Whenever someone talks about marsala wine, you can almost smell the classic creamy, pan-fried chicken and mushroom dish served with a beautiful, savory-sweet Marsala sauce!
The only thing that could possibly make it better would be sipping on a glass of Marsala wine while cooking up the delectable dish.
While Marsala wine might be a staple cooking wine for any chef worth the weight of the food they cook, the story of this wine is far deeper than just the chicken dish it has become famous for!
To understand something, you must understand its’ origin. The origin of Marsala wine is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily. More specifically, the wine is produced with local white grapes that are grown near the town of Marsala, along the Western Cape of Sicily.
Several different types of grapes are harvested to make the wine, including:
Much like how authentic champagne can only be grown in the Champagne region of France, the only true bottles of Marsala wine come from the hills surrounding Marsala. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) of the Italian Government regulates that the usage of the word “Marsala” for wine and other products to be used exclusively for products of the Marsala region of Sicily.
The thing that sets Marsala wine apart (and in our view, above) from other wines is the fact that it is fortified, meaning it is supplemented with a distilled spirit. For Marsala wine, that spirit is typically brandy. Its dry and semi-dry texture makes Marsala amazing cooking wine, offering a rich caramelized and nutty flavor to the sauces.
Now that we’ve dipped our toes into the waters, let’s gain a little perspective on the flavors that make Marsala the champion of cooking wines.
By and large, Marsala is dominated by these flavors:
Some higher-end versions of Marsala wine, just like with any other type of wine or drink in general, will give you a wider range of nuanced flavors, such as:
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Seeing as Marsala wine is fortified, it will have an alcohol content much higher than that of other wines. Typically, wines contain around 12% ABV, but Marsala is usually somewhere between 15% and 20% ABV. The higher alcohol content and the unique, delicious flavors are what make Marsala wine stand apart from typical wines.
The initial process of making Marsala wine is not dissimilar from the process of making other wines. To initiate the fermentation process, grapes are crushed and stored. The process will be disrupted for fortifying depending on what kind of Marsala the maker wants, dry or sweet.
For sweeter-tasting wine, the fortification is done before the fermentation process is completed. This allows for more residual sugars to accumulate in the wine.
On the other hand, if the fortifying spirit is added after the fermentation process has been completed, the wine will have a drier texture and less sugar content.
Unlike most wines which much be finished fairly quickly after the bottle has been opened, Marsala wine will stay fresh and the day it was opened for four to six months. The longer shelf life is a result of the fortifying process. Furthermore, if you store the wine for more than six months after opening it, while you might experience a slight loss of fragrance and flavor, it will not go bad. You can still enjoy it!
Types of Marsala are differentiated based on a few factors; such as color, sweetness level, and age.
Let’s take a look at the identification process through color:
Up next, let’s consider the sweetness of the wine:
Finally, let’s talk about Marsala Wine by its age:
We hope that this blog has helped you learn a little bit more about Marsala wine. You see how it is not just the King of Cooking Wines, but deserves respect as a wine for drinking as well! Check back next week for another blog of fun alcohol knowledge!
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We’ve got a store with 12,000 square feet, so our inventory is endless. Your favorite liquor is in stock, and ready to be brought to your house!
Want some help? Feel free to come to Littleton, CO to Arrow Liquormart where our experts can help find you the perfect spirit for your next event!