It’s all in the grapes, it has been said.
Catarratto, Grillo, and Inzolia are the three primary grapes that are the make up Marsala wine. These grapes blended together, create a port like wine referred to as Marsala wine.
Marsala is made in the “solera” tradition; meaning a melding of years.
First, a keg is filled with wine from the current vintage of grapes. Later vintage wines with similar taste are placed in kegs above the current keg. When liquid is drawn from the bottom of the oldest keg, it is refreshed with wine from the next keg and so on. The taste remains the same with every bottle of wine (potentially) the same as the first.
Marsala is a city in the west section of Sicily, the island near the boot end of Italy. In 1798 the Sicilians managed to substitute their own wines in place of the standard rum in an English naval shipment. In those seafaring days, something had to be done to wine to allow it to last the long ocean journey. Brandy was added to allow the wine to last longer, and to be more resistant to temperature changes. These were called “fortified wines.” This was the birth of marsala.
Once the British tasted Marsala wine, the demand grew.
In the United States during prohibition Marsala wine was bottled to look like medicine. This made it less risky to get wine. Although not as popular now for drinking, Marsala wine is still used in cooking.
Through a melding of the years (solera), blending together three bold grapes and fortifying the wine; Marsala wine had a great shelf life, gave a better kick, was readily available and tasted great.
Sicily is a vast wealth of cultural influences including the Arabs, the Europeans, the Greeks, and the Romans. Many legends abound.
One is worth remembering:
Zeus had a son named Dionysus the God of fertility, joy, and wellbeing. Dionysus left the kingdom and headed for Sicily with the root of a grapevine. To carry the vine safely he first planted it in the bone of a bird, then the bone of a lion and finally the bone of a donkey. The vine flourished and so did the following saying:
“A good glass of wine makes you light as a bird, another drink and you are courageous as a lion, but when you exaggerate with wine, you end up an ass!”
Marsala, Marsala, Marsala… melding, refreshing and fortifying.
What could make you happier than to be like a great bottle of Marsala; melding the years of your life into a blended taste of experience fortified with wisdom?
That’s enough to make anyone happy!
Appreciate the culture, nature, and history of the things we consume. Appreciation has a way of making us happy and reminding us that in life it is good to be light as a bird and courageous as a lion and to not end up being an ass.
Smile, be happy, and bottoms up!
– Doctor Lynn