Marsala, Port and Sherry
Information about Marsala, Port and Sherry plus Recipes
Port and Sherry are all examples of fortified wines. Other well known types
include Madeira and Vermouth. The process of fortification involves the addition
of spirits, especially brandy and sometimes additional flavourings in the shape
of herbs or spices.
practice of fortifying wine took off in the 16th and 17th centuries with the
increase of long sea voyages around the globe. Many of the normal wines
transported from Europe spoiled during the rigorous journey during which they
were not only subjected to being shaken about, but also to huge temperature
changes. Wine makers found that adding certain amounts of brandy protected and
stabalised the wines. It also gave them a more robust flavour as well as
increasing the alcohol content. Fortified wines are generally between 17 and 21
addition of brandy takes place either before or during the fermentation process,
the timing of which makes a difference to the end product. If added before
fermentation, the wine has a higher sugar content and is therefore sweet; if
added after fermentation a dryer wine is achieved.
Port and Sherry, as well as the other fortified wines, are not only good to
drink, served either as aperitifs or dessert wines depending on the type, but
have also long been used in cooking and are excellent in both savoury and sweet
in Western Sicily, Italy, Marsala takes its name from the town where it was
produced. Although the area had been making fortified wine for a long time, even
dating back to Roman times, it was in the late 1700s, that the Englishman John
Woodhouse developed the technique used today for making Marsala.
range from dry to sweet, the sweetest called dolce, the driest called secco and
are graded from young to old, Fine being the youngest with 1 year aging, grading
up through , Superiore, Superiore Riserva, Vergine, and Vergine Stravecchio or
Vergine Riserva, being the oldest with a mighty minimum of 10 years aging.
the dry Marsalas are served apéritif and the sweet ones as dessert wines
however it is also a vital ingredient in many Italian recipes including
zabaglione and tiramisu. As a general rule, choose the sweeter varieties for
cooking as they have a richer flavour. Marsala can be substituted with Madeira
originates from the Douro region in Northern Portugal. It takes its name from
Oporto, the town where it was traditionally aged and bottled. Whilst there are
many types of port wine, there are basically four categories: in order Vintage,
Tawny, Ruby and White with Vintage port being considered the best. Some Vintage
ports can be aged for 50 years or more!
ports are relatively sweet and are served after dinner although some white ports
( which are produced the same way as red ports except that they use white
grapes) are sometimes left to ferment for a longer period thus producing a drier
port suitable to be served as an apéritif.
cooking, the robust Ruby Port retains its colour well and is therefore an
excellent choice with the added bonus that its cheaper than a vintage or Tawny
port. As port generally has quite a strong flavour, it should be used with
discretion in both sweet and savoury recipes until you are familiar with its
use. Port can usually be substituted with Madeira or sweet sherry.