What Is The Difference Between Fortified And Non-Fortified Wines?

Wine is a popular alcoholic beverage enjoyed by many around the world. But not all wines are created equal, and understanding the difference between fortified and non-fortified varieties can help you make an informed decision when choosing your wine.

Fortified and non-fortified wines differ in terms of alcohol content, production process, taste profile, and more. We’ll take an in-depth look at each type to give you a better understanding of how they vary so that you can pick the perfect bottle for any occasion.

Alcohol Content

Alcohol content is one of the main differences between fortified and non-fortified wines. On average, fortified wines contain 18% to 22% alcohol by volume (ABV) while non-fortified wines usually range from 10% to 14%. This means that fortified wines are significantly stronger than their counterparts.

Interestingly, some fortified wine varieties can reach up to 24%, making them much more potent than other types of alcoholic beverages.

The production process for these two types of wine also differs in terms of how they’re made. Fortified wines incorporate an additional distilled spirit such as brandy or grappa during winemaking, increasing its ABV and producing a unique flavor profile distinct from non-fortified wines.

Non-fortified wines on the other hand are produced solely with fermented grape juice without any added spirits.

Overall, the difference between fortified and non-fortified wines lies mainly in their alcohol content and production process. While both provide delicious flavors and aromas, it’s important to understand what sets them apart so we can better appreciate each variety for its uniqueness. Moving forward, let’s explore the different production processes associated with each type of wine.

Production Process

Grapes are the basis for all wines, so the type of grape used will affect the outcome of the wine.

Fermentation and aging are two processes that influence the flavor of the wine and can be done with or without additives.

Fortification, blending, and bottling are all part of the production process, as is the use of oak barrels to age the wine.

Finally, sulfites, yeast, sugar, and alcohol levels are all controlled through quality control and filtering to ensure the desired outcome and ageing time.


Grapes are the key ingredient in all wines, fortified or not. Whether it’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or any other variety, grapes provide the flavor and personality of a wine.

For both kinds of wines – fortified and non-fortified – the production process starts with harvesting ripe grapes from vineyards. However, there is an important difference between how these two types of wines are made: fortification.

Fortified wines are those that have had spirits added to them while they are fermenting. This additional alcohol helps to stop fermentation before all the sugar has been converted into alcohol, resulting in a sweeter taste and higher alcohol content than regular table wines. Popular examples include Port and Sherry.

Non-fortified wines do not have any additional spirit added during their production; therefore, they contain less alcohol and can vary greatly in sweetness depending on when fermentation was halted by cooling down the must (unfermented grape juice). Examples of non-fortified wines include most reds and whites such as Merlot and Riesling respectively.

The differences between fortified and non-fortified wines go beyond just their sweetness levels. Fortified varieties tend to be fuller bodied and richer in texture due to the increased concentration of flavors that results from adding alcohol mid-way through fermentation. On the other hand, because no extra spirit is added for non-fortified styles these typically display more subtle aromas and lighter body compared to fortified options.


Fermentation is an important step in the production process of both fortified and non-fortified wines.

In order to start fermentation, yeast needs to be added to the must – unfermented grape juice – which will then convert sugar into alcohol over a period of time.

The amount of time that is required for this conversion depends on several factors like temperature or type of wine being produced; however, it can range from about two weeks up to a few months.

For fortified wines, spirits are added during fermentation while non-fortified styles do not receive any additional spirit until after fermentation has finished.

This difference results in different sweetness levels and body characteristics between these types of wines.

Finally, techniques such as skin contact and oak aging are also employed by winemakers to influence the final outcome of their product.

Taste Profile

The production process for wines can vary greatly, depending on whether a winemaker opts for fortified or non-fortified techniques. Fortified wine is produced by adding distilled grape spirits to partially fermented grape juice and allowing the mixture to ferment until it reaches its desired alcohol content. Non-fortified wines are left unaltered, with no additional ingredients added during fermentation.

The difference in production methods has an impact on the taste profile of each type of wine. Generally speaking, fortified wines tend to be sweeter and fuller bodied than their non-fortified counterparts due to the addition of sugar from the distilled spirit being added during fermentation. This also tends to result in higher levels of acidity and tannins present in these types of wines as well.

On the other hand, non-fortified wines generally have a more delicate flavor profile that showcases light notes of fruit, herbs, or spices while still maintaining low levels of acidity and tannins. Considering both forms of wine can come in either red or white varieties, there’s plenty to explore when it comes to finding a bottle that suits your individual palate preferences.

