Portuguese Fortified Wines

Portugal is famous for its fortified wines. These rich, sweet wines are made by only partly fermenting sweet grapes. A pure grape spirit of at least 77% alcohol is added to stop the fermentation and raise the alcohol volume. They are then aged in wooden barrels and deliberately oxidised to create complex flavours.


alcohol series glassThere are three types of port, produced exclusively in the Douro region, which are typically around 18 – 20%.

  • White – Made from white grapes, these vary in colour and sweetness. “Seco” is the driest, but is still quite sweet, while “doce” is exceedingly sweet. They’re best served chilled as an aperitif.
  • Tawny – An aged Tawny port will be at least 10 years old, but could be aged for up to 40 years. Nutty in taste, with dried fruit flavours they are best served chilled as an aperitif or can be enjoyed as a digestif. They are excellent with blue cheeses such as Stilton, especially the 10 – 20 year old varieties.
  • Ruby – Dark red in colour and sweeter than Tawny ports, this classic port is popular as either an aperitif or a digestif. Excellent with bittersweet desserts and certain strong cheeses and best served cool.


Madeira is typically aged in wooden casks and heated for long periods of time. This process gives the wine its unique caramel and nutty taste by replicating the effects of a long sea voyage. It can be sweet or dry, and is mostly made from white grape varieties. Tinta Negra is the red grape version, made in the same way. It goes well with blue cheeses or as a digestif.


This famous dessert wine is traditionally made in the Peninsula de Setúbal region. It is a wonderfully fruity, sweet wine when young. As it ages it becomes somewhat nutty with dried fruit flavours. Muscat is normally sold young, but an aged version works very well with traditional Christmas desserts. Young versions are normally paired with a variety of sweets.

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