Often described as rich, unctuous and warming, fortified wines are the perfect pours as the weather gets cooler. Made from a base of red or white wine, with the addition of a neutral grape-based spirit, this category of wine is found across the globe.
Spain and Portugal produce a range of fortified wines, from well-known Port and Sherry to under-the-radar styles like Madeira and Moscatel de Setúbal. In the New World, look to Australia for the historic wines of Rutherglen, which have been in production for over a century. In the United States, some wineries in aim to revive the Angelica category—a style of fortified wine made from the Mission grape— which was brought to California by Spanish missionaries in the 18th century.
Whatever style you desire, enjoying a fortified wine is like being wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket. Seek out these 11 pours the next time you need some wine comfort.
Fonseca 2016 Vintage Port; $120, 97 points. This bottling brings together a fine structure with great fruit to give a luscious wine that is also destined for long-term aging. With its ripe berry flavors sustained by some acidity, this is already balanced. Drink from 2028. Kobrand. Cellar Selection. –Roger Voss
Blandy’s 1977 Listrão Madeira; $450, 95 points. The Listrão grape comes in tiny quantities from the island of Porto Santo, part of the Madeira archipelago. This 1977 Madeira, from a vineyard that no longer exists, has been aged in wood, producing old-gold flavors and acidity. Medium sweet, the wine is superbly textured and ready to drink. Premium Port Wines, Inc. –R.V.
Sandeman NV Old Tawny Porto 20 Years; $60, 95 points. Sandeman’s long-standing reputation for aged tawny Port is confirmed by this wine. It is poised between fresh fruit and spice, dried dates and a generous golden glow. The wine is at its peak and ready to drink. Evaton. –R.V.
José Maria da Fonseca NV Alambre 20 Years (Moscatel de Setúbal); $70/500 ml, 94 points. This fortified wine is the color of tarnished gold. It boasts a fresh tangerine flavor that’s balanced by almond, caramel and honeyed richness. Drink now. M Imports. –R.V.
Alvear NV Oloroso Asunción Pedro Ximénez (Montilla-Moriles); $30/375 ml, 93 points. A burnished orange-meets-tawny color and lively aromas of caramel and apricot get this oloroso off to a fine start. A richly intense palate with bold acidity offers plenty of depth, while toasty flavors of coffee and walnuts finish with notes of chocolate and café latte. Overall, this is stylish and a cut above. Jorge Ordóñez Selections. Editors’ Choice. –Michael Schachner
Chambers Rosewood Vineyards NV Muscat (Rutherglen); $16/375 ml, 93 points. Chambers is a benchmark producer of the Rutherglen style and this late-picked Muscat offers a burnt-orange-sunset hue in the glass, with a green rim. Evoking enticing aromas of orange marmalade, honey, medjool dates and almond blossom, the palate continues along similar lines. Unctuous and intensely sweet, there’s just enough acidity keep this from syrup territory. It would benefit enormously from a creamy, salty cheese pairing. Old Bridge Cellars. –Christina Pickard
Glunz NV Angelica Mission (California); $38, 93 points. This wine pays homage to the old Angelicas of Spanish colonial history. It pours a caramel color, loaded with aromas of brown sugar, maple and Bourbon. Caramelized fruit cake and caramel-apple flavors sing on the palate, which is salty and hot. Editors’ Choice. –Matt Kettmann
González Byass NV Del Duque Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum Amontillado Palomino (Jerez); $50, 93 points. A tawny color and deep, lush aromas of pecan pie, toasted almond and brown sugar open this stylish amontillado made from wines that went into barrel 30 years ago or longer. Toasty richness accompanies requisite flavors of almond and peanut, while this is elegant and lasts for ages on the finish. Drink through 2040. Gonzalez Byass USA. –M.S.
Alkoomi NV Liqueur Muscat (Great Southern); $18/375 ml, 92 points. In the far southern reaches of Western Australia, Alkoomi makes this fortified dessert wine in the traditional Aussie fashion, from old-vine Muscat. Walnut-colored, the nose is a heady and multifaceted combo of citrus peel, fig, mocha and nuts with a woodsy underbelly. The palate is unctuous and very sweet, but the lift of acidity and alcohol means this never feels cloying, and layers of flavor linger on the finish. Open with salted caramels or cheese. –C.P.
Cossart Gordon NV 10 Years Old Bual Madeira; $30, 92 points. Intense with wood-aging flavors that have subdued the fruit giving richness and taut, tangy, spice and acidity. The wine’s richness is balanced by the dry character at its core from the orange flavors. Drink now. Vineyard Brands. Editors’ Choice. –R.V.
St. Amant 2019 Bootleg Port (Amador County); $18/500 ml, 92 points. Opulent, ripe and flavorful, this fortified wine made from traditional Portuguese grape varieties boasts wonderful dried-fruit flavors matched by moderate tannins for good balance. It tastes rich and indulgent but refined. –Jim Gordon
Last Updated: June 6, 2023