Drink with Certa #5: Marsala, the hidden gem of Sicily | Certa

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Drink with Certa #5: Marsala, the hidden gem of Sicily

Written by Justin Chen
Photo by Certa Team

Marsala is a fortified wine produced in the region surrounding the town of Marsala, located on Sicilia’s western tip.  During the 19th century, Marsala was among the most renowned wines of Italy and among world’s most admired fortified wines along with Port, Sherry and Madeira. However, the fortunes of Marsala started to decline during the 20th Century and eventually turned into a cooking ingredient, which seriously damages the reputation and image of Marsala. Nonetheless, a few quality producers including Martinez continue to respect the tradition of Marsala and produce great examples which allow Marsala to live up to its past glory and get ready for its revival in the near future. ⁣


I have recently tasted three different styles of Marsala wines produced by Martinez, one of the oldest Marsala producers in Sicily founded in 1866 and now in the hands of the sixth generation. ⁣


The three wines are:⁣

Wine 1 bearing the name “La TP 7” is dedicated to the first automobile that the Martinez family ever purchased: a Diatto TP7. In the early 1900s, Gaspare Martinez, a second generation exponent, loaned it to King Vittorio Emanuele III during his trip to Sicily. It is a Marsala Vergine Riserva, which is required by law to be matured in wood barrels for at least ten years. For me, this is the most elegant and complex wine among the three. It shows golden-amber colour with a pronounced bouquet of citrus peel, dried fruits, nuts, spices and a hint of honey notes. On palate, it is completely dry with high acidity to balance its smooth body and texture. The 19% alcohol is well integrated and creates a comfortable warming sensation. The finish is super long with nutty, smoky and salty-savoury nuances. The savoury character of the wine makes it a perfect pairing with our steamed hairy crab. When pairing with this wine, I would choose not to use the traditional sauce (a mixture of sugar, vinegar and ginger) for the hairy crab so that the wine itself may help to bring out more umami/savoury flavours of the crab meat and roe without being overpowered by the sauce. The result is fantastic so I would definitely recommend! ⁣

第1款酒取名“La TP 7”,是為了紀念Martinez家族當年購置的第一輛汽車 – Diatto TP7. 早在1900年代,酒莊第二代Gaspare Martinez曾將此車借給Vittorio Emanuele 三世國王,讓他在訪問西西里的行程中使用。此酒為Vergine珍藏級,法律規定必須於木桶內陳年十年以上。對筆者而言,這是三款酒中最典雅及複雜的酒款。此酒色呈金黃至琥珀,香氣撲鼻,帶有橙皮、乾果、堅果、香料及一絲蜂蜜的風味。入口,其甜度為幹型,高酸度與順滑的酒體及質感構成平衡。19%的酒精度頗為融合,給人以舒服的暖意。此酒餘韻極長,堅果、煙熏和鮮鹹的風味久久縈繞。此酒的鮮鹹風味與筆者自家的清蒸大閘蟹搭配堪稱一絕。搭配時,我會特意不用傳統的蟹醋,而是讓酒味帶出蟹肉和蟹黃的鮮味,以免酒的風味被蟹醋蓋住。出來的效果極好,絕對值得推薦!

Wine 2, although is “Secco” which means “dry”, actually tastes with a bit of residual sugar so it is off-dry on the palate. It has slightly deeper colour than Wine 1 and its aromas and flavours include more honey, coffee, and tobacco and leather notes. The body is fuller and the aftertaste is long with dried fruits (fig, prune, and sultana) combined with good acidity and some saline sensation. This is another wine which can match with the hairy crab very well but this time, I prefer to use the sauce as mentioned above as it can bring out more sweetness of the crab meat and therefore, goes perfectly with the off-dry style of the wine. ⁣

第2款酒雖為“Secco” (即幹型的意思),但其實仍含有一些殘糖,故口感上其實屬於微甜。她比第1款顏色更深些,香氣和味道上帶有更多蜂蜜、咖啡、煙草和皮革的風味。酒體更豐厚,長長的餘韻中帶有乾果(無花果、西梅和葡萄乾)與良好的酸度及些許礦物鮮味相混合。這是另一款可與大閘蟹匹配的酒,但這次筆者就選擇用上前面提到的蟹醋,因為能帶出更多蟹肉的甜味,與此微甜酒款十分合稱。

Wine 3 is a ”Dolce”, which means sweet and it is a real sweet and full-bodied wine, which offers more dried fruits and honey flavours with some caramel notes. So it may be too heavy and sweet for the hairy crab but definitely a perfect dessert wine which you may consider for this festival season.  Panettone, Christmas pudding and Tiramisu are all good choices. I even tried it with our home-made Chinese style of dessert – Black Sesame Dumplings in Ginger and Brown Sugar Soup, which is quite nice as the weight and sweetness of the wine and the dessert are at the same level and the ginger flavour echoes the sweet spice flavours in the wine.  You may also try this Dolce with the Cantonese sponge cake which should be another surprise.  ⁣

第3款是“Dolce”,真正的甜酒, 酒體豐厚。她的味道中的乾果和蜂蜜更多,還帶有些焦糖味,對於大閘蟹而言可能過於濃厚且有點太甜了,但確是配合聖誕季節的一款上佳的甜品酒。意式聖誕麵包、聖誕布丁和提拉米蘇都是很好的搭配選擇。筆者還試著用此酒來搭配自家煮的姜茶黑芝麻湯圓,效果也很不錯,因為酒的甜度和厚重度與此甜點相當,而薑汁的味道與酒中的香料風味也很契合。你還可以試試以她來配馬拉糕,相信也會有驚喜。

In summary, all the three wines prove the very high quality that Marsala can achieve and certainly you don’t want to miss this opportunity to dig out this hidden gem from Sicily. Cheers! ⁣


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