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Marsala is a
fortified wine Fortified wine is a wine Wine is an alcoholic drink typically made from Fermentation in winemaking, fermented grapes. Yeast in winemaking, Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes and converts it to ethanol and carbon dioxide, releasing hea ...
, dry or sweet, produced in the region surrounding the
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
city of
Marsala Marsala (; scn, Maissala, ; la, Lilybaeum) is an Italian town located in the Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily. Marsala is the most populated town in its province and the fifth in Sicily. The town is famous for the docking ...

Marsala
in
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...

Sicily
. Marsala first received ''
Denominazione di Origine Controllata The following four classifications of wine constitute the Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian langu ...
'' (DOC) status in 1969. The
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
grants
Protected Designation of Origin The protected designation of origin (PDO) is a type of geographical indication of the European Union and the United Kingdom aimed at preserving the designations of origin of food-related products. The designation was created in 1992 and its main ...
(PDO) status to Marsala, and most other countries limit the use of the term ''Marsala'' to products from the
Marsala Marsala (; scn, Maissala, ; la, Lilybaeum) is an Italian town located in the Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily. Marsala is the most populated town in its province and the fifth in Sicily. The town is famous for the docking ...

Marsala
area. While unfortified wine is also produced in the Marsala region, it does not qualify for the Marsala DOC.


History

Marsala fortified wine was probably first popularized outside Sicily by the English trader John Woodhouse. In 1773, he landed at the port of
Marsala Marsala (; scn, Maissala, ; la, Lilybaeum) is an Italian town located in the Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily. Marsala is the most populated town in its province and the fifth in Sicily. The town is famous for the docking ...

Marsala
and discovered the local wine produced in the region, which was aged in wooden casks and tasted similar to
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...
and
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...
fortified wines then popular in England. Fortified Marsala was, and is, made using a process called ''in perpetuum'', which is similar to the ''
solera Image:Sherry cellar, Solera system, 2003.jpg, Sherry solera ''Solera'' is a process for aging (wine), aging liquids such as wine, beer, vinegar, and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with ...
'' system used to produce
Sherry Sherry ( es, jerez ) is a fortified wine , a fortified wine Fortified wine is a wine Wine is an alcoholic drink typically made from fermented grape juice. Yeast Yeasts are eukaryotic, single-celled microorganisms classified as me ...

Sherry
in
Jerez Jerez de la Frontera (), or simply Jerez (), is a Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain , * gl, Reino de España, * oc, Reiaume d'Espanha, , , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de E ...

Jerez
, Spain. Woodhouse recognized that the ''in perpetuum'' process raised the alcohol level and alcoholic taste of this wine while also preserving these characteristics during long-distance sea travel. Woodhouse further believed that fortified Marsala would be popular in England. Marsala indeed proved so successful that Woodhouse returned to Sicily and, in 1796, began its mass production and commercialization. In 1806, it was Benjamin Ingham (1784–1861), arriving in Sicily from
Leeds Leeds is the largest city in the Ceremonial counties of England, county of West Yorkshire, England. Leeds is to the east of Bradford, north of Sheffield, south-west of York, and north-east of Manchester. The city forms the core of the City of ...

Leeds
, who opened new markets for Marsala in Europe and the Americas. Founded by Benjamin Ingham and later run by Joseph Whitaker and William Ingham Whitaker. Joseph and his brother William Ingham Whitaker inherited vast vineyards and his great grandfather Ingham's banking empire.
In 1833, the entrepreneur
Vincenzo Florio Vincenzo Florio Jr. (18 March 1883 – 6 January 1959) was an Italian entrepreneur, heir of the rich Florio economic dynasty, one of the wealthiest Italian families during the late 19th century.
Florio The Florio family is a prominent entrepreneurial Italian family who started many lucrative activities in Sicily (masculine) it, Siciliana (feminine) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population ...
purchased Woodhouse's firm, among others, in the late nineteenth century and consolidated the Marsala wine industry. Florio and Pellegrino remain the leading producers of Marsala today.


Characteristics and types

Marsala is produced using the
Grillo
Grillo
, Inzolia,
Catarratto
Catarratto
and Damaschino white grape varietals, among others. Marsala contains about 15–20% alcohol by volume. Different Marsala wines are classified according to their color, sweetness, and the duration of their ageing. The three levels of sweetness are ''secco'' (with a maximum 40
gram The gram (alternative spelling: gramme; SI unit symbol: g) is a metric system The metric system is a that succeeded the decimalised system based on the introduced in France in the 1790s. The historical development of these systems culm ...
s of
residual sugar upA half bottle of Sauternes from Château d'Yquem, which produces one of the world's most famous and expensive sweet wines The subjective sweetness of a wine Wine is an alcoholic drink typically made from Fermentation in winemaking, ferm ...
per
liter The litre (British English spelling) or liter (American English spelling) (SI symbols L and l, other symbol used: ℓ) is a metric units, metric unit of volume. It is equal to 1 cubic decimetre (dm3), 1000 cubic centimetres (cm3) or 0.001 cub ...
), ''semisecco'' (41–100 g/l) and ''sweet'' (over 100 g/l). The color and ageing classifications are as follows:J. Robinson (ed) ''The Oxford Companion to Wine'' Third Edition p. 428–429 Oxford University Press 2006 * ''Oro'' has a golden colour * ''Ambra'' has an amber colour. The coloring comes from the ''mosto cotto'' sweetener added to the wine * ''Rubino'' has a ruby colour, made from red grape varieties such as Perricone, Nero d'Avola and Nerello MascaleseP. Saunders ''Wine Label Language'' pp. 176 Firefly Books 2004 * ''Fine'' is aged at least one year * ''Superiore'' is aged at least two years * ''Superiore Riserva'' is aged at least four years * ''Vergine'' and/or ''Soleras'' is aged at least five years * ''Vergine'' and/or ''Soleras Stravecchio'' and ''Vergine'' and/or '' Soleras Riserva'' is aged at least ten years Marsala wine was traditionally served as an aperitif between the first and second courses of a meal. Contemporary diners will serve its drier versions chilled with
Parmesan Parmigiano-Reggiano (, ) is an Italian hard, granular cheese produced from cow's milk and aged at least 12 months. It is named after the producing areas, the provinces of Reggio Emilia Reggio nell'Emilia ( egl, Rèz; la, Regium Lepidi ...

