Making Fortified Wine By Adding Brandy!

Making Fortified WineHave you ever thought about fortifying homemade wine. It’s an interesting style that’s made through a relatively simple process. You might want to see if it’s something you’re interested in…

If you don’t know what a fortified wine is, it’s a wine to which brandy or some other spirit has been added. Since brandy and other distilled products are high in alcohol – typically around 40% or 80 proof – this will raise the finished alcohol level of the wine. The home winemaker can do the very same thing by adding brandy to homemade wine.

From a traditional standpoint, fortification was done to make a wine more stable during long trips by ship or by cart. The wine’s alcohol level was raised to around 17% to 22% with the addition of brandy. The higher alcohol level acted as a preservative, diminishing the chance of spoilage during the long journey.

The big three fortified wines that most people have heard of are: Sherry, Madeira and Port. All three are Old World wines: Sherry originating from Spain, Madeira and Port from Portugal.

Shop Wine BottlesThe first thing the home winemaker needs to understand before making fortified wine with their homemade wine is that this process can be somewhat costly. For a five gallon batch of wine it takes five fifths (750ml) of brandy to raise the batch by 6-2/3 percent alcohol. With a typical fortified wine being about 20% alcohol and the cheapest bottle of brandy being about $10 to $13 a bottle, making fortified wine can be somewhat cost prohibitive.

With this in mind, the best strategy for the home winemaker is to get as much alcohol as they can from the fermentation, itself. To learn how to get the most alcohol out of a fermentation you might want to go over the article, Making High Alcohol Wines listed on our website.

Here is a calculator listing that shows how much the alcohol is raised in a 5 gallon batch with each additional 750ml bottle of brandy or other distilled spirit. This is assuming that they are 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).

1 Bottle adds 1.5%
2 Bottles add 3.0%
3 Bottles add 4.3%
4 Bottles add 5.5%
5 Bottles add 6.7%
6 Bottles add 7.7%
7 Bottles add 8.8%

shop_liqueur_flavoringsYou will want to shoot for a total alcohol level of 17 to 22 percent. So if you have a batch of wine that has fermented to 14 percent alcohol, you might add 4 bottles to raise the total alcohol level to 19.5% (14.0 + 5.5).

When fortifying wine, you can use a regular brandy made from grape wine such as E&J and add it to a red wine you have made. This would be the most straightforward way of adding brand to a homemade wine. But there are also some other, more imaginative, things you can do.

For example, you could take a blackberry brandy and add it to a blackberry wine, or use a peach brandy to fortify a peach wine. You could also take a Merlot wine and add to it a raspberry brandy to accent its flavors. With all the different types of brandys that are available, the combinations are endless.

It is important that you make sure the fermentation is done before fortifying the wine with brandy. Once the wine has been fortified you will have great difficulty getting the wine to ferment, ever again. Not only does fortifying wine help to stop spoilage, it helps to stop fermentation.

After fortifying the wine, continue on as you would with making any other wine. If you are using a wine ingredient kit continue following the directions. If you are making wine from fresh fruit, give the wine plenty of time to clear and bottle as you normally would.

Shop Wine Ingredient KitsAs you can see fortifying wine is not all that complicated. It is mostly a matter of adding brandy to a homemade wine. And, it makes a wonderful after-dinner wine. The brandy’s intensity combined with the original wine’s character, creates a powerfully, pleasant drink.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

19 thoughts on “Making Fortified Wine By Adding Brandy!

  1. Why not use Everclear or Vodka which would be a cheaper option? I added Everclear to my 6 gallon batch of peach wine and it turned out great.

    • Dave, there is certainly no reason why you can’t do this. For the sake of flavor balance, when you add more alcohol, you usually want to add more flavor as well. Brandy does this. Without the additional flavor, a hot wine can taste watered-down. In the case of your peach wine, you might have considered adding peach brandy.

  2. I have had good success using the EC Kraus recipes for blueberry and cherry wines adapted to make port. I increased the amount of fruit by 50% (e.g. 15 pounds instead of 10 pounds), fermented with regular yeast (Montrachet), and then fortified with Korbel brandy when the alchohol is about 12% and brix was about 10. Final alcohol level is 18% to 20%, brix 7, and an increase in final volume of about 30% with the brandy addition. The fortification stops fermentation and the yeast drops to the bottom. This approach is a good way to control the final level of desired sweetness in the port. I have also made Syrah port this way, but fortified at 5 brix with a final brix of about 3 for a slightly dryer port.

  3. Why even bother coming into our world everybody with a comment supporting store bought liquor being mixed with home made wine or shine has no place here sorry but you don’t get you alcohol content by mixing with store bought liquor. You get it by learning and mastering a traditional way of lifestyle I personally make both and id sit either of my juices against anything you buy. Its a sad thing to see what a small few of us still have an respect for what we do. And now days seems alot of people wanna support a title they aren’t worthy of.. I just racked 5 gallons of blackberry wine to sit up for another month then it will be distilled or I have a 180 proof shine I also made that could be blended in…. to all those who still respect the art of creating a liquid signature for themselves shine on my friends and for the rest of ya looking for a quick fix to boost your low level juice goodluck

    • Brian,

      I love your comments…… My wife and I just returned from a vacation in the Duro Valley of Portugal. That is exactly how they do it…….they use the skins, seeds, stems and some of the residual pressings and distill it…..they infuse this right back into the blend of their original juice that they have made the wine with itself. I tried to, without success of course, to get the blend or ratio…… no way was that going to happen, but I tried.

  4. I didn’t see any mention of ice wine. I make a lot of different fruit wines and occasionally will freeze and drain off the spirits. This leaves behind a lot of water.Would this be considered a fortified wine?

    • Jason, first let me clear up something. Ice Wine is made from the juice of frozen grapes. What you are referring to is like making Applejack. Freezing wine and removing the water is not the same as a fortified wine. Freezing the wine and removing the water is not exactly distilling but does fall under the distilling category. Please keep in mind while making wine/beer is legal, anything falling under the distilling umbrella is not legal. Now the difference, when you freeze the wine you are concentrating the flavor as well as the alcohol. When you make a fortified wine b adding stilled spirits, you are diluting the flavor while adding the alcohol. I hope this information helps.

    • Mr.Kraus, I have a finished blackberry raspberry wine that is 12% I would like to fortify it with wild Turkey 101 to 17% or 18% this is a gallon experiment! How much do I add?

      • Brian, the Wild Turkey 101 has 50.5% alcohol so according to our calculations, you would add about 23 ounces to achieve approximately 18% alcohol in a one gallon batch of 12% wine.

  5. Mr Kraus
    In keeping with my father’s Portuguese tradition, I am making some Madeira wine. I have 8 gallons I want to add Graves 190 proof to fortify it. Is there a formula I could use before I put myself to sleep after drinking a cup?

    • Coach John, our best recommendation is to use the guide in this article that tells you how much one 750ml bottle of brandy or other distilled spirit will increase the alcohol content in a 5-gallon batch and adjusting it to the 190 proof as opposed to 80 proof. Basically, you will be using less than half of what is called for using 80 proof.

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