Erik Neilson on March 1, 2017 0 Comments There are few aspects of the wine world that confuse people quite as much as fortified wine. In many ways, fortified wine has a relatively poor reputation due to the fact that they’re often sequestered to holiday dinners, and this is just for the sweet varieties. Dry fortified wine gets even less attention — many wine enthusiasts don’t even realize that it exists. The fact is, there are so many beautiful examples of Marsala, Madeira, Sherry and Port available on the market today that overlooking them would be nothing short of a travesty. It’s often assumed that great fortified wine is far too expensive for anyone on a normal budget to enjoy, but this is seldom the case. Rather, there are plenty of great values to be had in fortified wine, and knowing what to look for is half the battle. Here are eight of the best bottles to seek out. 1. Lillet Blanc If you’ve never heard of Lillet, you’re not alone. An aperitif that hailing from France, Lillet is created by adding brandy that has been macerated with orange to a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. The wine is then aged in oak casks, maturing until it reaches approximately 17% ABV. Medium-sweet in flavor, Lillet Blanc showcases a spicy, cedar-laden nose filled with licorice and orange flavors that give way to a soft, warm and pleasant finish. Available for around only $16, it’s one of the best values in fortified wine and is best served on ice. 2. Bodegas Hidalgo “La Gitana” Manzanilla There are a number of different styles of Sherry, some of which most casual wine drinkers have never heard of. Manzanilla fits this description, which is a shame given how delicious the wine can be. To gain the Manzanilla stamp, the wine must be matured in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. It’s the lightest style of sherry available, bursting with notes of fresh-cut flowers and oceanic minerality. An affordable luxury if there ever was one, this is a fortified wine that should be enjoyed in full amongst a number of dinner guests. 3. Burmester 10-year-old Tawny Port The Douro region of Portugal is currently producing some of the best-value table wines in the world, and many people are turning to Douro reds as daily staples. Historically, however, the region has been known not for its everyday wines, but for its Port production. Burmester 10-year-old Tawny Port spends its life in oak casks before being bottled, pouring a reddish amber and giving off an aroma of toasted walnuts, smokey stone fruit and brown sugar. Silky and warming, there are few better ways to close off the palate after a decadent meal. Tawny Port can fetch high prices, but this wonderful example can be had for around $25 — truly one of the best deals in fortified wine. 4. Valdespino Palo Cortado Viejo CP There are some bottles of Sherry that feature moderate price tags, yet exude luxury in their flavors and aromas. Valdespino Palo Cortado Viejo CP is a prime example of how roughly $40 can buy world-class fortified wines, and it’s not hard to find if you put in a little bit of effort. Aged for a minimum of 25 years, this Sherry exhibits notes of cigar box, lemon juice, spices and fresh herbs, all melding into an unbelievably complex finish. For special occasions or simply to warm up on a cold winter’s night, Valdespino Palo Cortado Viejo CP is one of the best values out there and a perfect offering for those who have never tasted highly refined Sherry. 5. Ruffino Serelle Vin Santo del Chianti Unbeknownst to many is the fact that Tuscany produces a unique, quaffable dessert wine that should not be missed. Made from white grapes that have been aged for a minimum of five years, Ruffino Serelle Vin Santo del Chianti is bronze in color and features a soft, fruity aroma upon opening. Dryer than many fortified wines and a bit lighter than Port, Ruffino Serelle Vin Santo del Chianti pairs well with Italian desserts due to its licorice and walnut notes. At around $25, it’s an affordable dessert wine that stands apart as being unique to itself. 6. Fonseca Vintage Port Another Port from the Douro region of Portugal, Fonseca Vintage Port is one of the more expensive bottles on this list at around $110. That being said, this Port can hold its own against bottles worth five-times its cost, making it an incredible value that can be ideal for opening after a celebratory meal of any kind. The silky texture of this vintage Port matches up with blackcurrant flavors to create a highly luxurious, highly ageable fortified wine that’s not to be missed. Right now, the 2009 vintage is the one to look for. 7. Poças Colheita Port Also a Douro Port, the 1994 bottling of Poças Colheita Port is a mature fortified wine at an amazing price of under $30. The aroma of this wine does not hold back in even the slightest, presenting big, rich scents of walnuts and licorice. Upon tasting Poças Colheita Port, notes of orange peel and wet earth overwhelm the palate, making each sip one to be savored thoroughly. This is a strong wine that may be a bit much for those who are brand new to mature Port, but it’s a truly excellent example of what Port wine is capable of achieving. 8. Blandy’s 5 Year Old Alvada Madeira From Madeira, Spain comes this lively, golden-hued fortified wine. With a rich bouquet of dark fruits, warm spice and caramel, Blandy’s 5 Year Old Alvada Madeira is as full-bodied an example you’re likely to find of this intriguing style of dessert wine. It’s also quite affordable at around $20, so don’t be afraid to give it a try even if you’re not sure if it’s for you. The world of fortified wines is vast, and no one can get to know it in full over just a few bottles. The more you branch out, however, the more attuned you’ll become at picking out dessert wines you like and identifying those that you do not.