Marsala wine
Overview
 
Marsala is a wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

 produced in the region surrounding the Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 city of Marsala
Marsala
Marsala is a seaport city located in the Province of Trapani on the island of Sicily in Italy. The low coast on which it is situated is the westernmost point of the island...

 in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

. Marsala wine first received Denominazione di Origine Controllata
Denominazione di Origine Controllata
Denominazione di origine controllata is a quality assurance label for food products, especially wines and various formaggi . It is modelled after the French AOC...

 (DOC) status in 1969.

While the city's natives sometimes drink "vintage" Marsala, the wine produced for export is universally a fortified wine
Fortified wine
Fortified wine is wine to which a distilled beverage has been added. Fortified wine is distinguished from spirits made from wine in that spirits are produced by means of distillation, while fortified wine is simply wine that has had a spirit added to it...

 similar to Port
Port wine
Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, and comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties...

. Originally, Marsala wine was fortified with alcohol to ensure that it would last long ocean voyages, but now it is made that way because of its popularity in foreign markets.
The most creditable version of the introduction of Marsala fortified wine to a wider range of consumers is attributed to the English trader John Woodhouse.
Encyclopedia
Marsala is a wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

 produced in the region surrounding the Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 city of Marsala
Marsala
Marsala is a seaport city located in the Province of Trapani on the island of Sicily in Italy. The low coast on which it is situated is the westernmost point of the island...

 in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

. Marsala wine first received Denominazione di Origine Controllata
Denominazione di Origine Controllata
Denominazione di origine controllata is a quality assurance label for food products, especially wines and various formaggi . It is modelled after the French AOC...

 (DOC) status in 1969.

While the city's natives sometimes drink "vintage" Marsala, the wine produced for export is universally a fortified wine
Fortified wine
Fortified wine is wine to which a distilled beverage has been added. Fortified wine is distinguished from spirits made from wine in that spirits are produced by means of distillation, while fortified wine is simply wine that has had a spirit added to it...

 similar to Port
Port wine
Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, and comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties...

. Originally, Marsala wine was fortified with alcohol to ensure that it would last long ocean voyages, but now it is made that way because of its popularity in foreign markets.

History

The most creditable version of the introduction of Marsala fortified wine to a wider range of consumers is attributed to the English trader John Woodhouse. In 1773, Woodhouse landed at the port of Marsala and discovered the local wine produced in the region, which was aged in wooden casks and tasted similar to Spanish
Spanish wine
Spanish wines are wines produced in the southwestern European country of Spain. Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has over 2.9 million acres planted—making it the most widely planted wine producing nation but it is the third largest producer of wine in the world, the largest...

 and Portuguese fortified wines then popular in England. Fortified Marsala wine was, and is, made using a process called in perpetuum, which is similar to the solera
Solera
Solera is a process for 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 the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. A solera is literally the set of barrels or other...

 system used to produce Sherry
Sherry
Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez , Spain. In Spanish, it is called vino de Jerez....

 in Jerez, Spain
Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez de la Frontera is a municipality in the province of Cádiz in the autonomous community of Andalusia, in southwestern Spain, situated midway between the sea and the mountains. , the city, the largest in the province, had 208,896 inhabitants; it is the fifth largest in Andalusia...

.

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 wine would be popular in England. Marsala wine indeed proved so successful that Woodhouse returned to Sicily and, in 1796, began the mass production and commercialization of Marsala wine.
"In 1833, the entrepreneur Vincenzo Florio
Vincenzo Florio
Vincenzo Florio, Jr. was an Italian industrialist in the wine industry of Sicily, famous for establishing the Targa Florio race....

, a Calabrese by birth and Palermitano by adoption, bought up great swathes of land between the two largest established Marsala producers and set to making his own vintage with even more exclusive range of grape".


Florio
Florio
'Florio' is the surname of a prominent Sicilian family who started many lucrative activities involving above all the exportation of Sicilian products in the nineteenth century.-Florio winery:...

 purchased Woodhouse's firm, among others, in the late 19th century and consolidated the Marsala wine industry. Florio and Pellegrino remain the leading producers of Marsala wine today.

Characteristics and types

Marsala is produced using the Grillo
Grillo
Grillo, also known as Riddu, is a white wine grape variety which withstands high temperatures and is widely used in Sicilian wine-making and, in particular, for Marsala. Its origins are uncertain, but it may have been introduced into the island of Sicily from Puglia...

, Inzolia
Inzolia
Ansonica or Inzolia is a white Italian wine grape planted primarily in western Sicily where it can be used to produce Marsala wine. The grape is noted for its nutty aroma...

