Virtual Fortifed Wines
Often overlooked, fortified wines are an interesting subset of the world of wine. Whilst their grape varieties and climate play an important part, it is really what happens to the wine in the winery that makes fortified wines so interesting.
The process of adding additional alcohol either during or after fermentation has its history in preserving wines for long sea voyages (additional alcohol prevents the wines turning to vinegar).
Adding additional alcohol to wine during fermentation, such as in the case of Port, stops the fermentation before it is complete, thereby keeping much of the sweetness in the grape juice, hence a sweet, high alcohol wine is created. Port comes in many variants; however, the basic categories are “Ruby” and “Tawny”. Both categories are further sub-divided at varying quality and price levels.
Adding the additional alcohol to wine after fermentation, such as in the case of Sherry, simply raises the level of alcohol, the sugars have been fully fermented and hence the wine is dry. (Yes, many Sherries sold in the UK are sweet or medium sweet, but that’s another story!) Again, there are a seemingly bewildering range of Sherry styles but the basic categorisation of them are “Biological aged”, “Oxidatively aged” and “Lusciously Sweet”.
Finally, in the case of Madeira, the most fascinating of all types of fortified wine, the alcohol is added at varying points of the fermentation process depending on the desired sweetness of the final wine. Then, the wine undergoes “Maderization” which mimics the affect of being stored in a wooden sailing ship in tropical heat for several months – effectively the wine is “cooked”, created unique caramel flavours.
In our short two-week course, we will pick out some of the main styles from the fortified range, and if you join us for our “Virtual Christmas Day” event during December you will be able to fill in the gaps that we don’t have time for in November.
18th November – Sherry & Port
- We start with an Oloroso Sherry. This is a dry, deeply coloured, oxidatively aged sherry, 17% abv with toffee, nuts and dried fruit aromas. The example I will be tasting is Aurora Oloroso*
- Next, in contrast to the more well-known ruby style, we will taste an aged Tawny Port. I will be opening a Taylor’s 10-year old Tawny* (the 10-year, or even better 20-year, age statement is very important). This is sweet, deep brick colour, oxidatively aged Port, 20% abv with aromas of ripe berry fruit, nuttiness and chocolate.
25th November – Madeira
Madeira is something totally unique and vastly under-appreciated, so tonight we are going to make a special effort to redress the balance. There are four “noble” grape varieties from which Madeira has traditionally been made, however as time has past these “famous four” have gradually been replaced and now only make up c. 15% of Madeira production. Blandy’s are the largest madeira producer and have made available the four noble varieties in a “sample pack” which is just too tempting to resist, so tonight we will taste all four! Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey, in 10-year old variants.
This sample pack is available to buy on www.amazon.co.uk currently at the special offer price of £28.22, but is also available elsewhere*
£25 for both sessions. The cost is per subscription, so this could be for 2 people (or more) as long as you are sharing a screen in the same household. Note: this does not include the cost of the wines (see below).
*Because this is a short two-week course and fortified wines are widely available, this is a “buy your own” format event.
As ever, these events will be delivered using Zoom video conferencing which is just like being in the room with Gary, who will, as ever educate, inform and entertain you for about an hour.
All sessions will be recorded and if you can't attend at the last minute just let us know so you can go through the event at your convenience later.
Why not invite your friends to make it a truly social experience?
If you want to “fill in” the missing gaps in your knowledge of fortified wines, why not sign up to our “Virtual Christmas Day”, December tasting event, spread over 3 weeks? Alongside some lovely sparkling and table wines we will sample a further three fortified wines:
2nd December – “Oxidatively Aged” Sherry
- Manzanilla Sherry – bone dry, very pale, 15% abv with an unmistakable yeasty “Sherry nose”
16th December – Lusciously Sweet Sherry and Ruby Style Port
- Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry – Almost jet black, probably the sweetest thing you will ever taste and “Christmas Pudding in a glass”
- Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV) – Deep ruby coloured, sweet, with lovely ripe black fruits and grippy tannins. Crack open the Stilton!
Places remaining: 2
Course Date/Time: Wed 18th Nov 2020 at 7.30pm
Duration: 1 Hour
Venue: Online - Zoom (Link sent by email)