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Fortified Wine: A Good Fall Bracer

Fortified Wine: A Good Fall Bracer

A warming choice for the season.

After a warmer than usual September, autumn has started in earnest —making this just the right time of year indulge in a warming glass of fortified wine.

Fortified wines are wines to which distilled alcohol, usually brandy, is added during the wine-making process. Not only is the wine’s alcohol content increased, but the process can have profound effects on the wine’s flavor and mouth feel. Indeed, fortified wines often seem to combine the flavors and heft of wine, with the warming sensations of distilled spirits.

The three best known styles of fortified wines are Port, from the Porto region of Portugal; Sherry, from the Jerez region of Spain; and Vermouth, from various regions in France and Italy. All three have long been copied, with greater or lesser success, by winemakers throughout the world. Fortunately for the kosher consumer the past five years have seen significant growth in the quality and variety of kosher fortified wines.

So for this month’s Fruit of the Vine, I tasted seven kosher fortified wines, most of which were good, and would be good choices for autumnal nipping.

The best wine in the tasting was the Porto Cordovero 2004 Late Bottled Vintage Port. Made in Porto by the noted Port lodge of Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, this rich, sweet, medium-bodied, garnet-colored wine has a delightful nose of red currants, stewed rhubarb, and prunes. Look for flavors of raisins, red currants, prunes, dried figs, and mocha, with a nice hint of spice. Ready to drink now, this enchanting wine should able to cellar for at least another four or five years.

Also quite good was Tio Pepe’s Kosher Fino Sherry, which has long been one of my favorite aperitifs, and a frequent choice for Kiddush in the Kronemer household. Made by one of Spain’s best-known Sherry producers, this light bodied, straw-colored, bone-dry wine has a rich, earthy, bouquet with elements of bitter almonds, honeydew and nutmeg, accompanied floral notes, a whiff of sea brine, and an intriguing mustiness. Look for flavors of almonds, honeydew, lemons, and mangoes. This Sherry has a nice level of acid, and a truly desiccated finish.

When serving fortified wines, it is best to serve Sherry and Vermouth at refrigerator temperature, and Port (or port-style wines) at cellar temperature (about 55F). One of the nice things about fortified wines is that the distilled alcohol in them acts as a preservative, and thus most fortified wines can be enjoyed for up to a month after opening the bottle.

So as you plan your next autumn getaway, think about taking along a bottle of fortified wine. You won’t regret it.

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