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There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' – the land of wines – so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it.
Marsala is a well known fortified wine from Italy’s largest island, Sicily. A largely misunderstood and undervalued fortified wine, it is most commonly associated with its sweet variety - usually used as a cooking wine - although the finest dry Masalas are able to stand up to more revered, similar wines such as Sherry and Madeira. Marsala has been made in Sicily since the mid 18th century, and it grew wildly popular around Europe as sailors introduced it to port towns across the continent. Marsala wine has a beautiful set of flavors, most typically including apricot, tamarind, vanilla and tobacco, making it a delightfully intense treat when served as a sipping wine.
Marsala wine comes in several different varieties, and most of them are a world away from the sweet wines used in sauces and chicken dishes. Amber, golden and ruby versions of Masala are produced, from a range of different native grape varietals, and many of the finest are aged for over ten years to achieve a fascinating set of complex flavors and a remarkably smooth finish. It is usually made from the Grillo, Inzolia, Damaschino and Catarratto white grapes, although the ruby Masala wines uses typical Sicilian red varietals such as Nero d’Avola and Calabrese, among others.