The sweetness of Marsala wine is renowned all over the world. Excellent accompaniment for desserts and very welcome at the end of the meal giving the mouth a unique strong and sweet taste at the same time. The production of this wine is concentrated in the Marsala area where obviously the most suitable grape varieties can be found for cultivation.
The History of Marsala Wine
The most credited version on the birth of Marsala as a fortified (or fortified) wine is centered on the figure of the English merchant John Woodhouse who in 1773 landed with the ship on which he traveled in the port of Marsala.
According to tradition, during the break he had the opportunity, together with the rest of the crew, to taste the wine produced in the area, which was aged in oak barrels assuming a taste similar to the Spanish and Portuguese wines very common in that period in England.
In reality, the English knew well the wines of the Marsala countryside, since for decades they stopped in the body of water in front of the port of Marsala to load with the aid of special low-draft boats, called schifazzi, various provisions, water, food and, precisely, wines. It should be remembered that at the time the Mediterranean was very popular with English, Spanish and French boats, which competed for the predominance of Mare Nostrum: Malta became English land in 1800. The aging method used by the locals, called in perpetuum, it consisted of topping up the barrels that contained a part of the wine consumed during the year with the new production wine, in order to preserve its characteristics.
First exports of Marsala wine
In 1833 the entrepreneur from Palermo, of Calabrian origin, Vincenzo Florio, began the production of Marsala wine in Marsala in competition with the English companies, founding the Cantine Florio. In 1853 the production of Marsala amounted to 6,900 barrels, of which 23% produced by the Florio cellars, 19% by the Woodhouse cellars and 58% by the Ingham & Whitaker cellars. Florio subsequently acquired the Woodhouse plant, becoming the first producer. Local producers were also born: Don Diego Rallo (1860), Vito Curatolo Arini (1875), Carlo Pellegrino (1880) and Casa Vinicola Buffa (1931), still today among the major producers of marsala. In 1920 Cinzano acquired the Florio cellars and several factories, unifying the production under the Florio brand.
The fortune of Marsala wine has known many ups and downs. A serious crisis passed through the city and its wine after the First World War, mainly due to the operation of unscrupulous traders who used the fame of Marsala to sell poor quality products. For this reason, already in 1931 the first steps were taken towards legislation that protected the original Marsala from imitations and that limited its production area, and was protected by the government, with a decree of the then ministers Acerbo and Bottai (Ministerial Decree of 15 October 1931 ).
Marsala wine was the first DOC wine in Sicilian wine history. A great pride for those who produce it and for the whole territory was in fact the recognition of the Denomination of Controlled Origin in 1969. The production disciplinary was updated in 1986 and 1995. A Consortium for the protection of Marsala DOC wine was born in 1963 on the initiative of producers, and recognized in 2003 by the Ministry of Agricultural Policies.