Marsala wine: description, types, how and what to drink

Marsala wine: description, types, how and what to drink

The younger sister of Iberian fortified wines, Marsala, was born in the West Sicilian port town of the same name in 1773.

The history of the drink

The creator of the drink is believed to be an English wine merchant from Liverpool, John Woodhouse, who decided to experiment with a local wine called perpetuum during a forced delay in Sicily, when he had nothing to do.

By 1796, the drink was finally calibrated, and its production was put on a commercial basis.

Among the admirers of Marsala were such diverse people as the defender of Italy's feudal fragmentation, Admiral Horatio Nelson, and the fighter for the unification of Italy itself: Giuseppe Garibaldi.

What makes Marsala a unique wine

Marsala is a very strong grape wine fortified with unaged grape wine brandy cognac type.

The strength of the wine is 17-18 degrees, the sweetness is 1.5-7%.

The drink is controlled by geographical origin and can be produced only in most of the province of Trapani, located in the northwest of Sicily.

From Spanish and Portuguese relatives, including its closest relative - Madeira, The Sicilian drink is distinguished by several very significant points.

  1. An important role is played by an individual set of geological and geographical factors.

    Thanks to them, unique conditions for growing grapes were formed, found only in Sicily.

  2. Only local grape varieties are used to make Marsala - white: grillo, catarrato, damasceno and red: pinotello, nero d’Avola, nerello mascalese.

    At the same time, local white varieties are used not only to produce wort, but also to produce a distillate that fortifies it.

  3. Finally, a local natural sweetener, mosto cotto, is used in the production of this wine.

    It is prepared by prolonged evaporation of grape juice obtained from particularly sweet and therefore not suitable for vinification.

    In this case, the mentioned sweetener can be mixed with a small amount of grape brandy before adding to the wort.

    The presence of mosto cotto not only adds additional flavor and aromatic nuances to Marsala, but also makes it sweeter than other drinks of this type.

Marsala wine

Types of Marsala

There are three criteria for distinguishing the wine we are interested in: the color of the drink, the degree of its sweetness and the period of aging.

The following three varieties can be distinguished by color:

  1. Oro is a golden drink made from white grape varieties;

  2. Amber - white wine of amber color caused by the addition of caramel sweetener;

  3. Rubino is a dark red variant that is a blend of white and red grapes.

According to the sugar content, wine is also divided into three types:

  1. Setto (dry) - up to 40 grams of sugar per liter;

  2. Semisetto (semi-dry) - from 41 to 100 grams;

  3. Dolce (sweet) - more than 100 grams.

Based on the period of aging in oak barrels, there are 5 categories of Marsala:

  1. Fino - aged for a year, unlike others, contains 17 degrees of alcohol.

  2. Superiore - a two-year drink.

  3. Superiore Riserva - stay in the barrel for four years or more.

  4. Vergine - the aging period is at least five years.

  5. Vergine Riserva - an aristocrat of ten years or longer aging.

How to drink Marsala

In the case of Marsala, best suited are port wine glasses. Other nuances depend on the aging period and the sweetness of the drink.

For example, wines such as Vergine and Vergine Riesling are used as digestifs; others - for aperitifs and feasts.

Dry versions are intended to be consumed before meals or during the main meal (in the old days, they were popularly served between the first and second courses). Semi-dry and sweet varieties serve as an addition to dessert.

In addition, dry Marsala is usually chilled to 10°C. Dessert varieties of the drink should be kept at room temperature.

This wine is rarely used in cocktails. The above exceptions include the Marsala Martini cocktail.

What to drink with Marsala

Seafood (including oysters), boiled fish, and spicy cheeses such as Parmesan and Gorgonzola are considered an ideal appetizer for white dry Marsala. The dry red variety goes well with meat salads and broths.

Semi-dry wines of this type harmonize very well with fruit. It is highly recommended to serve walnut cookies or delicate Italian desserts sprinkled with grated walnuts with the sweet variation.

Update: 27.07.2017

Category: Wine and Vermouth