With such diverse options available, transitioning into exploring serving temperatures is just one way to further appreciate what different wines have to offer.

Serving Temperatures

One interesting statistic to consider is that fortified wines have an alcohol content of up to 20%, while non-fortified wines typically range from 8% – 13%. This means that enjoying a glass of fortified wine will provide more than double the amount of alcohol compared to non-fortified.

Fortified wines, such as Port and Madeira, are produced by adding additional spirits or brandy during fermentation. The added spirit stops natural fermentation process so that some residual sugar remains in the finished product. As a result, fortified wines tend to be sweeter with higher levels of acidity and flavor complexity due to exposure to oxygen over time.

When it comes to serving temperatures for these two types of wine, non-fortified wines should generally be served slightly chilled at around 12°C (54°F). Fortified wines however can usually stand up better to warmer temperatures reaching upwards of 18°C (64°F) depending on the particular type.

With this in mind, one should always take into account the desired effect when choosing their preferred temperature for either fortified or non-fortified wine. Moving onto food pairings…

Food Pairings

The difference between fortified and non-fortified wines is one of the most important distinctions in the world of wine. Fortified wines are made by adding brandy or other spirits to still wines, which increases their alcohol content from around 11% to upwards of 20%. Non-fortified wines contain only natural fermentable sugars found in grapes and generally have an alcohol content below 15%.

Non-fortified wines tend to be lighter and more delicate than fortified ones, making them ideal for enjoying on their own or with a meal. They are also typically lower in sugar and calories than fortified varieties.

Here’s a list of three different types of pairing options when it comes to non-fortified wines:

  1. A Pinot Noir pairs well with grilled salmon – its light body complements the fish’s flavors nicely.

  2. Chardonnay is excellent with poultry dishes like roasted chicken – its butteriness enhances the savory dish without overpowering it.

  3. Sauvignon Blanc is perfect for cheese plates since its herbal notes bring out subtle flavor nuances in aged cheeses like Brie or Gouda.

No matter what type of food you’re serving, there’s a non-fortified wine that can make your meal even better!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Health Benefits Of Drinking Fortified Wines?

Did you know that drinking fortified wines can have some major health benefits?

A recent study showed that people who drank fortified wine could reduce their risk of heart disease by as much as 30%.

The additional nutrients and vitamins in fortified wines, such as potassium and folate, help to reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Additionally, studies suggest that moderate consumption of these types of wines can be beneficial for helping support overall cardiovascular health.

What Types Of Grapes Are Used To Make Fortified Wines?

Fortified wines are made by adding a distilled spirit, such as brandy or grape spirits, to the wine during production. This gives fortified wines higher alcohol content than non-fortified wines.

Popular grapes used in producing fortified wines include Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Palomino Fino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel de Alejandría. While these grapes alone can be used to make fortified wines, they are more often blended with other varieties to create unique flavor profiles.

How Long Do Fortified Wines Last After Opening?

Fortified wines last longer than non-fortified after opening.

Generally, fortified wines can keep for up to one month when stored in the refrigerator, whereas non-fortified should be consumed within a week of being opened.

In order to maintain freshness and flavor, it is recommended that both types of wine are kept tightly sealed and away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

Are Fortified Wines Gluten Free?

Visualize a glass of wine, made with the finest ingredients and packaged in an elegant bottle.

Most people assume that this makes it gluten free, but surprisingly many fortified wines contain trace amounts of gluten.

Fortified wines are produced by adding distilled grape spirits to regular fermented grapes, which can sometimes be derived from wheat-based alcohols, making them not completely gluten free.

It’s important to always check the label before drinking any type of wine if you have allergies or sensitivities to gluten.

How Can I Tell The Difference Between Fortified And Non-Fortified Wines By Looking At The Label?

If you’re wondering how to tell the difference between fortified and non-fortified wines, simply take a look at the label.

Fortified wines will typically contain added alcohol or brandy that is not contained in non-fortified varieties.

This additional ingredient can be found on the list of ingredients printed on the bottle, making it easy for you to identify which type of wine you’re dealing with.


Fortified and non-fortified wines each offer unique characteristics that appeal to different tastes.

Every wine lover’s journey is one of self-discovery as they explore the wide variety of flavors, aromas, and nuances these two types have to offer.

It can be likened to an adventure into a mysterious land filled with delicious surprises—a place where you’ll find something new every time you visit!

As long as you take the time to understand your preference for fortified or non-fortified wines, you can enjoy a delightful experience from start to finish.

So go forth and uncover what lies beneath the surface of this fascinating world!

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