Whats the differance between Sherry, Port, MAdeira and Marsala

Fortified Wines: Porto, Sherry, and Marsala and Madeira

Fortified wines are fortified by the addition of extra alcohol in the form of brandy or spirits to bring them up to an alcohol content of 18%–20%. Porto, Sherry, Madeira, Marsala, and Vermouth are all fortified wines. If the extra alcohol is added after fermentation, a dry fortified wine such as Sherry is the outcome. Adding the alcohol during fermentation results in a sweet wine such as Porto. Port and sherry are two of the most popular fortified wines. 

Read about Port in more detail here, and Sherry here.

What is the difference between sherry and port? Sherry is the wine made only from Spanish Jerez white grapes. According to Spanish law, such wine can be produced solely in the Sherry Triangle (this includes three key places: province of Cádiz, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María). In contrast, port wine may be officially produced outside Portugal.

The main difference lies in the process of aging. While port is produced by adding neutral grape spirit to stop the fermentation and leave some sugar to boost alcohol level, sherry goes through the entire fermentation process, and is then blended with distilled spirit. Port wine is stored in wooden barrels placed in caves (cellars), and sherry is poured into 500-litre casks made of North American oak and put into a Solera system (when barrels are put on each other in a form of pyramid). It is required to leave some space in a cask for the flor to develop – this is one of the basic conditions for sherry to acquire its special flavor. Flor is the veil or thin layer of indigenous yeast cells that forms on top of sherry wines. 

The texture of port is rich, sweet and somewhat thicker than many other types of wine. It contains far more alcohol (from 19 to 23%) in comparison with other wine types. This can be explained by the fact that distilled grape spirits are added before fermentation ends and all the sugar transfers to alcohol. Sherry, on the other hand, is dry and light. As a rule, it contains 11-12% of alcohol, although Fino or Amontillado has about 15%, and Oloroso up to 17.5%.

In comparison with sherry, port wine may go through reductive or oxidative aging. In the first case, it is stored in bottles and never exposed to air. In the second case, wine is placed in wooden barrels and accumulates some amount of oxygen.

Port is poured into classic wineglasses and usually served at the end of a meal with various types of dishes, and its especially good with cheese. 

Sherry ideally needs to be poured in a special tulip-shaped glass called a copita. It is versatile, and there are styles that allow you to serve sherry from start to finnish. It can also be offered between meals. Moreover, sherry is perfect to be mixed with lemonade and is used to prepare Rebujito, a long drink. 

Marsala is made from white grapes grown on the volcanic soil of the island of Sicily, Italy. Marsala has a burnt caramel flavour and is 18%–20% alcohol like all fortified wines. Its commonly used in cooking, popular because it lends itself to producing rich caramelized luscious flavours and sauces.The sweet all’uovo (egg) version is used in desserts such as Zabaglione, whilst the Dry secco Marsala is used when cooking veal. Despite its Italian origins, it was invented by an Englishman in the 18th century, who decided the best way to ship the wine from Sicily to London was to fortify it by adding brandy.

Marsala wine is split up into different styles based on the type of grapes used (white or mostly red) and the winemaking method. Most Marsala for cooking is Fino or Fine Marsala which is actually the lowest quality level of the wine.

MARSALA SUBSTITUTE: The best substitute for Marsala wine is Madeira because of the similar taste profile. 

HOW LONG DOES MARSALA LAST OPEN? Marsala wine will stay fresh open for about a month. 

Vermouth made in the Piedmont area of northwest Italy is used worldwide as a cocktail or in cocktails. All vermouth is fortified wine with many herbal ingredients based on secret family recipes from long ago. Three types of Vermouth exist: rosso is a sweet red, bianco is a medium-sweet white, and secco is a dry white used in martinis. The main brands are Cinzano and Martini & Rossi.

Madeira is named after the place it originates from, a volcanic island off the coast of Morocco. It is a fortified wine that is heated or baked during the production process, yet retains a high level of natural acidity. Balanced with high alcohol these qualities allow good quality Madeira to age longer than any other wine in the world. It is excellent after dinner with nuts or hard cheeses, and will also widely used in the kitchen, popular for Sauces.