Fortified Wine » American Fortified Wine
Fortified wines are those that are made by the addition of grape spirit to wine, usually when the wine is fermenting. The sudden rise in abv stops the yeast from working, thereby ending fermentation. As the grape spirit is usually added at a time when there is a level of unfermented sugar in the wine, it creates a lliquid that is both strong in alcohol and high in natural sugar.
The British are responsible for many of the most well-known fortified wines: port; madeira; marsala. In the era of the sailing ship, many travellers found wines that they enjoyed in Sicily, Portugal and Madeira, but found that transporting them in barrel back to the UK was disastrous for the quality of the wine. Adding a slug of spirit was found to stabilize the wine, enabling thirsty sailors to arrive home with their precious cargo in working order.
N.B. Adding spirit to grape juice, rather than wine, produces what is known as vin de liqueur. These are not fortified wines. Examples include the utterly more-ish Pineau de Charentes.
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