StateWays - March/April 2016

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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StateWays n n March/April 2016 42 Demystifying Dessert Wines F ortifi ed wines – notably Port and Sherry – are saddled with a dusty image. They're often unfairly seen as the beverages of old British men (Port) or little old ladies (Sherry). It can be a challenge to change those attitudes. Fortifi ed wines have a devoted – if small – following, but increasing that audience takes a lot of promotion and edu- cation. And the organizations that represent the producers of Port and Sherry have concentrated most of their efforts on the on-premise world. It's no surprise that som- meliers are some of the biggest champions of Sherry, especially the dry versions, because they understand its versatility. Fortifi ed wine is any wine to which a distilled spirit has been added. It can be dry, as is the case with some Sherries, but it's more often sweet, making it suitable for dessert. The method for adding the spirits differs depending on the wine. In the case of Port, the alcohol is added to the fermenting wine while some sugar remains. The alcohol kills off the yeast, fermentation stops and the resulting wine is left sweet, and with a higher level of alcohol, usually around 20 percent. Sherry is fortifi ed after fermentation, and the amount of alcohol – generally 15 to 22 percent – depends on the style of Sherry. The dessert styles get their sugar from small amounts of intensely sweet wine that's blended in. There are, of course, other types of fortifi ed wines besides Port and Sherry. There are domestic versions of both, although true Port comes only from the Douro region of Portugal and true Sherry is from the area around Jerez, Spain (Trade agreements don't allow new U.S. wines to use the terms, but some older brands were grandfathered in). The category also includes wines such as Madeira (Portugal), Marsala (Italy), Banyuls (France), Vermouth (anywhere) and oth- ers. And it encompasses inexpensive U.S. products like Richard's Wild Irish Rose (the top-selling U.S. fortifi ed, according to the Beverage Information & Insights Group [BIIG]), MD 20/20 and Thun- derbird, although the group's statistics indicate that sales of most of these have are fl at or declining. PORT'S PREMIUM GROWTH Exports of Port to the United States have been up and down since 2010, according to fi gures from the Port and Douro Wines Institute (IVDP). In 2015, for example, 408,000 cases of Port were exported to the U.S., a de- crease of 3.4 percent from the previous year. But the number is up consider- ably from 2010, when 374,000 cases were exported. The value of the ex- ports has been up every year, refl ect- ing the increased popularity of more expensive products, like aged tawny. Peter Scott, president of Premium Port Wines in San Francisco, agrees that the more premium Ports are fu- eling growth. Premium Port Wines is the U.S. importer for Symington Fam- ily Estates, which includes Cockburn's – the top imported Port brand, accord- ing to BIIG – Graham's and Dow's, among others, as well as Blandy's Madeira; the company is owned by Symington. While sales of the less ex- pensive products – what Scott calls the "standard" category – are fl at, Syming- ton Ports with retail prices in the high teens, low 20s and above (sometimes way above) are seeing healthy growth. As an example, he cited the Graham's 10 Year Old Tawny, which was up about 40 percent last year. In fact, he says, aged tawny Ports – which are blends of several years that are aged in barrel and labeled with a year designation, like the 10 Year Old – are doing well across the board. "That is the really interesting sector," he says. The company relaunched the Graham's aged tawnies in a clear bottle at the end of 2012 so that consumers can see the golden brown color. The company is BY LAURIE DANIEL

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