Fast Five: 5 Fortified's To Get You Into Fortified Wine!
At some point - if you're of drinking age of course - you must have tried a bit of fortified wine at in your life. Whether it's in a cocktail, in a spot of cooking like tiramisu, or something that your grandpa has pulled out after dinner from that little barrel in the kitchen, there's surely been a moment where you've had a little dram of fortified wine. But are you really that psyched on it? We sell vastly less fortified wine in this country, on average only about half a million litres a year, in comparison to 10 million litres of sparkling wine (completely crushed by still wine sales of around just shy of 600 million litres of still wine). Why is that? It seems odd since Australia has an incredible history with fortified wine - has it fallen out fashion? If it has, we think that's a crying shame, because fortifieds friggin rule. So we've listed the 5 fortified wines you should try to get you into them as much as we are. While some of these might be a bit jarring on your first encounter (g'day dry sherry), they may become your favourite in the end! (fino is the Unico team favourite fortified) Let's get spiritous!
Of course, we're mentioning Tawny. It's the ultimate entry into fortifieds because it's just so damned approachable. Often sits in the realms of sweetness, richness and a veil of nuttiness to make it super well rounded with an appropriate lick of complexity. Generally speaking, tastes super raisiny before rolling through to a nice nutty long finish - sounds good right? You can generally get 'em at remarkable value for their quality and cost of production too, may as well grab a bottle from the champs of Tawny with Seppeltsfield - a bottle of Para Grand will only set you back around $38 bones!
We love vermouth. The most winey style of fortified going around I'd say - and there is no shortage of variety! Whether its Dry, White, Sweet, Rosé, vermouth is the great craftsman fortified wine, as you can choose whatever base wine you'd like and get creative with your choice botanicals - besides the mandatory wormwood of course. While we totally recommend you have a 'lil squizz at our Unico Yuzu vermouth, it's pretty strange, so if you're going to check out any more incredible Australian vermouths, check out Maidenii, a collab from the legendary Shaun Byrne (the bartender) and Gilles Lapalus, (the winemaker) crafting delicious vermouths crafted from Native Australian Botanicals like strawberry gum and river mint. So so good.
Now we're getting weird. There is a lot to love about fortifieds but as we start to delve into it further, and look to Portugal and alike, stylistically they start getting quite unique, but not the less interesting. Take Maidera - hailing from the group of islands of the same name off the coast of Africa (it's an autonomous state of Portugal but it's closer to Morocco!), the bulk of the islands wine production is fortified, and the production of it is incredibly unique - in particular the ageing process. Most Madeira's range in cask age from about 5 years to 20 years, but for the best examples of Madeira, they store their casks in warm places to create what's known as the 'estufagem' process. Basically it is meant to recreate the ageing process that would occur if it was stored on a ship for a long voyage - for the most part they leave barrels out in the sun, which allows the wine to breathe and take in oxygen and build layers of complexity and intrigue for long periods of time - how cool is that? Imagine something that tastes akin to flat cola - if you're into that, you're gonna have a good time here. There's plenty of strange varieties of Madeira so make your way through them to find the ones you like!
Are you ready for the flor? Fino is the bloody business, but it's not something that you might dive right into loving straight off the bat. It's shockingly dry. It has all the full palate weight and presence of sherry or apera that has plenty of residual sugar but a good fino finishes bone dry. It's compelling as anything, mainly due to the incredible nutty and it's inherent fino-ness that is produced by what is called Flor. Flor is basically a layer of yeast that acts as a protective layer over wine in a barrel that has only been partially filled, allowing it to be exposed to oxygen and create compelling oxidative characters like grilled almonds and baked apples, without the wine oxidizing and turning to vinegar. It's pretty amazing stuff, and if you're on board, you're on board for life. Want some Aussie Apera? Bio-dynamic Fino from Beechworth thanks to the legends at Pennyweight should do the trick!
Now we're really in the deep end. The most literary famed style of fortified wine, immortalised by the incomparable Edgar Allen Poe in his short story "The Cask of Amontillado". This is the next evolution of fino, as all Amontillado starts as fino, basically until the flor starts to fade away and disappear, then the wine is fortified to 17.5% ABV so the wine doesn't spoil but slowly breathes in oxygen to create a richer style of sherry that tastes more tertiary of stuff like tobacco and aromatic spices. Funky, but a delightful style if accompanied by more gamey styles of food. So good it's worth killing over...