Behind the Label: Sherry and Port

In modern times, there has been a notable trend against sweet wines by today’s wine aficionado seeing the demand for dry wines skyrocket since the turn of the century. The pushback against the sweeter flavour profile has resulted in collateral damage, with dessert wines – some of the most complex, long-lived wines in the world, with the deepest histories – falling off the radar of most wine lovers.

While there’s no hard and fast definition for dessert wines, they deserve their place on the menu, whether accompanying a dessert, as an aperitif or simply enjoying on their own.

The best-known dessert wines (such as Sherry and Port) are fortified wines, which were introduced during the Age of Exploration when voyagers would strengthen their wines to withstand travel. These are made by adding brandy to a wine either during or after fermentation, depending on the desired sweetness.

Sherry and Port are the most popular of these after-dinner drinks. But, what’s the difference? It all comes down to where they are from as well as which grapes are used. Very simply, Port is a sweet red wine originating from northern Portugal, while sherry is made with white grapes in what is known as “the Sherry Triangle”, an area in Spain.

Port tends to be rich and sweet because it is fortified halfway through the fermentation process. This differs from sherry, which is fortified after the fermentation process is complete, giving it a dryer texture.