While the city's natives sometimes drink "vintage" Marsala, the wine produced for export is universally a fortified wine similar to Port. Originally, Marsala wine was fortified with alcohol to ensure that it would last long ocean voyages, but now it is made that way because of its popularity in foreign markets.
Marsala is produced using the Grillo, Inzolia, and Catarratto white grape varieties, among others.
Types of Marsala
Marsala contains about 15-20% alcohol by volume. Different Marsala wines are classified according to their colour, sweetness and the duration of their ageing. The three levels of sweetness are secco (with a maximum 40 grams of residual sugar per litre), semisecco (41-100 g/l) and sweet (over 100 g/l). The colour and ageing classifications are as follows:
- Oro has a golden colour.
- Ambra has an amber colour. The colouring comes from the mosto cotto sweetener added to the wine.
- Rubino has a ruby colour.
- Fine has minimal aging, typically less than a year.
- Superiore is aged at least two years.
- Superiore Riserva is aged at least four years.
- Vergine e/o Soleras is aged at least five years.
- Vergine e/o Soleras Stravecchio e Vergine e/o Soleras Riserva is aged at least ten years.