, have nothing in common with wine.

 This complexity strongly increases with time, as - it should be noted - fortified wines can age in bottle for tens of years thanks to the high alcohol content, an element keeping the wine and avoiding their decay and bacterial contamination. Talking about mature fortified wines requires a radical change on the terms and factors used for other mature wines. In many cases, producers themselves release mature fortified wines, aged in their cellars for many years, even for more than 10 years, a time making most of table wines decrepit. In some cases, the aging time is impossible to determine because of the production method, which can also provide for the adding of very old vintages, such as in the case of Jerez - produced with the Solera y Criaderas method - and which for this reason is never written the year of vintage on the label. Thanks to these long aging times, fortified wines offer a remarkable complexity since the moment of commercialization. Aromas of dried and toasted fruits, dried flowers and candied fruits, are just some of the aromas which can be perceived in fortified wines. To them are also added aromas of strong complexity, mainly produced by the effects of oxygen and oxidation.

 A wine aged for many years, as well as oxidized, can be thought as a wine having a completely unbalanced gustatory profile, probably flat. Indeed, fortified wines, in particular dry wines, offer to the palate an impeccable balance, in which roundness and the high content of alcohol have a perfect balance with acidity, in case of white wines, and a smooth astringency, in case of red wines. The world of fortified wines is extremely vast, offering to the taster a wide range of styles: from the extremely dry, such as Jerez Fino or Marsala Vergine, to extremely sweet styles, such as Jerez Pedro Ximénez and some styles of Port. Another characteristic of fortified wines is the appreciable taste-olfactory persistence, which generally is very good and long, as well as the explosion of flavors, always of remarkable intensity. With time, and this means tens of years, fortified wines get a “softer” and more “austere” character, in which roundness plays one of the main roles, sometimes velvety, without losing their impeccable elegance and balance.

 






 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 104, February 2012   
Mature Fortified WinesMature Fortified Wines Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 103, January 2012 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 105, March 2012

Wines of the Month


 

Score legend

Fair    Pretty Good    Good
Very Good    Excellent
Wine that excels in its category Wine that excels in its category
Good value wine Good value wine
Prices are to be considered as indicative. Prices may vary according to the country
or the shop where wines are bought




Colli di Scandiano e Canossa Malbo Gentile Campo delle More 2010, Casali Viticoltori (Emilia Romagna, Italy)
Colli di Scandiano e Canossa Malbo Gentile Campo delle More 2010
Casali Viticoltori (Emilia Romagna, Italy)
Grapes: Malbo Gentile
Price: € 5.81 Score:
Colli di Scandiano e Canossa Malbo Gentile Campo delle More shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of purple red, little transparency, fine and persistent perlage. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas that start with hints of blackberry, black cherry and plum followed by aromas of blueberry, violet and raspberry. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a pleasing sweet and slightly tannic attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of blackberry, black cherry and blueberry.
Food Match: Wild fruit tarts



Reggiano Lambrusco Secco Pra di Bosso 2010, Casali Viticoltori (Emilia Romagna, Italy)
Reggiano Lambrusco Secco Pra di Bosso 2010
Casali Viticoltori (Emilia Romagna, Italy)
Grapes: Lambrusco Montericco, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Salamino
Price: € 4.62 Score:   Good value wine
Reggiano Lambrusco Secco Pra di Bosso shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of purple red, little transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas which start with hints of blackberry, cherry and plum followed by aromas of violet, raspberry and blueberry. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic and effervescent attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is persistent with flavors of blackberry, cherry and raspberry.
Food Match: Cold cuts, Pasta with meat, Sauteed meat



Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano 2007, Arnaldo Caprai (Umbria, Italy)
Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano 2007
Arnaldo Caprai (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Sagrantino
Price: € 27.50 Score:
Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of blackberry, plum and violet followed by aromas of black cherry, blueberry, vanilla, chocolate, tobacco, pink pepper, mace, cinnamon and menthol. The mouth has excellent correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry. Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano ages for 22 months in barrique followed by at least 6 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 2007, Arnaldo Caprai (Umbria, Italy)
Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 2007
Arnaldo Caprai (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Sagrantino
Price: € 55.00 Score:
Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of blackberry, black cherry and plum followed by aromas of violet, blueberry, vanilla, pink pepper, tobacco, cocoa, mace, leather and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum. Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni ages for 24 months in barrique followed by at least 6 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Morellino di Scansano 2009, Fattoria dei Barbi (Tuscany, Italy)
Morellino di Scansano 2009
Fattoria dei Barbi (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese (85%), Merlot (15%)
Price: € 9.00 Score:
This Morellino di Scansano shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas which start with hints of cherry, plum and violet followed by aromas of raspberry, blueberry and geranium. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of cherry, plum and raspberry. This Morellino di Scansano ages in cask for 6 months.
Food Match: Cold cuts, Stuffed pasta, Stewed meat with mushrooms



Brunello di Montalcino 2006, Fattoria dei Barbi (Tuscany, Italy)
Brunello di Montalcino 2006
Fattoria dei Barbi (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese
Price: € 23.00 Score:
This Brunello di Montalcino shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of black cherry, plum and violet followed by aromas of blueberry, raspberry, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, tobacco and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of plum, black cherry and blueberry. This Brunello di Montalcino ages for at least 2 years in cask followed by at least 4 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Le Novaje 2006, Novaia (Veneto, Italy)
Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Le Novaje 2006
Novaia (Veneto, Italy)
Grapes: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella
Price: € 12.30 - 375ml Score:
Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Le Novaje shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of blackberry, plum and dried violet followed by aromas of black cherry, blueberry, vanilla, chocolate, mace and nail polish. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a sweet and slightly tannic attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry. Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Le Novaje ages for 12 months in barrique followed by 6 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Chocolate tarts, Wild fruit jam tarts



Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva Le Balze 2005, Novaia (Veneto, Italy)
Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva Le Balze 2005
Novaia (Veneto, Italy)
Grapes: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta
Price: € 31.90 Score: Wine that excels in its category
Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva Le Balze shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of blackberry, plum and dried violet followed by aromas of black cherry jam, blueberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, cinnamon, mace, anise and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry jam. Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva Le Balze ages for 36 months in barrique followed by 12 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Braised and stewed meat, Hard cheese



Offida Pecorino Colle Vecchio 2008, Tenuta Cocci Grifoni (Marches, Italy)
Offida Pecorino Colle Vecchio 2008
Tenuta Cocci Grifoni (Marches, Italy)
Grapes: Pecorino
Price: € 15.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
Offida Pecorino Colle Vecchio shows a pale straw yellow color and nuances of greenish yellow, very transparent. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of apple, plum and medlar followed by aromas of pear, hawthorn, jasmine, peach, hazelnut, broom, chamomile and mineral. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a crisp attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of apple, plum and hazelnut. Offida Pecorino Colle Vecchio ages for 5 months in steel tanks.
Food Match: Roasted white meat, Roasted fish, Stuffed pasta with fish



Offida Rosso Il Grifone 2004, Tenuta Cocci Grifoni (Marches, Italy)
Offida Rosso Il Grifone 2004
Tenuta Cocci Grifoni (Marches, Italy)
Grapes: Montepulciano (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%)
Price: € 30.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
Offida Rosso Il Grifone shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, little transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas that start with hints of black cherry, plum and black currant followed by aromas of blueberry, dried violet, vanilla, chocolate, tobacco, mace, leather and eucalyptus. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and black currant. Offida Rosso Il Grifone ages for 22 months in cask followed by 6 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese






 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 104, February 2012   
Mature Fortified WinesMature Fortified Wines Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
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