Marsala Wine Tours
A Tour of one of Italy’s Most Intriguing Wines
Marsala is one of Italy’s most surprising wines. Where most wines come in a single color, with a single taste, Marsala is different.
Marsala is more of a concept, a set of aromatic and taste values, that producers of this incredible wine attempt to incorporate into every vintage. Be this the gold, amber or ruby variety.
Wines from Marsala
Where is Marsala from?
Marsala is the name of the town that sits at the center of the region where Marsala fortified wine is produced. It is obviously where the wine takes its name from.
The Marsala region is located in southern Italy, towards the western edge of the Island of Sicily.
Marsala is a very humid, warm region, which means that the grapes grown in this area are full of juice and very sweet and the perfect starting point to create one of the most interesting wines in the world.
What is Marsala Like?
Describing the aroma and taste of Marsala is complex as this is a wine that comes in three different varieties. Although each type shares similar traits, they are still distinctly unique.
This is the amber version of Marsala. The color stems from the fact that sweeteners are added to the wine.
This obviously means that this is a sweet wine. The white grape that is used to produce Marsala Ambra impart a blossom rich bouquet, sweet with flowers. The taste is a little more complex than most white wines, and delivers a nutty taste, with a sweet finish.
A step up in complexity from Marsala Ambra, Marsala Oro is a rich golden color. It is still made from white grapes, but has a much more interesting bouquet.
Vanilla is often the most powerful aroma, with raisins and nuts in support. These aromas follow in in to the taste, with a lovely, fruity delivery.
This is a Marsala wine made from red grapes. We are shifting away from the sweeter style here, and heading towards a much drier experience. The bouquet is fruity and fresh, which is stark contrast with the tannin heavy taste.
Marsala, unlike many wines, comes in a whole range of levels of sweetness. From a very sweet, dessert wine, through to a dry wine that is great for accompanying rich dishes. This obviously makes selecting a bottle of Marsala quite difficult.
With most wines, you know what to expect. Marsala is different; you need to understand what you are buying. Is a sweet amber wine, or a dry ruby or maybe something in between?
Why is Marsala a Famous Italian Wine?
Marsala is actually a historic wine. It was popular with sailors, due to the fact that fortified wines travel well in casks for quite some time whilst at sea.
John Woodhouse, a trader from England, discovered Marsala wines. He realized that they were very similar to many fortified wines from Portugal and Spain that were popular in England at the time.
He began to import Marsala to England, and the popularity of the wine increased overnight. Indeed, until this time, it had been simply a local regional wine. It suddenly became a national selling wine in a very quickly.
How to Get to the Marsala Region
Getting to the Marsala region is not as easy as visiting most other wine regions in Italy. The simplest way would be to fly in to Punta Raisi Airport in Palmero. This is the closest full international airport to Marsala.
Once you have landed in Palmero, you will need to travel the 41 miles to the Town of Marsala.
The cheapest and quickest way to achieve this is to use the local train service, which takes about three and half hours.
Where to Stay in the Marsala Region
The Marsala region is conveniently located along the west coast of Sicily, heading inwards several kilometers. This means that there are a couple of good locations to stay whilst visiting the area.
The sleepy town of Marsala itself is a good choice. It is located on the western edge of the region, and makes a good jump off point for touring. It is a laid back town, great for soaking up the relaxed Sicilian vibe.
The tourist town of Palmero is also a great choice of location when visiting the Marsala region. It is a little far out, approximately 25km from the eastern edge of the region. But the fact that it has so many facilities and amenities that are of benefit to people who are traveling.
Best Marsala Vineyards to Visit
Planning a wine tasting tour of the Marsala region is something of a challenge. This is simply because there is so much variety to be found in Marsala wine production.
From the light, sweet wines, to the dark, dry wines. Below is a selection of three Marsala wineries that combined, give a good spread of wine varieties.
Baglio Baiata Alagna
Owned and operated by Professor Ercole Alagna, this large winery with its 123 acres of vineyard, is one of the major producers of Marsala wine.
Furthermore, this winery has a historic slant to the way it treats visitors, showing them the history of Marsala wine through the years.
Overall, this is a Marsala winery you do not want to miss if you are touring the region.
Baglio Donna Franca
If you have chosen to stay in the Town of Marsala whilst on your wine tour, then this is a winery you need to visit. It is very close to the town, and overlooks the sea.
