Most of the common fortified names such as Port, Sherry or Madeira are named after their places of origin. Up until the 1960s, fortified wine was the backbone of the Australian wine industry, with most of the oldest established regions specialising in one form or another. The unique range of regional characteristics, micro-climates and cultural influences means Australia can produce all fortified styles, and are comparable with the best in the world. Most fortified wines rely on a system of blending older wines with a variety of younger wines, a skill that is passed down through generations.
Fortification is another technique used to make sweet table wine. Although fortified white wines are less popular than fortified red wines, they have an important place in the history of Australian wine. These wines need extended time in barrels, with some matured for decades, before being released as concentrated, luscious drops, usually blended with some younger material.
Fortified wines are produced like most table wines, but a measure of alcohol is added during the fermentation process, or afterwards in the case of Sherry. Therefore it’s ‘fortified’ in the sense that it’s made stronger in alcohol (‘fortis’ being the Latin for ‘strong’).
The term Sherry derives from the name Jerez in the south west of Spain. There are three main styles; Amontillado, Oloroso and Fino. Fino is light, dry and fine, Amontillado is richer in aged characters, while Oloroso is higher in alcohol with extra sugar and overall depth. The production of Sherry differs from other fortified wines in that the initial fermentation is completed with the addition of spirit taking place afterwards.
Muscat originates from Spain and Portugal and has found a natural affinity with the soils of Rutherglen, Victoria. Originating from the Muscat grape, this style is rich and sweet and is a perfect dessert and cheese partner with its rich, viscous mouthfeel and sweet raisin finish.
Tokay’s origins can be traced to Hungary and like Muscat, it has also found its adopted home in Rutherglen. Made from the Muscadelle grape, Tokay is big, sweet and definitely more-ish. With dominant flavours of toffee and butterscotch and almost always slightly more elegant than Muscat, Tokay from this region is truly unique. It is the only aged fortified wine of this type and variety made in the world.
Originating in Portugal’s Douro region, Port can be made with a wide variety of red grapes. The most common Port is Tawny, which is a blend from several different vintages, usually to a consistent house style. Tawny is typically rich and mouth-filling with walnut, coffee and chocolate complexities. When the conditions are right, a Vintage Port may be made from a single year, which are capable of long-term cellaring.