Off the Beaten Track Part 3, By Nick Adams.

Food Matching with Fortified Wines – Throughout the Year Summary – Part 3

All fortified wines work well with food – which might come as a surprise. The sweeter fortified wines can also, naturally, be enjoyed as an after-dinner drink. Dry Fino sherries make excellent aperitifs. Options I would recommend are:


  • Fino/Manzanilla – fantastic with shellfish, bisque soup and lighter tapas eg calamari
  • Dry Amontillado/Oloroso – perfect with more robust tapas – eg Ibérico potato croquettes; cured hams eg Ibérico, Serrano, Palma and hard white cheeses
  • Sweet Sherries (eg PX) – work well with pastries and caramel/toffee dishes – and yes still poured over vanilla ice cream!


  • Ruby, LBV and (for a treat) Vintage proper – I know this is as old as the hills, but they all work wonderfully with cheese – especially blue cheeses
  • Reserve aged Tawny Ports – these are more delicate and should always be served chilled – yes still an option with cheese, but a pleasant surprise with custard/cream dishes classically Crème Brûlée


  • Particularly good with mature hard cheeses and cakes/pastries – the richer, sweeter Malmsey (Malvasia) styles also work well with caramelised desserts

Muscat & Grenache styles

  • Lighter Muscats (eg French VDNs) work well with fruit and meringue (eg Pavlova) – and more exotic fruits such as mango, lychee, melon, pineapple etc. Work a treat with Bread & Butter pudding
  • Liqueur aged Muscats take on and win with chocolate dishes – one of the few that succeed! Also, any preserved/compote style fruit-based puddings, as well as caramelised options (eg stickie toffee pudding)
  • Grenache based VDNs can also work with chocolate dishes and caramelised desserts. They are also a nice option with the cheese board if you want something less “spiritous” than port

Service Temperatures

Apart from Ruby and Vintage ports – which are best served at room temperature – all fortified wines should be served from lightly to well chilled. The simple rule is the sweeter and more intense the wine the colder it should be served. Really rich wines such as Australian Liqueur Muscat and Pedro Ximénez Sherry must be served very well chilled.

Room Temperature: Ruby, LBV & Vintage Ports

Serve Cool: Amontillado & Oloroso Sherry; Sercial Madeira

Chilled: all other Fortified wines except …

Well Chilled: Rutherglen Liqueur Muscat & Pedro Ximénez Sherry

The “Copita” shaped glass – please see picture – is the ideal size and shape to enjoy all fortified wines – poured from about a quarter to third full

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Storage and Keeping Qualities

A good number of fortified wines are available in ½ and 50cl sized bottles which is a great purchase measure and the right size for a dinner party where you might want to serve the sweeter styles with pudding and/or cheese. A half bottle will go around 6 people in this instance.

Except for Fino and Manzanilla Sherry all fortified wines will keep for a good time once opened – which makes them very economical in the longer run. The Fino style sherries need to be drunk within a week of opening and I would always recommend vacu-vin the bottle and replace in the fridge for storage.

With the sweeter styles you would not want to drink a lot of them anyway in one go. All these styles can be stored in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks without any concern.

All styles of Madeira, due to their production process, will last for many weeks on opening.

Most Ports will comfortably last a week once opened – just make sure they are kept cool and away from light once opened. Always decant Vintage Port proper – I always use a muslin sheet in a funnel so you have no worries about any sediment getting into the decanter.

I do passionately recommend fortified wines – they are world classics and make for a wonderful change and option – especially at the beginning or end of a meal and are deceptively fine value for money.

NA FGWS 2020 06