Imported from Sicily and made from local grapes, Marsala is Italy's most famous fortified wine. Marsalas have a rich, smoky flavor, much of which comes from oxidation during aging, as with madeira. Marsala wines are made in various styles secco (dry), semisecco (semisweet) and dolce (sweet). The quality levels are Fine (the lowest level) at least 17 percent alcohol and one year wood aging; Superiore at least 18 percent alcohol and two years wood aging; Superiore Riserva (also labeled Giaribaldi Dolce (GD, London Particular (LPSuperior Old Marsala (SOM) at least four years wood aging; and Vergine (the highest quality) at least 5 years wood aging (Vergine stravechhio or riserva must be aged a minimum of 10 years). Dry Marsalas are typically served as aperitifs, whereas many of the semisweet and sweet styles make better dessert wines. The label terms ambra and oro indicate wines made from white grapes; wines are made from red grapes. Cremevo (Cremevo Zabaione Vino Aromatizzato) once called Marsala Speciali is a flavored wine made with 80 percent Marsala plus various other ingredients like eggs or coffee.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.