The father of Marsala wines
Sicily is one of the cradles of viticulture and vinification; from here, through various colonizations and dominations, it has developed and spread throughout the rest of the peninsula, yet it will forever remain a characteristic feature of Sicilian culture and identity.
In the province of Trapani in particular, thanks to the naturally favorable climatic and territorial conditions, each family had its own vineyard, from which they made wine for domestic consumption and it was customary that a part of the best wines of each vintage was kept in the small family barrel, to celebrate the most important occasions: the carateddu. This typical barrel, with a capacity of about 26 liters, was topped up each year, so that the wine contained in it could age for at least one generation and maintain its characteristics throughout the years. This method, known as Perpetuo, was very similar to the Andalusian Solera, a practice that was certainly better known, but which had been developed by the Sicilian peasants. The first name of Marsala was linked to this practice of aging, thus it was known as Vino Perpetuo. A veritable family jewel, the “carateddu” was cared for and handed down from father to son and an accompaniment at times of celebration, joy and conviviality with the family, with friends and important guests.
The commercial development of Marsala
Tradition has it that in 1773, the merchant John Woodhouse was directed to the port of Mazara, but, due to bad weather, he was forced to divert the route to Marsala, where he tasted the Perpetuo wine that conquered the palate of the young. Seeing the commercial potential of this wine, Woodhouse decided to send it to his relatives in Liverpool. He added aqua vitae to ensure the product did not spoil during the trip. He called it Marsala wine. The approval of the relatives of Woodhouse was so high that the young man returned to Marsala where he started marketing the product.
British entrepreneurship makes inroads in Marsala
The fame of Marsala soon grew to the point of attracting the attention of other English entrepreneurs.
The work of Benjamin Ingham was decisive and he is credited with having improved the production of Marsala from a qualitative point of view, improving its characterization. The memorandum that the same Ingham wrote in 1834 is considered the first act of renewal of Italian enology.
1832 I Florio and local entrepreneurship
The first Italian brand
We must wait until 1832 to find the first Italian name among Marsala producers: “i Florio”, a family of enlightened bourgeois. Vincenzo Florio founded the Sicilian steam company with Ingham himself, and then built the first industrial winery in Italy. Vincenzo set up his own production baglio between those of the two British giants, surpassing the British competitors in the space of twenty years.
1866 Cantina Martinez
The first generation
In 1866 Carlo Martinez, a clever young man from Palermo, founded Cantina Martinez. Carlo Martinez, attracted by the commercial potential of Marsala, now the hub of the island’s wine production, decided to found a company, with his brother Francesco, that has now become the most historic in the territory: Cantina Martinez.
1931: Long before the DOC wine
Decreto legge 15 Ottobre 1931, riguarda una prima delimitazione del territorio di produzione del vino Marsala e precede il corpo normativo nazionale sulla I.G.T , D.O.C , D.OC.G , D.O.P.
1963: Marsala D.O.C. is born
Decree Law 12 July 1963, No. 930 bestows the Controlled Origin Denomination to Marsala
1969: Definition of the production regulations for Marsala DOC
Presidential Decree 2 April 1969 first production regulations of Marsala wine
1984: Update of procedural guideline of Marsala DOC production
Law November 28, 1984, n.851 New procedural guideline of “Marsala” wine.
As is traditional desserts, especially almond or ricotta, are the perfect pairing to Marsala.
But Marsala is a living tradition and does not stop at the end of the meal: in all its types, it can amaze even the most curious and savvy palates, always displaying a different side of itself with new and appetizing combinations.