World's most under rated fortified wine

Posted by Joelle Thomson on

Marsala is the name of a fortified wine made in the region of Marsala in the west of Sicily. The wine was founded in 1773 by a travelling Englishman called John Woodhouse. And like other fortified wines, such as port and sherry, Marsala has had alcohol added; initially to stabilise it for voyages by ship to northern parts of the world. That was back when transportation of such wine took place in large wooden barrels rather than bottles, so unless the wines were stabilised, they tended to arrive at their destination in an oxidised state. 

The taste for the caramelised barrel aged style with a slight kick of alcohol obviously caught on because Marsala had its heyday and was highly popular for a long time. 

Today, drinking trends tend towards lighter styles of wines and the grapes used to make Marsala are often now pressed into dry table wines, but Marsala is an outstanding wine for cooking and for drinking, lightly chilled, with cheese, caramelised desserts and caramel. 

So, what does Marsala taste like?

It ranges from wood aged dry styles to sweet. There is a wide range and the most enjoyable to drink tend to be medium dry or medium sweet. Our biggest sales of this fortified wine are usually at Christmas time but that seems a shame, given that Marsala is an incredibly versatile wine for enjoying in winter - it is the ideal cold night warmer.

Marsala can be simply sweet and fortified or it can be a complex fortified wine with flavours similar to oloroso sherry or to Madeira, only it is made from indigenous Sicilian grape varieties. The main grapes used to produce Marsala are Grillo, Catarrato and Inzolia while smaller amounts of Damaschino, Pignatello and Nero d'Avola are sometimes also used.  

There are three different types of Marsala in colour; oro (golden yellow), ambra (brown / amber) and rubino (ruby red). The taste ranges from secco (dry) to demisecco (semi dry) to dolce (sweet).

How to drink it

Complex caramelisation is one of the key flavours here which makes Marsala work well as the base to a sauce reduction with chicken and garlic dishes or to build layers of flavour into savoury food.

Drink it lightly chilled with cheese in the same way as port or aged sherry. Or enjoy it with a little sliver of caramel. Delicious. 

It also tastes great with creme caramel, canalés and baked Portuguese custard tarts.

Carlo Pellegrino Marsala

All of the Marsala that we sell at Regional Wines & Spirits comes from Carlo Pellegrino. This is a real family business which has been making Marsala since 1880. The seventh generation is now in charge of the company.

Buy Pellegrino Marsala here

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