Parmesan
(stravecchio),
Gorgonzola Gorgonzola (; ) is a veined blue cheese, originally from Italy, made from unskimmed cow's milk. It can be buttery or firm, crumbly and quite salty, with a "bite" from its blue veining. History Historically, gorgonzola has been produced for ce ...

Gorgonzola
,
Roquefort Roquefort is a sheep milk , France. Sheep's milk (or ewes' milk) is the milk of domestic sheep. It is commonly used to make cultured Dairy Products, dairy products such as cheese. Some of the most popular sheep cheeses include feta (Greece), ri ...

Roquefort
, and other spicy cheeses, with fruits or pastries, and the sweeter at
room temperature Colloquially, room temperature is the range of air temperatures that most people prefer for indoor settings, which feel comfortable when wearing typical indoor clothing. Human comfort can extend beyond this range depending on humidity, air circu ...
as a
dessert wine Dessert wines, sometimes called pudding wines in the United Kingdom, are sweet wine Wine is an alcoholic drink typically made from Fermentation in winemaking, fermented grapes. Yeast in winemaking, Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes ...
. Marsala is sometimes discussed with another Sicilian wine, ''Passito di Pantelleria'' ( Pantelleria Island's
raisin A raisin is a dried grape. Raisins are produced in many regions of the world and may be eaten raw or used in cooking, baking, and brewing. In the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, the word ''raisin'' is ...

raisin
wine).


In cooking

Marsala wine is frequently used in
cooking Cooking, cookery, or culinary arts is the art, science, and craft of using heat In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energy ...

cooking
, and is especially prevalent in dishes served in Italian restaurants in the United States. Dry Marsala wine is used in savory cooking. A typical savory Marsala sauce, for example, involves reducing the
wine Wine is an alcoholic drink An alcoholic drink is a drink A drink (or beverage) is a liquid A liquid is a nearly incompressible fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flow ...

wine
almost to a syrup with
onion The onion (''Allium cepa'' L., from Latin ''cepa'' "onion"), also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is a vegetable Vegetables are parts of plants that are consumed by humans or other animals as food. The original meaning is still co ...

onion
s or
shallot The shallot is a botanical variety (a cultivar) of the onion The onion (''Allium cepa'' L., from Latin ''cepa'' "onion"), also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is a vegetable Vegetables are parts of plants that are consumed by ...

shallot
s, then adding
mushroom A mushroom or toadstool is the fleshy, spore )'', growing on a thinning, thinned hybrid black poplar ''(populus, Populus x canadensis)''. The last stage of the moss#Life cycle, moss lifecycle is shown, where the sporophytes are visible befor ...

mushroom
s and
herb In general use, herbs are a widely distributed and widespread group of plants, excluding vegetables Vegetables are parts of plants that are consumed by humans or other animals as food. The original meaning is still commonly used and is app ...

herb
s. One of the most popular Marsala recipes is chicken marsala, in which flour-coated pounded chicken breast halves are
braised Braising (from the French language, French word ''braiser'') is a combination-cooking method that uses both wet and dry heats: typically, the food is first browned at a high temperature, then simmered in a covered pot in cooking liquid (such as ...
in a mixture of Marsala, butter, olive oil, mushrooms, and spices. Marsala is also used in some
risotto Risotto (, , from meaning "rice") is a northern Italian Northern Italy ( it, Italia settentrionale, it, Nord Italia, label=none, it, Alta Italia, label=none or just it, Nord, label=none) is a geographical and cultural region in the norther ...

risotto
recipes. Sweet Marsala wine is used to produce rich Italian
dessert Dessert () is a course Course may refer to: Directions or navigation * Course (navigation), the path of travel * Course (orienteering), a series of control points visited by orienteers during a competition, marked with red/white flags in the ...

dessert
s such as ''
zabaione Zabaione () or zabaglione (, , ) is an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance langua ...
'' and
shortcake Shortcake is a sweet cake or biscuit (bread), biscuit in the American sense that is a crumbly bread that has been leavened with baking powder or baking soda. In the UK, the term ''shortcake'' refers to a biscuit similar to shortbread. They are ge ...
.


See also

* Albanello Bianco, another Sicilian grape variety used to make a notable eighteenth-century Marsala-style wine ''Ambrato di Comiso''.


References

{{Wines Fortified wine Italian DOC Marsala Cuisine of Sicily Florio family Wines of Sicily