There is an attached restaurant, with an amazing terrace where visitors can sit and watch the sun set over the Mediterranean.
Marco De Bartoli
Most noted for its gold variety of Marsala, this is a winery that has been in the Marsala production business since the very start.
It is notable for its use of autochthones grapes, which add some distinctive flavors to the Marsala wine that this winery produces.
It is also an amazing place to visit from an architectural point of view, with many of the buildings dating back to Roman times.
Which is the Best Marsala to Taste?
Curatolo Marsala Superiore Dolce
Available from the Waitrose Cellar, this is a typical sweet, amber Marsala. This is a great dessert wine, as it has a very light, flower heavy bouquet.
Taste wise, it is simple to drink, yet very rewarding with its fruity first impression, and its nutty finish.
Curatolo Dry Marsala Superiore
Again from the Waitrose Cellar, this is the ruby colored, dry counterpart to our first selection. This is a true fortified wine, so expect a complex drinking experience.
Dry but without too much tannin, it could be consumed as an aperitif. However, it is probably best suited to savory meat dishes.
Cantine De Vita Marsala Dolce
This is a great after dinner wine from the Waitrose Cellar with very dark, ruby red color with a bouquet of dried figs, and just a subtle hint of chocolate.
The taste is pleasing, and very smooth, which is why it is such a great after dinner wine.
Taking in the Surroundings
If you are intending to tour the Marsala region, you really have so many great options for other forms of activities mainly because this part of the Island of Sicily is fully developed as a tourist destination.
Some of the alternative things to do while you are touring, could be:
Museo Archeologico Baglio Anselmi
This is an incredible museum that is housed within the fully repaired hull of a Carthaginian Warship that was sunk just off the coast of the Egadi Islands during the First Punic War.
It contains a full recreation of how life onboard an old fashioned sail powered warship would have been.
Constructed in 1628, this is considered to be the most impressive church in the region of Marsala.
Housed within this amazing structure, are several original statues that were created by the famous Gagini brothers.
For a quite literal taste of modern Sicily, a visit to this incredible new café is sure to please.
Noted for its very wide selection of artisan beers, which could make for a pleasant change in tasting experience from all that Marsala wine you will have been sampling.
Classic Marsala Wines
Classic Marsala wines were/are comparable to Port and Sherry. A proper fortified wine, that was the staple alcoholic tipple on board sailing ships.
Unfortunately, sometime in the mid-1900s, this classic style of Marsala fell out of fashion. It was only really used as an alternative to more expensive Sherry and Port wines in cooking.
It is still possible to find this old style of Marsala wine if you are prepared to search for it. However, it has not been produced as a consumer product for decades.
Modern Marsala Wines
Modern Marsala wines are produced in a very different way than classic Marsala was. They are no longer fortified, or possibly only fortified very slightly.
The new triple classification of Ambra, Oro and Rubino also makes identifying how a Marsala will taste much simpler.
Overall, modern Marsala is a much more drinkable wine. It is not surprising that it has begun to gain popularity once again.
It might not be on the wine shelf of every supermarket yet, but it is moving towards this eventuality.
Marsala in Conclusion
If you enjoy fortified wines such as Port and Sherry, but would like to try something a little less heavy, modern Marsala wines could be just the ticket.
This is a very versatile family of wines. You will find Marsala that is suitable as an aperitif or as an after dinner wine. The sweet wines are to compliment subtle deserts, and dry wines to accompany savory dishes.
If you would like to try something unique, then pick up a bottle of Marsala. You may find that you become one of the growing numbers of people who have come to appreciate this wine.
Mac is an avid traveller, who spends many months of the year wandering the world with a laptop and a suitcase. He has been a wine lover for over 30 years, and has a fondness for Italian reds, although don’t ask his opinion on the Barolo Wars. On his travels he has tasted a great many wines. Some good, some bad, and some that should never have been sold for human consumption.
Wines from Marsala
Curatolo Arini – Marsala Superiore Riserva NV 75cl Bottle€16.67 Find Merchant
Curatolo Arini – Marsala Superiore Dolce NV 6x 75cl Bottles€83.51 Find Merchant
Curatolo Arini – Marsala Fine NV 12x 75cl Bottles€118.54 Find Merchant
Cantine De Vita Marsala Superiore€12.63 Find Merchant
Cantine De Vita Marsala Dolce€13.27 Find Merchant
Curatolo Arini Dry Marsala Superiore€14.28 Find Merchant