Fortified wine is wine to which a distilled beverage (usually brandy) has been added. Fortified wine is distinguished from spirits made from wine in that spirits are produced by means of distillation, while fortified wine is simply wine that has had a spirit added to it. Many different styles of fortified wine have been developed, including port, sherry, madeira, marsala, and vermouth.
The original reason for fortifying wine was to preserve it, since ethanol is a natural antiseptic. Even though other preservation methods now exist, fortification continues to be used because the fortification process can add distinct flavors to the finished product.
Although grape brandy is most commonly added to produce fortified wines, the additional alcohol may also be neutral spirit that has been distilled from grapes, grain, sugar beets, or sugarcane. Regional appellation laws may dictate the types of spirit that are permitted for fortification.
The source of the additional alcohol and the method of its distillation can affect the flavor of the fortified wine. If neutral spirit is used, it will usually have been produced with a continuous still, rather than a pot still.
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