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Marsala

Marsala is one of the world's great fortified wines, made exclusively in and around the town of that name, in the far west of Sicily, southern Italy. Like some of its fortified counterparts from other parts of Europe, Marsala has seen a significant slump in popularity and sales over the past few decades, although there are efforts underway to re-establish its once-gleaming profile.

The Marsala wine style is generally accepted to have been created by English wine merchant John Woodhouse, who specialized in Port, Sherry and Madeira distribution and came to Marsala in 1770. The wine quickly gained a strong reputation in the British market and great volumes of the wine were made. A large proportion of it was sold to the expanding British navy of the time: 500 barrels a year was Admiral Nelson's famously large order. Two centuries later (in April 1969) Marsala wines were granted DOC protection, just a few months after Etna became Sicily's first DOC.

Modern Marsala can be made from any one of ten grape varieties, including the traditional Grillo and Inzolia and the modern, mass-planted Catarratto (Catarratto Bianco Comune and Catarratto Bianco Lucido included). Other grapes are the Sicilian specialties Pignatello, Nerello Mascalese and Damaschino and the only variety on the list to be grown outside Sicily, Nero d'Avola. The latter, along with Pignatello and Nerello Mascalese, provide color in the red-hued Rubino Marsala wines, which must be made from at least 70% of these varieties.

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