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Sweet & Fortified

Sweet-styled wines come from a variety of grapes and regions. From Icewine and Late Harvest wines, to Italian Passito and Hungarian Tokaji, sweet wines can offer much more than just a sugary fix. The world’s most famed dessert wine however, hails from Sauternes, France. In general, these wines are categorized by their residual sugar content (45g/l or more) and usually have a higher alcohol level (from 15% to 22%). There are Icewines which are produced from naturally frozen grapes, whereas Late Harvest wines come from grapes that have ripened for a longer period on the vine and Passito wines which are made from dried grapes. But the greatest classically sweet wines are made from botrytis cinerea (noble rot) affected grapes, actually a mold, this process renders the grapes unpleasant looking on the outside but delicious on the inside. The most prominent wines made from noble rot are the sweet Tokaji Aszú wines from north-eastern Hungary, and the liquid gold wines of Sauternes, with Château d’Yquem representing the world’s finest sweet wine.

From aperitifs to great mediation and dessert wines, fortified wines are back in style. While these enjoyable, viscous wine-based delicacies are often overlooked, they should have a place in both the cellar and on the table. Made from adding additional alcohol during the fermentation process, these wines tend to have a higher alcohol content (17%-20%). Today, various styles of fortified wines exist, however the most popular examples tend to be Sherry, Port, Madeira and Marsala. One of the main producers and also the birthplace of Sherry, Spain offers these wines in a wide range of styles, from dry to sweet, known as Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez, with the best coming from the Montilla-Morilles region. Also Port is made in a variety of styles – White, Ruby, Late-bottled Vintage and Tawny – coming from the Douro region of Portugal. Madeira is another Portuguese fortified wine which is produced on the island off the coast of northern Africa, which shares it name. Madeira wines are known for their unique heated or baked vinification process. Marsala on the other hand is better known for its use in the kitchen, but this Sicilian fortified dessert wine deserves its spot on the table, say on the rocks after dinner.