Marsala is an Italian fortified wine that because of plunging quality levels and increasingly fewer markets has had great difficulty selling itself as a product worthy of purchase.
Interestingly, although wine has been part of the viticultural history of Sicily’s Trapani province since Roman times, English trader John Woodhouse is the man credited with ‘creating’ Marsala. He realized the similarity of the local wines to Maderia, Port and Sherry and in 1773 added grape spirit to the barrels he shipped to England. Ta da – a fortified wine industry eventually dominated by commercial houses was born.
Modern Marsala comes in either Oro, Ambre or Rubino and varying sweetness levels – secco (max 40 g/L residual sugar), semisecco (40-100 g/L) and a sweet dolce (over 100 g/L). There are five additional age categories as well – one year for Fine, 2 for Superiore, 4 for Superiore Riserva, 5 for Vergine and 10 for the Stravecchio version of Vergine.
This bottle of Fine Ambre Marsala is based on Cararratto grapes and was purchased just outside an extraordinarily restored Roman Emperor’s vacation villa in Sicily last year.
It is clear and bright, medium brown with legs. The colour indicates that Mosto Cotto was used to create the impression of a cask-aged wine by deepening the colour with the concentrate.
On the nose, it’s clean with medium plus intense aromas of cola, sarsaparilla, burnt brown sugar, caramel, a bit of coffee and clover honey.
The palate is medium sweet with medium plus acidity, medium body, medium fortification and medium plus flavour characteristics of strong cola, root beer, brown sugar, toffee and cookie dough (imagine butter and vanilla combined and ready to bake cookies). The finish is medium and offered the impression of orange zest.
The surprisingly moderately high acidity and medium (not viscous) body was refreshing and well balanced with the flavours and concentration.
WSET ‘good’ fortified wine – enjoy as often as possible with tiramisu or sweet biscotti. Cin cin!