Friday February 18th, 2022


In previous publications, we discussed the great wine classifications and their typologies. This time we will focus on those we called special wines, that is, those that have unique characteristics derived from:

  • Type of grapes with which they are made, affected by a climatic influence or external agent.
  • Winemaking process different from the traditional one for still wines derived from technical or technological innovations.

We can talk about different types:

  • Sweet
  • Generous and Liquor wines
  • Sparkling
  • Wine derivatives (flavoured wines, vermouth …)



Within sweet wines we will talk about those that can be considered natural sweet wines. These are those whose sugar comes from the partial fermentation of the must leaving residual sugar in that process. These wines are characterized by having low alcohol levels, up to approximately 11º.

We can distinguish different types of natural sweet wines.

  • Fermentative stop: in these wines, the fermentation stops due to the high content of sugar in the grapes, which results in a wine with a high content of natural sugars. We describe the most common types that we can find:
    • Late Harvest: the ripening process is lengthened as much as possible leaving the grapes without harvesting to a point of extreme maturation without getting to pass through so the weather conditions are important. They tend to be very aromatic, sweet, sour and full-bodied.
    • Passito (raisins wine): we find the origin of this type of wine in Italy. They are made with grapes that have been passivated and dehydrated in the sun to increase the concentration of sugars by losing the water of the grape. The result is sweet wines, structured and with a high alcohol content.
    • Ice wine: these wines are only made in very cold areas where the weather conditions allow the grapes to freeze. The water in the grapes freezes concentrating the sugars in this way and making the extraction very scarce and the concentration very high. These wines are sweet, with great aromatic persistence, fresh and with marked acidity.
  • Noble rot: these wines are made with overripe grapes and covered with Botrytis Cinerea mould. A noble mushroom that favours certain aromas and characteristics. The best-known wines of this type are:
    • Tokaji (Hungary) very balanced between acidity and sweetness, elegant and fresh. Very complex on the nose. They are classified by sugar content in puttonyos (3-6 puttonyos 60-150 gr / l of sugar approximately) and Aszu Essence (180 gr / litre of sugar)
    • Sauternes (France) sweet white par excellence that is made in Bordeaux. The varieties from which this sweet wine comes are Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle.



There are different nomenclatures for these wines. Later we will talk about wines with liquor or not, as they are made by adding alcohol or natural sweet wines at different times before or during the production process. This addition is called pitch and can be:

  • Aged wine blended with new wine.
  • Combination of generous wines with natural sweets or concentrated musts.

When we speak of “fortified” or “encabezados”, they refer generally to all those wines to which wine alcohol has been added (obtained by the distillation of wine, pomace or other products from the vineyard).

  • Encabezados: If this alcohol is added during the fermentation process,
  • Fortified: has added alcohol, regardless of the moment.

This type of wine is rooted in its processing area and is closely linked to traditional norms and specific elaboration of its origin.

These wines will have between 14-23º and a sugar content of about 50-100 gr / l approximately. The majority of this sugar is natural when a fermentative stop is made with the addition of alcohol or with the high concentration of sugar when adding musts.

We will distinguish several types:

  • Generous: very marked by the grapes with which they are made. They can be by adding wine alcohol or natural sweet wines.
  • Liquor wine: they present a sugar content of at least 50gr / l. Its specificity of grapes or processing is not necessary.
  • Generous liquor: at least 100gr / l. They allow the addition of natural sweets, concentrated musts and mistelas. Only certain grapes and specific elaborations are allowed.

Do not think that all wines are sweet because we can also find dry wines and doomed in this category.

The boom and expansion of these wines came in the 17th century due to the need to look for a conservation method for wine that travelled across the ocean for long periods of time without spoiling. With the residual sugar of the wines and the unstable weather conditions during these voyages, there was a high risk of re-fermenting the wine during the trip, so they started adding extra alcohol before boarding to limit the activity of the yeasts that allow the fermentation process (transformation of sugar into alcohol). It was the British who gave rise to this type of wine in Portugal and converted the Oporto wines into some of the most renowned fortifications.



We dedicate a special section to the wines of Jerez for being our most Special wines with a marked history and singularity.

These wines are produced in what is called “Marco de Jerez” in the triangle formed by Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa María (provinces of Seville and Cádiz respectively)

Since the eighteenth century, wineries have been obliged to keep a third of their production in breeding, which gave rise to the so-called aging system. The criaderas or soleras are the pyramids of barrels that mark the aging system of these wines combining the content from top to bottom so that a part of the content of the upper cask passes to the next and from this, the same proportion, to the next making a partial filling and combining vintages (key for these wines)

We can distinguish several types according to their alcoholic strength, production process, oxidative aging or not, etc.

  • Fino: dry white wine based on palomino made with “veil de flor” aging and topped up to 15%.
  • Manzanilla: it would be the equivalent to the fine in terms of the production process, but its origin is in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
  • Amontillado: this palomino wine combines a flower veil aging with a subsequent oxidative aging giving rise to complex wines. Its color will be higher than that of fino or chamomile.
  • Oloroso: they lead to more than 17% of alcohol which prevents the creation of the veil of flowers and, therefore, suffer an oxidative aging. Structured and complex wines.
  • Palo Cortado: heads until reaching between 17 and 22º and carries out oxidative aging. It is a wine that combines the elegance of an amontillado with the structure of an oloroso.
  • Pedro Ximenez: made with grapes of the same name variety sun dried obtaining a must with high concentration of sugars and aromas. Oxidative aging High complexity without losing the varietal characteristics.



In these wines, after the alcoholic fermentation, a mixture of sugar and yeast (tirage liqueur) is added to the base wine, which will cause a second fermentation and in which the carbonic gas characteristic of sparkling wines will be generated.

The aromas that will give as results will be the fruit derived from the variety with which it is made and also the secondary aromas derived from the double fermentation.

One of the indicatives that show the quality of sparkling wines are their bubbles, how much thinner, more concentrated and faster the better.

Depending on the amount of sugar in the tirage liquor and expedition, we will obtain different types of sparkling wines:

  • Brut nature: without added sugar or with very little residual sugar (around 3 gr/l).
  • Extra Brut: between 0-6 gr / l
  • Brut: up to 12 gr / l
  • Extra Dry: between 12-17 gr / l
  • Dry: from 17 to 32 gr / l
  • Semi-dry: from 35 to 50 gr / l.
  • Sweet: more than 50 gr / l.




Those that are obtained from a base wine supplemented with harmless plant substances, whether bitter or stimulants, and their extracts or essences, or musts, mistelas or wine alcohol authorized.

They can be dry or sweet in different levels, depending on the sugar that has been added.

Its minimum alcohol content will be 14º and the proportion of base wine will represent, at least, 75% in volume of the final product.

We can consider several types:

  • Snacks: the stimulating nature of the added substances predominates
  • Vermouths: the substances added are of the genus Artemis.
  • Bitters: those that have as quinoa bark (bitter) added vegetable substance.