Marsala is one of Italy's most famous wines -- it might be the most important wine to ever come out of Sicily. Marsala brought acclaim and worldwide recognition to Sicily when an English merchant named John Woodhouse began exporting the dessert wine in the late 1700s. It provided an alternative to port and sherry, which were incredibly popular at the time, and it wasn't long before Marsala overtook its competitors. Unfortunately, a lack of standards led to a lack of quality, and Marsala eventually became used more for cooking than anything else. It wasn't until the 1980s that standards improved and Marsala began to regain its place in the world as a great wine.
Incredibly, Marsala can last more than 50 years. There are five types of Marsala, which is made from Grillo, Inzolia, Catarratto and Damaschino grapes. They're distinguished by the amount of time they spend aging. Marsala Fine is aged for at least one year; Marsala Superiore, for two years; Marsala Superiore Riserva, four years; Marsala Vergine, five years; and Marsala Vergine Stravecchio, 10 years [source: Di Wine Taste].
Sicily has 19 DOC areas. Interestingly, nearly 90 percent of DOC wines in Sicily are dessert wines like Marsala [source: Wine Country]. Two DOC wines that should be mentioned alongside Marsala are Pantelleria and Lipari, sweet wines that have gained reputations for quality all around the world.
A favorite among Sicilians that you won't find on a list of DOC wines is Regaleali [source: Regalis]. It's a wine produced by Count Tasca d'Almerita that comes in a few varieties. Regaleali is classified as IGT, which is generally considered lesser quality than DOC. However, IGT classifications are quite common in Sicily. and if you avoid them you'll definitely miss out on some great wines.
Pop open a bottle and visit the links below to learn more.
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