, and Catarratto
Catarratto
Catarratto is a white Italian wine grape planted primarily in Sicily where it is the most widely planted grape. Overproduction in recent years has led to this grape being a substantial contributor to the European wine lake problem...

 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 aging. The three levels of sweetness are secco (with a maximum 40 gram
Gram
The gram is a metric system unit of mass....

s of residual sugar per liter
Litér
- External links :*...

), semisecco (41-100 g/l) and sweet (over 100 g/l). The color and aging classifications are as follows:
  • Oro has a golden color.
  • Ambra has an amber color. The coloring comes from the mosto cotto sweetener added to the wine.
  • Rubino has a ruby color.
  • Fine has minimal aging, typically less than a year.
  • Superiore is aged at least two years.
  • Superiore Riserva is aged at least four years.
  • Vergine e/o Soleras is aged at least five years.
  • Vergine e/o Soleras Stravecchio e Vergine e/o Soleras Riserva is aged at least ten years.


Marsala wine was traditionally served as an aperitif
Aperitif
Apéritifs and digestifs are alcoholic drinks that are normally served with meals.-Apéritifs:An apéritif is usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. This contrasts with digestifs, which are served after a meal for the purpose of aiding digestion...

 between the first and second courses of a meal. Contemporary diners will serve it chilled with Parmesan (stravecchio), Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and other spicy cheeses, with fruits or pastries, or at room temperature
Room temperature
-Comfort levels:The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has listings for suggested temperatures and air flow rates in different types of buildings and different environmental circumstances. For example, a single office in a building has an occupancy ratio per...

 as a dessert wine
Dessert wine
Dessert wines are sweet wines typically served with dessert.There is no simple definition of a dessert wine. In the UK, a dessert wine is considered to be any sweet wine drunk with a meal, as opposed to the white fortified wines drunk before the meal, and the red fortified wines drunk after it...

. Marsala is sometimes discussed with another Sicilian wine, Passito di Pantelleria (Pantelleria Island's raisin
Raisin
Raisins are dried grapes. They are produced in many regions of the world. Raisins may be eaten raw or used in cooking, baking and brewing...

 wine).

In cooking

Marsala wine is frequently used in cooking
Cooking
Cooking is the process of preparing food by use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training...

, and is especially prevalent in Italian restaurants in the United States. A typical Marsala sauce, for example, involves reducing
Reduction (cooking)
In cooking, reduction is the process of thickening and intensifying the flavor of a liquid mixture such as a soup, sauce, wine, or juice by boiling....

 the wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

 almost to a syrup with onion
Onion
The onion , also known as the bulb onion, common onion and garden onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion The onion...

s or shallot
Shallot
The shallot is the botanical variety of Allium cepa to which the multiplier onion also belongs. It was formerly classified as the species A. ascalonicum, a name now considered a synonym of the correct name...

s, then adding mushroom
Mushroom
A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name "mushroom" is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word "mushroom" is most often applied to those fungi that...

s and herb
Herb
Except in botanical usage, an herb is "any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume" or "a part of such a plant as used in cooking"...

s. One of the most popular Marsala recipes is chicken marsala
Chicken marsala
right|thumbnail|Chicken marsala with mushrooms, red potatoes, red and green bell peppers, and pancettaChicken marsala is an Italian dish made from chicken cutlets, mushrooms, and Marsala wine. The chicken is coated in flour, briefly sautéed, and then removed from the pan, which is then used to make...

, in which flour-coated pounded chicken breast halves are braised in a mixture of Marsala, butter, olive oil, mushrooms, and spices. Marsala is also used in some risotto
Risotto
Risotto is a class of Italian dishes of rice cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. The broth may be meat-, fish-, or vegetable-based; many kinds include Parmesan cheese, butter, and onion...

 recipes, and is used to produce rich Italian desserts such as zabaglione
Zabaglione
Zabaione , is an Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, a sweet wine , and sometimes whole eggs. It is a very light custard, which has been whipped to incorporate a large amount of air. Zabaglione is traditionally served with fresh figs...

, tiramisu
Tiramisu
Tiramisu, , , literally "pick me up", is an Italian cake and dessert.It is made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks and mascarpone, and flavored with liquor and cocoa...

 and shortcake
Shortcake
Shortcake is a sweet biscuit .Shortcake is typically made with flour, sugar, baking powder or soda, salt, butter, milk or cream, and sometimes eggs. The dry ingredients are blended, and then the butter is cut in and mixed until the mixture resembles cornmeal...

.
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