A fortified Italian wine grown and produced near the Sicilian city of Marsala, Marsala wine has a loyal following around the world. From the late 1700s, Marsala became a popular shipping wine. Due to its fortification, it did not spoil on long sea voyages. Today, it is perfect for cooking, as well as drinking, and this accessible wine is versatile and affordable.
Colors and Flavors of Marsala Wine
Marsala wine is classified according to its color, which has to do with the grapes used, as well as the sugar content. You'll find Marsala in the following types.
Ambra Marsala is named for its amber tone, which comes from some of the added sweeteners. Its glowing color accompanies a memorable flavor of dried fruit and sometimes almonds or other nuts. Vintners use white grapes to produce ambra Marsala. If you want to sample an ambra variety, give the Gran Chef Ambra Demisec Marsala a try.
Oro Marsala wine is a rich gold color, and it's also made with white grapes. When you taste this variety, you may notice the flavor of raisins, vanilla, hazelnuts, and licorice. Find these flavors in a bottle of Marco de Bartoli Vignas la Miccia, Marsala Superiore Oro.
Rubino Marsala has a distinctive ruby red color. The beautiful tone comes from the red grapes that are used to produce this wine. Although rubino Marsala also has a fruity flavor and aroma, it has a stronger, tannic taste that comes from the red grapes. See and taste the difference when you try a bottle of Cantine Pellegrino Fine Rubino Marsala.
Although it is a fortified wine, Marsala does not always have to be sweet. You'll encounter dry, semi-dry, and sweet varieties of this aperitif and dessert wine favorite. These designations come from the actual sugar content in the wine, rather than simply from the flavor itself.
If you're drinking a dry Marsala, pair it with salty or strong flavors, such as olives, parmesan cheese, and salted nuts. For a sweet Marsala, nothing beats a chocolate dessert.
Aging of Marsala
Marsala wine can be aged from less than one year to more than ten years, and you can determine how much it's been aged from the label. You'll encounter the following terms:
- Fine - Aged for one year
- Superiore - Aged for two years or more
- Superiore riserva - Aged for four years or more
- Vergine/soleros - Aged for five years or more
- Vergine/soleros stravecchio - Aged for ten years or more
Cooking vs. Drinking
Over the years, low quality Marsala production gave this wine a bad reputation as a beverage, and many people associate it only with cooking. However, improvements in production are leading to an increase in the popularity of Marsala as a dessert wine.
Typically, cooking Marsala is classified as fine and aged for the shortest period of time. It's affordable and easy to come by, and it's an essential ingredient in dishes such as chicken Marsala or veal Marsala. These wines are readily available in grocery stores from various brands, like the Holland House Marsala Cooking Wine.
For drinking, many people prefer Marsala that has been aged for a much longer period of time. However, depending on the flavors and the quality, younger Marsalas can also be very good.
Best Marsala Wines for Drinking
When serving Marsala as a drinking wine, be sure to chill it slightly. This gives it a crisper flavor.
Vito Curatolo Arini Marsala
Readily available in many wine shops and Italian groceries, Vito Curatolo Arini Marsala is an award-winning choice, according to Wine Searcher. This dry wine has been aged for ten years in oak casks, and it has a rich, sharp flavor. You'll notice almonds, fruit, and spices. At about $20 per bottle, it makes an affordable choice.
Florio Sweet Marsala
Although it is classified as a fine Marsala and has been aged for only one year, Florio Sweet Marsala makes a delicious after-dinner wine. It's rich amber color and delectable flavor of dried apricots make it a popular choice as well. You can easily find this wine in most wine shops and grocery stores, and at less than six dollars for a half-bottle, it won't break the bank.
Find Your New Favorite
Whether you're buying Marsala wine to complete your favorite recipe or you're planning to sip it before or after dinner, there are plenty of options to choose from. You'll find this variety at most wine shops, and you can try several different types to find your new favorite.