|Vintage bottles of Intorcia Marsala.|
There are many different types of Marsala, from dry to sweet, light to dark, but common to all its styles is the method by which the wine is matured. The aging regiment is called "in perpetuum" and bears a resemblance to the Solera system used in Andalucía for Sherry. This system ensures consistency, stability and the aromatic complexity that Marsala is known for. The oxidative maturation afforded by this system yields nutty, dried fruit and toffee aromas in the final wine.
The Marsala DOC became an official Italian wine appellation in 1969, with the rules governing production further refined in 1984. Written into law are the aging requirements and their accompanying descriptors:
Fine (Dry or Sweet): Aged a minimum of 12 months
Superiore (Dry or Sweet): Aged a minimum of 24 months
Superiore Riserva (Dry or Sweet): Aged a minimum of 4 years
Vergine/Solera (Dry or Sweet): Aged a minimum of 5 years
Vergine/Solera Stravecchio or Riserva (Dry): Aged a minimum of 10 years
If your interest is piqued, the good news is that Marsala is affordable. Because it isn't as fashionable or popular as other fortified wines like Port, Marsala enjoys the economic advantage of being in relatively low demand. This translates to the fact that one can find Superiore Riservas like Vito Curatolo Arini's for under $25. And better yet, a basic Marsala like Intorcia Dry costs less than $15 a bottle.
Marsalas should be served with a slight chill. Drier version can best be enjoyed on their on their own before a meal, while sweeter versions like Vito Curatolo Arini Sweet Marsala Superiore can be enjoyed after dinner or with a cheese plate. Of course, these are brilliant wines to cook with and numerous recipes call for the use of Marsala, best known is the aforementioned Chicken Marsala. Ever versatile, it also makes a great, though often-ignored, cocktail ingredient in drinks like flips or as a substitute for Amontillado Sherry. So next time you need a Marsala for sipping or simmering, skip the supermarket imitator, try the real stuff, and taste the difference.
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!