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More on 'fortified' wines

"I thought Sherry was dry and Madeira was sweet," a correspondent wrote after reading our recent reports on these wines. So before we move on to other topics, let's take a quick look at the varieties of "fortified" wines - laced with brandy to make them ageworthy and strong - that have evolved in many wine regions near the Mediterranean.

PORT, perhaps the most widely known, is made in Oporto, Portugal, and is invariably sweet. In the form of Vintage Port it is requires years of cellar time to mature. But Tawny Port, aged in barrels until its red color fades to amber, is ready to enjoy as soon as you buy it. Australia also makes fine sweet wines that adopt the name "Port," and a few Port-style wines are made in the U.S. and elsewhere.

SHERRY, from Jerez in Spain, is the most idiosyncratic of fortified wines. Most Sherries are made with a natural yeast called "flor." Many vintages are blended and aged in a rack of barrels called "solera." Sherries may range from very sweet to fully dry styles - like the "Fino" featured yesterday - that are usually served before dinner or even with a meal.

MADEIRA, featured in Monday's Wine Advisor, comes from the island of the same name off the northwest coast of Africa. Rich and strong, naturally oxidized from aging on shipboard or in heated buildings called "estufa," Madeira - like Sherry - ranges from bone-dry to toothache-sweet.

MARSALA, made in Sicily, was popularized in the 18th century as an export competitor to Port and Sherry. Nowadays it's mostly known in cookery and as an ingredient in zabaglione, an Italian dessert. It's made both dry and sweet.

MALAGA, a Spanish neighbor of Sherry, produces sweet fortified wines from similar grapes.

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Express Notes:

This is Wine Advisor Express, the new daily edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, distributed Tuesdays through Fridays. To change your E-mail address, switch from daily to the weekly (Mondays only) distribution, or for any other administrative matters, E-mail

Wednesday, May 9, 2001

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