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Marsala Wine Region

World’s Great Fortified Wines from Marsala

Marsala wines, which are popularly known to the world as the great fortified wines, are produced in and around the city of Marsala in the world famous wine region Sicily of Italy.

These wines, which are believed to have been first created by the English wine merchant John Woodhouse during the year 1773, had a great reputation in the British markets.

About two centuries after the first introduction of these wines, they were granted the DOC designation in the year 1969.
Wine grape varieties
Today, these wines are often used in cooking, especially in the dishes served in the Italian restaurants all across the globe. Let’s see about these wines in detail here…


Remember to read the Wine Tasting guide…

A Little on the History of Marsala Wines

Soon after the introduction of Marsala wines by Woodhouse, these wines got popularized in the British markets, thus leading to a great volume of Marsala wine production.

But, after it got the DOC status, as the original DOC laws for these wines were much relaxed, excessively larger volumes were produced.

This, along with the government subsidies for converting the traditional method of vine cultivation to the more productive methods worsened the matter resulting in abundant amounts of low-quality Marsala wines year by year.

This led to the destruction of Marsala wines’ image in the global market. This situation is slowly changing now and the Marsala wines are on its way back!

Making of Modern Marsala Wines

According to the DOC appellations, the present day Marsala wines can be produced from any of the following grape varieties:

  • Grillo
  • Inzolia
  • Catarratto
  • Pignatello
  • Nerello Mascalese
  • Damaschino
  • Nero d’Avola
  • Perricone
  • Calabrese

Of these, Grillo and Inzolia varieties are the traditional grape varieties of Marsala whereas, Catarratto is the modern variety and is widely found in the Marsala region today.

The other varieties listed above are Sicilian specialties except Nero d’Avola, which is the only grape variety that is grown outside the Sicily wine region.

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How are Marsala Wines different from others?

Most often, Marsala wines are described to have a unique taste with flavors of vanilla, brown sugar, apricot, and tamarind.

In addition to these flavors, the top-end Marsala wines will have a wide range of flavors like:

  • Morello cherry
  • Apple
  • Dried fruits
  • Honey
  • Tobacco
  • Walnut
  • Licorice

The unique taste of these wines is developed because of the indigenous grape varieties of Sicily used in the Marsala wines in addition to the complex winemaking procedures applied.

The complex winemaking process of Marsala wines includes the fortification with brandy or grape spirits made from regional grape varieties.

Classification of Marsala Wines based on Various Characteristics

The Marsala wines are classified based on the color, sweetness levels, and aging period as follows:

Based on Sweetness:

  • Secco: These wines would contain a maximum of 40 g of residual sugar per liter of wine.
  • Semisecco: These would have between 41 to 100 g of residual sugar per liter of wine.
  • Dolce: These are the wines with residual sugar of over 100 g per liter of wine.

Based on Color:

  • Oro: These are the wines with a golden color.
  • Ambra: These would have an amber color. This color is produced by the sweetener mosto cotto.
  • Rubino: These are the wines with a ruby color. This color is given by the red grape varieties.

Based on Aging Period:

  • Fine: These are the wines with an aging period less than one year.
  • Superiore: These wines are aged for at least two years.
  • Superiore Riserva: These are aged for at least four years.
  • Vergine and Vergine Soleras: These are the wines with an aging period of at least five years.
  • Stravecchio: These are the wines with an aging period of at least ten years.


Tharani Rajamanickam

Tharani Rajamanickam


I am Tharani, I have Bachelors degree in Biotechnology. I am passionate about the wine industry and continue to explore, learn and share and I bring in a wealth of knowledge and expertise to help you keep updated with best wines in the world. Stay tuned..

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