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With the Southern Hemisphere’s winter season creeping around the corner, there has never been a better time to consider some of our favourite wintery staples – fortified wine. The Saxon Head Sommelier, Lloyd Jusa, ran through some of the basics with us – as well as sharing his favourite choice tipples with which to cuddle up in front of the fireplace.

There are five basic styles of fortified wine – varying by regional preferences or the methods used in producing them:

  1. First up we have Madeira. This is a white fortified wine hailing from the Portuguese island of the same name.
  2. Next we have Marsala – the Italian specialty which originates from the country’s southern region surrounding Sicily and often used in cooking – one of my favourites being in the dessert Tiramisu.
  3. Port wine is the best-known fortified wine, produced exclusively in Portugal – although similar fortified wines ‘in the style of port’ is also produced in other regions, including here in South Africa.
  4. Sherry is a well-known fortified wine produced in Southwest Spain. It comes in fino (dry and light-bodied) and oloroso (dry but richer) styles.
  5. Finally, we have Vermouth. Many people tend to think of Vermouth as a liquor – perhaps due to it being used in martini’s – but it is indeed a fortified wine and great to sip on its own as an aperitif. (and a great martini never goes amiss either!)

Now that we have the basics down, it is time for my favourites – Vintage Ports. Even though prices for the best Vintage Ports are now orbiting the moon, you can still enjoy many bottles at more down-to-earth rates, which, for South Africa, means their fortified peers. My personal favourites are:

  • Boplaas 2009 Cape Vintage Reserve Port,
  • De Krans Cape Tawny (Limited Release), and
  • Allesverloren Vintage

These beauties have garnered adulation largely due to their versatility; be it indulgence by the inglenook, or as dessert or cheese accompaniments.