I will admit, I’m not a huge sweet/fortified wine drinker. Every now and then I will find one I enjoy, but that is few and far between. At my WSET class last week, we focused on these kinds of wines.
First we tried Sherry, which I had never had before. Sherry is mainly a Spanish made fortified wine. It can be dry or sweet, depending on the style. I refuse to say that I dislike a specific type of wine. I’d rather say that the kinds that we sampled were not my favorite and that I have not yet found a Sherry that I like yet.
Sweet Fortified Wines:
Sweeter wines are sweet due to the sugar content that is in them. This does not mean that sugar that you buy at the grocery store is added to a wine. Often, a sweeter wine is sweet due to interrupting the fermentation process before all of the yeasts have turned to alcohol, adding some natural grape juice, fermenting dried grapes, harvesting frozen grapes, or my favorite reason, using grapes affected by Botrytis.
Botrytis (aka “the noble rot”), is actually a mold. Some grapes are meant to be molded to extract as much water a possible, and thus, creating a dried grape. Often, wines affected by Botrytis have honey-like flavors and add a wonderful sweetness. Not all wines affected by this mold are meant to be used for wine, but when done properly, it’s actually a fantastic flavor addition. Sounds gross, I know, but trust me on this! A great example is the Sauternes that we sampled at my first WSET class. You can read more about it here!
Usually, if I am to like a sweeter wine, it’s Port. Port is a blend of red grapes from Portugal, with the main grape being Tourigo Nacional. The grapes are partially fermented to retain the natural sugars, and spend time in oak vessels to give it flavor. Ports can be in the styles of Ruby or Tawny, and are called so based on their ruby or tawny color. They often have caramel and oaky flavors. I tend to prefer the Tawny ports.