Cantine Pellegrino Marsala Riserva 2000 is a dry style of Marsala from a single vintage, a singe vintage Marsala. Is is also bottled as a Vino Marsala Vergine DOP which means it has to be aged for at least 5 years.
Marsala is one of the world’s greatest fortified wines but unfortunately, and rather unfairly, is often seen as a poor relation to the rather more famous Port, Madeira and Sherry Wines. It is almost certainly the most famous Italian fortified wine style and it is made in the north western region of the island of Sicily. Compared to sweeter Marsala wines I would say that this sort of style has more in common with older, medium to dry Madeiras or Sherries. Either way, it is a stunning wine, certainly not for the Tiramisu or Christmas Cake!
Unlike other fortified wines, the creation of Marsala can be pinpointed to one man, Englishman, John Woodhouse. Woodhouse was a connoisseur of Port, Madeira and Sherry and when he arrived in the city of Marsala in 1770, it wasn’t long before he thought to try fortifying the local wines. In 1773 he added 8 litres of grape brandy to 400 litre barrels of wine, shipped it to England, and, effectively Marsala was born. Marsala first received Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status in 1969. Today, Cantine Pellegrino, along with their competitors Cantine Florio, are recognised as the two top Marsala producers. Cantine Pellegrino came a little after Woodhouse. It was established in 1880 by Paolo Pellegrino and the company today remains in family ownership (one of only 2 to do so) and is one of only 3 Marsala houses founded in the 19th century that is still in existence.
There are quite a few different style of Marsala and they vary in terms of sweetness (from sweet through to dry), in terms of ageing (some in a system similar to the Solera system in Sherry, some in single casks) and then in the length of times the wines are aged. Most Marsala is white, but some is also made from red grapes. Read more about Marsala here.
As mentioned above, Cantine Pellegrino Marsala Riserva 2000 is a dry style of Marsala. This is known as “secco” and a secco style of Marsala can have a maximum of 40g/L of residual sugar. Cantine Pellegrino Marsala Riserva 2000 is made from grapes sourced from vineyards surround Marsala and Mazara del Vallo in the province of Trapani. The vineryards here have clay-limestone, sandy, slightly clay-ish soils and are situated a few meters above sea level. It is made from the manually harvested white grape varieities Grillo, Cataratto and Inzolia. During the vinification process, the fermentation process is stopped with the addition of a grape spirit that has been aged for at least 5 years in oak cask (basically a grape brandy). For a dryer style of Marsala such as this the fermentation is allowed to run longer than for the sweeter wines so that more sugar is converted to alcohol. As a Vino Marsala Vergine DOP the wine has to be at aged for at least 5 years and the Cantine Pellegrino Marsala Riserva 2000 Vintage is actually aged for over 10 years in 80 hl and 50 hl oak barrels.
A great alternative to the Cantine Florio Terre Arse.