Fortified Wine

(n.) Wine that has a distilled spirit added. This loosely-knit family of wines encompasses a wide range of styles. Some are made for fast consumption, others for aging. They can also range from dry, sweet, light or dark, but they all have one thing in common: at some point, a distilled spirit is added to the fermentation or nearly-finished product. Common styles of fortified wine include port, sherry, madeira, vermouth and marsala. The distilled spirit is usually a neutral spirit or a grape brandy, depending on the laws governing the particular product. Its addition serves two purposes: When added early in the fermentation process, high alcohol will arrest fermentation, leaving a desired residual sugar in the product. Or, more generally, the extra alcohol works as a preservative, preventing spoilage. This category tends to notch ABV levels up into the 15 to 20 percent range, and by U.S. law should not exceed 24 percent.