Created in 1969 to protect the wines of Marsala from imitations, the DOC Marsala is the first one in Italy and refers to the special strong and fortified wines produced from the grillo, insolia, damaschino and catarratto grape varieties grown in the territory of Marsala in Western Sicily. For the ruby Marsala the grape varieties permitted are : Pignatello, Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese.
The fortunes of the Marsala wines start around the end of the 18th century when an English merchant, John Woodhouse, starts to supply the British navy operating in the Mediterranean sea with the strong “in perpetuum “ aged in wooden casks wine produced in the Marsala area. For conservation porpoise, the Marsala wines were fortified with alcohol. Later during the continental blockade of Napolen the Marsala wines started to substitute the sherries, that had become more difficult to obtain, as regular wine supplies for the British navy. In this period, the soleras system to age the wines was introduced from Spain and Portugal.
The classification of Marsala is very complicate and based on colour, age, sweetness and alcohol content. Ambra and Oro identify the white grapes varieties and Rubino the red ones. A young Marsala aged for one year will be a Fine while an older one (three years minimum) will be Superiore.
All these Marsalas are produced by adding a part of cooked must.
A special category is represented by the Vergine, 5 years old, and Vergine Riserva, at least 10 years old, that can be produced by adding only a small percentage of alcohol to the wine: for these category the cooked must is not permitted.
Gianluca D’Alia – Paesaggio Sicilia Tours