The story of Marsala
It begins in 1773, when John Woodhouse, a commercial trader from Liverpool, was sailing towards Sicilia and, because of a violent storm, was suddenly forced to stop and seek shelter in Marsala. Waiting for the weather conditions to improve, he spent his time in the local taverns drinking the local wine, at the time known as ‘Perpetuum’. It is said he enjoyed it so much that he decided to ship some back to his home country. But concerned that it might suffer the ill effects of the long journey, he added alcohol to the wine to fortify it, and the first Marsala was born. By the end of the XVIII century Marsala had replaced Rhum on board the British Royal Navy ships and it soon became Lord Nelson’s victory wine. Marsala became so popular that Woodhouse returned to Sicily and, in 1796, began the mass production and commercialization of Marsala wine.
Curatolo Arini Marsala
Marsala is a DOC wine made in the province of Marsala in Sicilia. It is also a VQPRD (Vino di Qualità Prodotto in Regione Delimitata). The Curatolo family has been making Marsala since 1875, using methods handed down from one generation to the next. Today we combine those traditional recipes and ways with innovative, modern techniques. The result is a range of handcrafted Marsalas that reflect the place they are from – Sicilia, their heritage and the essence of those first wines that John Woodhouse was so enamoured with. We are the only producer that continues to make Mosto Cotto in the traditional way, over an open fire. It’s just one of the things that makes our Marsala special. Today we have five wonderful Marsalas to suit all tastes and palettes – Riserva Storico 1988; Superiore Riserva; Superiore Secco; Superiore Garibaldi; and Fine.
The Making of our Marsalas
Vito began making his Marsala in 1875 and since that time our family has continued to make Marsala in an artisanal way. The DOC production area of Marsala stretches over the whole province of Trapani. And the different terroir within the area results in very diverse styles of wine and a richness and elegance not found elsewhere. All of our Marsalas are made from grapes harvested at our vineyards in and around coastal Marsala, and the hilly areas of Salemi. We cultivate our vines using the traditional ‘Alberello’ method to encourage higher natural sugars at harvest time. And we use a higher percentage of Grillo grapes, which though less productive, give a high sugar content, have less acidity and better natural oxidation. This results in base wines that already have 15-16% alcohol, requiring much less wine distillate, thus preserving the structure and concentration of the base wines.
The Ingredients of Our Premium Marsalas
Marsala can be classified according to its sugar content (Dry, Off-Dry or Sweet), colour (Gold, Amber or Ruby), or ageing time (Fine – 1 year, Superiore – 2 years, Superiore Riserva – 4+ years). Our Marsalas are made from a blend of ingredients, used in different quantities to create a unique style and taste:
- Base DOC white wine made from Grillo, Catarratto and Inzolia grapes
- Grape alcohol or wine acquavitae.
- ‘Mosto Cotto’ (cooked must) made from DOC must which has been concentrated by cooking over a direct fire for 36 hours to produce colour and concentrated sweetness
- ‘Mistella’ or ‘Sifone’ made from fresh DOC must with added grape alcohol or wine acquavitae to halt fermantation and add complex aromas and balance.
Ageing is the easiest part of the process and there’s no hurrying here. We like to give our Marsala wines all the time they need in traditional Slavonian oak casks – a lot more than the minimum requirements – to develop a perfect balance of flavour, elegance and complexity.