Marsala, the famous, dry and sweet Italian dessert wine
Marsala is a fortified wine produced in the area around Marsala, Sicily. It has a long history and traditions, and today it is recognized as one of the best Italian wines thanks to its dry and sweet flavor.
Where it is produced
Marsala (pic nr°1) is a very nice town located on the western side of Sicily, in the province of Trapani. The first settlements in this area date back to the Roman age and the current city is home to many attractions you can visit once here. Anyway, the city of Marsala is mostly known for the production of the Marsala wine (pic nr°2) (pic central), whose name comes right from this town. The region around Marsala is the main production center but, according to the laws, Marsala wine can be produced in the whole area belonging to the province of Trapani, except the municipalities of Pantelleria, Favignana, and Alcamo. The Marsala production area is especially suited to viticulture, due to the quality of the soil and the exposition to the sun.
History & how it is made
The mass production and the worldwide popularity of Marsala are attributed to John Woodhouse, an English trader who disembarked in Marsala in 1773. Tasting the local wine he liked it so much that he has decided to take it to Britain (adding an amount of eau de vie to it, this is why Marsala is a fortified wine). In fact, Marsala wine has become very popular in his country, so, since then, Woodhouse first, and Benjamin Ingham later, have worked on the mass production, commercialization, and promotion of this wine, until the first Italian Marsala-producing winery opened in 1832 purchasing Woodhouse's firm, among others. It was Cantina Florio, which is still today a very popular brand in Italy.
In 1963, a consortium was founded in order to safeguard and promote Marsala wine, while in 1969, it was the first wine in Italy granted a DOC status (the Italian appellation of "Protected Designation of Origin" - DPO).
There are several kinds of Marsala Wines depending on the:
- color, it can be Oro (gold), Ambra (amber) or Rubino (ruby red);
- sugar content, it can be sweet, semi-dry or dry;
- methods of production, it can be Fine, Superiore, Superiore Riserva, Vergine and Vergine Riserva.
Depending on different grape varieties, different production techniques can be implemented. Sometimes, a small quantity of cooked must is added (for Marsala Ambra).
Qualities & how it looks like
Depending on the type, the color Marsala wine can change from amber yellow to gold and to ruby red. Oro and Ambra have got a persistent aroma that recalls tobacco, licorice, and wood, and the flavor is sweet and intense. Rubino has got a fruitier aroma and an aromatic flavor. Marsala Superiore, Superiore Riserva, and Vergine can have different hues in their aroma, also due to the aging processes, but the features that all of them have in common is the persistent, rich and intense flavor.
The best way to taste it
Marsala wine is considered as one of the best dessert wines of the world, therefore, it is perfect to be served together with fruit, fruit salads, cakes, biscuits, pastries and all kinds of desserts, from the most delicate to the most intense ones. Thanks to its unique flavor, Marsala wine is actually excellent when tasted by itself as well.
Also, this wine is typically used in the Italian cuisine, therefore, it can be an ingredient in many Italian dishes, from meat-based ones like the famous "Marsala veal escalope" to many desserts, like "Sicilian cannoli", or can simply add a stronger flavor to tarts and fruit.
Marsala wine is also the key ingredient of Zabaione (pic nr°3), an Italian sweet sauce. It is a great delicacy, and also very easy to prepare. Here is the recipe:
- add 100 grams of sugar to the yolks of 6 eggs and beat all with an electric whisk for some minutes it becomes frothy and light yellow. Then, add 8 tablespoons of Marsala wine by one tablespoon at a time, while keeping on beating. Then, cook the sauce bain-marie for a while (keep an eye on it: the water should never boil and you have to keep on stirring it with a whisk !) it becomes creamy and swollen. The Zabaione cream is now ready: it can be served in a glass bowl and tasted together with tarts, fruit, biscuits or whipped cream!
Some pictures of Marsala wine:
The town of Marsala (pic nr°1); Marsala wine (pic nr°2); Zabaione (pic nr°3); Marsala wine (central pic);