Description 1 of 1

 

Marsala is the regional fortified wine of Sicily, Italy. As with other famous European fortified wines like Port or Madeira, it was originally produced not for local consumption, but export to Great Britain. In the 1770s, English wine merchant John Woodhouse began adding grape brandy to Sicilian wines so they could last the sea voyage home. The wines were already high in residual sugar from sun ripened grapes, and were a natural base for sweet wine. It met with instant success and over time, became a more refined product.
 
Well, some of it. For many years, there were no restrictions on the crops used for Marsala. The higher quality Inzolia and Grillo varietals were skipped in favor of Catarratto, which could be grown quickly and in huge amounts, but affected flavors. It was not uncommon for sugar, or worse, other artificial sweeteners, to be added to try and mask the acidity of Catarratto. Thus, most Marsala became known as a cheap cooking wine.
 
DOC laws were revised in 1984 restricting yields and expanding allowable grapes to include Pignatello, Nerello Mascalese, Damaschino and Nero D’Avola. Since then quality has improved, although the cheap ones are still produced. 
 
The following are the age, color and sweetness classifications of Marsala:
 
Fine =  1 year
Superiore = 2 years
Superiore Riserva = 4 years
Vergine/Soleras = 5 years 
Vergine/Solera Stravecchio = 10 years
oro = gold
ambra = amber
rubino = ruby
secco = dry (40 g/l residual sugar)
semisecco = semisweet (40 - 100 g/l)
dolce = sweet (100 + g/l)
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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