Fortified Red And White Wine: How It's Made

Many of the bottles in our range of Pineau des Charentes are fortified, giving them a unique flavour and higher alcohol content. To appreciate theses distinctive wines, it’s helpful to know more  about the processes used by our talented producers.

Fortified red and white wine is a wine to which a distilled spirit – in the case of Pineau, Cognac eau de vie – is added. Traditionally wine was fortified to preserve it, but the system is still used in modern making because it adds deeper flavours to the finished product.

During the fermentation process, yeast cells in the grape must convert sugar into alcohol until it reaches an alcohol level of around 16 per cent. If fermentation is allowed to continue to completion, the result will be a wine that is low in sugar and dry. The earlier in the fermentation process that alcohol is added, the sweeter the wine will be. For fortified white and red wine the alcohol is added shortly before or after the end of the fermentation.

Swirl a glass of Pineau and you’ll notice how the viscous liquid runs in rivulets down the inside of the glass; these ‘legs’, as they are known, indicate a fairly high alcohol content of about 17%.

In fact, Pineau des Charentes was France's first fortified white wine to be awarded the prestigious Appellatioin D'Origine Control (AOC) in 1945. Wine growers and cellar masters have shaped this delicate wine by adhering closely to traditional production methods passed down through generations.