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  Editorial Issue 175, Summer 2018   
Praise of the Fortified WinePraise of the Fortified Wine  Contents 
Issue 174, June 2018 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on Twitter 

Praise of the Fortified Wine


 Those who know me know very well my passion and interest in fortified wines, I have often talked about this in the pages of DiWineTaste. Sumptuous wines – but certainly not all of them – capable of warming emotions like few other wines in the world. Fortified wines, also known in Italy as vini liquorosi, from a strictly technical point of view, are wines to which is added, in specific phases of production, some wine spirit. The most noticeable result is the increasing in alcohol by volume, a characteristic which, although it has obvious influences on the organoleptic profile, plays a decidedly secondary role in quality. It should however be noted the addition of alcohol plays a role in quality and closely depends on its characteristics. A low quality spirit produces in fact evidently negative results in organoleptic and sensorial terms, therefore compromising the finesse of the wine. This explains one of the reasons why many fortified wines are often very disappointing and graceless.


 

 Marsala, Port, Jerez – or Sherry, as the English call it – Madeira, Banyuls and Malaga, are among the best known and most important fortified wines, certainly among those which deserve to be tasted at least once in a lifetime. They are not the only ones, of course, but certainly are among the most representative and celebrated ones. It must be said not every fortified wine is worthy or deserves appreciation: disappointing bottles are often found also in wines belonging to these denominations. There is however a rich and large number of representatives of considerable, immense and celestial quality, certainly capable of making us forget – and forever – the roughness of the wines of lower value. Because, this is for sure, when you have in the glass an amazing Marsala, a refined Jerez or a sumptuous Port, it is a pure symphony of senses, emotions and elegance. Above all, it is an endless explosion of scents and aromas, a sensorial and organoleptic experience unmatched in other wines for its majesty and complexity.

 Fortified wines have written memorable pages in the history of wine as well as of trade. It is no secret, in fact, the holds of commercial ships of the past were often loaded with pipes – the typical cask used for transporting wines – filled with Marsala, Jerez, Port and Madeira. The passion of the English for fortified wines has filled pages of history, including the exploits of Admiral Horatio Nelson who, it is said, used to celebrate his victories with Marsala. Victory wine – he called it – and considered a wine worthy of any gentleman's table. What about Jerez? It was so popular in the overseas territories that it changed its name to Sherry in order to make it easier to pronounce it in the local language. A richness of styles like no other fortified wine, Jerez offers an extraordinary variety of emotions, styles and symphonies of senses, starting from Fino up to Pedro Ximénez, the great Spanish wine certainly deserves a sumptuous and noble monument.

 Robust and with a higher alcohol by volume than regular wines, some might find it unusual to talk about fortified wines during the hot summer season. Think of a magnificent Jerez Fino or a Marsala Vergine served at a cool temperature – say, about 12 Celsius degrees – and you will understand these wines certainly do not disdain the summer. To tell the truth, there also are those who like them served at much lower temperatures: I personally find they lose a good part of their fascinating scents but – as the old saying has it – de gustibus non disputandum est. How could you possibly think about the joyful parade of Spanish tapas without a good glass of Jerez Fino? Impossible, I would say. With crustaceans, but also with olives and dried fruits, this wine is capable of fabulous pairing. Talking about this great Spanish wine, it would then be a gross mistake to think about Fino or Pedro Ximénez only. Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Dulce and Cream – as to mention the main styles – Jerez wines give endless and magnificent interpretations.

 Not to mention Port, the immense glory of Portuguese enology: a special fortified wine, one could better define it as fortified semi-fermented wine, as the spirit is also added with the aim of interrupting fermentation while leaving substantial residual sugar. This makes Port a magnificent dessert wine, however not disdaining other and more complex pairing, such as chocolate and cheese, in particular English Blue Stilton, for example, with which it has always made an amazing couple. Also in this case, the availability of styles is remarkable: an extraordinary variety depending on barrels, time and magic. Having a Colheita or Late Bottled Vintage Port in your glass – possibly aged for a few dozen years – is a great tasting experience. Time, therefore patience, oxidation – not a rough and rude one, of course – are the precious allies of these great wines.

 What about Marsala? The great Sicilian wine, when it is great for real, it obviously has nothing less than its illustrious colleagues from Spain and Portugal. The same can be said for the glorious Madeira which, despite being produced in a smaller number of styles, is proud of a magnificent story, including the historical and singular production method known as estufagem. They all are great wines giving strong emotions and having an intense sensorial character, amazing for complexity, infinite for magnificence, just like the glass of Marsala Vergine here at my side and that kept me company while I was writing this editorial. A thirty-year-old Marsala Vergine, a masterpiece of elegance and complexity. What a great wine is Marsala Vergine, when it is capable of honoring this prestige. Fortified wines are sumptuous. Great history, noble class, majestic elegance. Stunning meditation wines, wonderful companions of the refined table. Last but not the least, when they are properly served, they also are excellent companions of the summer. They definitely and without a doubt will the companion of my summer.

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 175, Summer 2018   
Praise of the Fortified WinePraise of the Fortified Wine  Contents 
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