Jay Lavely & Port
The Wines of Sherry
Vin Doux Naturel Banyuls
Fortified wines are made when grape brandy is added to a wine and can either be dry or sweet. Most fortified wines are higher in alcohol content (about 17-20% ABV) and have a longer shelf life after they are opened.
Port wine is made in the Northern part of Portugal along the Douro river. These rare sweet red wines are made with dozens of Portuguese traditional grapes including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz. The grapes are collected and fermented together in open tanks where the grapes are stomped daily as the wine begins to ferment.
At a point during the fermentation, the wine is strained and blended with a clear grape spirit (with nearly 70% ABV) that stops fermentation and fortifies the wine. After this process, there are a series of winemaking steps that lead into the different styles listed below.
- Ruby & Crusted Port (sweet)
This is an introductory style of Port wine that tastes of freshly minted port and is much less sweet than Tawny Port.
- Vintage & LBV Port (sweet)
LBV and Vintage Port are made in the same style but LBV are designed to be enjoyed in their youth (due to the style of cork enclosure) and vintage Ports are meant to be aged about 20-50 years before drinking.
- Tawny Port (very sweet)
The process of aging a Tawny Port happens at the winery in large wooden casks and smaller wooden barrels. The longer the Tawny Port ages, the more nutty and figgy it becomes. A 30-40 year Tawny is the best.
- Port-Style Wines a.k.a. Vin Doux Naturel (sweet)
Port can only be made in Portugal although many producers all over the world make port-style wines such as Zinfandel ‘Port’ or a Pinot Noir ‘Port’. We refer to these wines as vin doux naturel(see below).
Sherry comes from Andalusia, Spain. The wines are made using Palomino, Pedro Ximénez (a grape, not a person), and Moscatel grapes. Wines are produced using varying amounts of the three grapes and are purposefully oxidized so that they develop nutty aromatics.
- Fino (dry)
The lightest and most dry of all the Sherries with tart and nutty flavors.
- Manzanilla (dry)
A specific style of Fino Sherry from a more specialized region that’s even lighter than Fino.
- Palo Cortado (dry)
A slightly richer style of sherry that is aged longer producing darker color and richer flavor. These wines are typically dry but will have fruit and nut aromas with salinity.
- Amontillado (mostly dry)
An aged sherry that takes on nutty flavors of peanuts and butter.
- Oloroso (dry)
A very aged and dark sherry that has higher alcohol content due to the evaporation of water as the wine ages. This is more like the scotch of Sherry.
- Cream Sherry (sweet)
A sweet style of Sherry made by blending Oloroso with Pedro Ximénez Sherry.
- Moscatel (sweet)
A sweet sherry with fig and date flavors.
- Pedro Ximénez (PX) (very sweet)
A very sweet sherry with brown sugar and figlike flavors.
Madeira is a wine produced using up to 4 different grapes on the island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira is very unlike other wines because, in order to produce it, the wines undergo a heating and oxidation process – techniques that would traditionally “ruin” a wine.
The result is a rich fortified wine with walnut-like flavors, salinity and an oiliness on the palate. Because of the 4 different grapes used, Madeira range from dry to sweet making them work well alongside a meal or even as a pre-dinner drink. Learn more about Madeira here.
- Rainwater & Madeira
When the label just says “Madeira” or “Rainwater” assume that it’s a blend of all 4 grapes and somewhere in the middle in terms of sweetness.
- Sercial (dry)
Sercial is the driest and the lightest of all the grapes in Madeira. These wines will have higher acidity and be dry with notes of peaches and apricot. It’s not too uncommon to see Sercial Madeira aged for 100 years.
- Verdelho (dry)
Verdelho has citrus notes and will develop nutty flavors of almond and walnut with time.
- Bual (sweet)
Bual leans on the sweet side with notes of burnt caramel, brown sugar, fig, rootbeer and black walnut. It’s common to find 10 year old ‘medium’ (meaning: medium sweet) Bual Madeira although there are several well aged 50-70 year old Bual as well.
- Malmsey (sweet)
Malmsey Madeiras have orange citrus notes and caramel to their taste along with the oily oxidized nutty flavor.
Vin Doux Naturel (VDN)
Vin Doux Naturel are made in a similar style to Port where a base wine is created and finished with neutral grape brandy. The term vin doux naturel comes from France, but this classification could be used to describe a wine from anywhere.
- Grenache-based VDN
Typically from the south of France, such as Maury, Rasteau and Banyuls from Languedoc-Roussillon
- Muscat-based VDN
Muscat de Rivesaltes, Muscat de Frotignan, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Ruthernglen Muscat (Australia), Orange Muscat and Vin Santo Liquoroso (Italy).
- Malvasia-based VDN
Mostly from Italy and Sicily such as Malvasia delle Lipari Liquoroso
From Greece, Mavrodaphni is a sweet red wine with many similarities to Port.