How is fortified wine made?

Sometimes additional grape alcohol is added to the wine to stop fermentation and create a stronger, bolder style of wine. Best known of these fortified wines are port and sherry, with Muscadel and jerepigo forming a popular part of the South African wine range.

Port is produced by making rich, red wine from particular grape varieties like Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barocca, and then adding brandy and allowing it to mature for some time in oak barrels. Port may be made in Ruby style -- young and bright red, vintage -- rich and elegant, or late-bottled, in which case it has been allowed to mature for many years in wood before being bottled.

Sherry is made by adding a special strain of yeast to the wine after pressing. This flor yeast floats on the surface of the juice as it is working and produces the distinctive nutty character that gives sherry its distinctive quality.

Sherry is made in a continual process where one barrel is connected to the next and the wine moves down the line, from barrel to barrel, as the last is drained and the first topped up. Because of mixing the wine can never come from one year and be a vintage sherry. Sherries come in several styles, from bone-dry Fino to the sweeter Amontillado and Oloroso. In South Africa an additional style, Old Brown is extremely popular.

Jerepigo is, in fact, fortified grape juice. The grapes are picked and crushed at full ripeness and spirit is added almost immediately, capturing the full sweetness of the juice.

Muscat grape varieties like Muscat Ottonel and Hanepoot (Muscat d’Alexandrie) are often used to make these delicious dessert wines.

While table wines have an alcohol content of between 9% and 14%, fortified wines have between 14% and 20%.