The town of Marsala in Sicily may be best known for its dessert wine, but this wine of the week from Marsala is an astonishingly good-value dry wine.
From 3,400 Hungarian forints, £8.79, €9.95, $13.44, 90 Danish kroner
‘You could not possibly cram more explosively juicy fruit into this wine without exploding the bottle’, I wrote. ‘Kapow! Sometimes pictures describe a wine better than words, and for this one, it's pop-art Marvel all the way.’
A few weeks ago, I’d tasted a sample of the 2019 vintage, sent from the winery. It was such a cracking wine, like a lolloping puppy all ears and tail and tongue and lavish exuberance launching itself at your legs. I got straight online to see if I could buy some. I was gobsmacked to see it was just £8.79. But the 2019 was not yet in the UK, so I ordered the 2018 out of curiosity.
It’s every bit as good. It’s mulberry cordial and a zing-zang of raspberries and strawberries. It has dollops of vanilla cream and cinnamon and liquorice allsorts. It’s deliciously hoover-up-able and super-fun and you don’t have to get all intellectual about it, but there is absolutely nothing commercial or industrial about it.
It made me want to street dance, watch hip-hop, do handstands in the kitchen and go goofy in the rain.
And the winemaking is as straightforward as the wine. Hand-picked grapes from the hilly inland vineyards on the outskirts of Marsala, about 350 m (1,150 ft) above sea level, are destemmed and fermented in stainless-steel tanks at 25 °C (77 °F) for 15 to 20 days. 30% is aged in 225-litre barriques for four months and the rest goes into stainless steel for eight months.
You could happily keep this for a year or two, but I'm not sure why you'd bother. It's an impetuous, drink-now kind of wine. I can confirm, beyond all doubt, that it goes beautifully with Cape Malay-spiced veg curry, with courgette and guanciale pizza bianca, with stir-fry chicken in a honey-lime-tamari sauce and with Robert 75% Madagascar craft chocolate. Which makes it about as flexible as a contortionist. And it's just as good after being open for five days. You can chill it.
The background story began in 1904 with Nino Caruso planting vineyards in Marsala. Third-generation vine grower Stefano Caruso met businessman Mario Minini and together the two of them set up Caruso e Minini and began selling their dry wines, focused mainly on Sicilian varieties, in 2004. They turned the ancient baglio (cellar) into a spanking new winery and began to extend the vineyards. Today they have 120 ha (300 acres) of vineyards and Stefano’s daughters, Giovanna and Rosanna (all three pictured at the top of the article), are now working with him full-time. Their indigenous-variety wines are excellent – look out for their Perricone in particular, which is rare enough as a variety and very seldom made as a varietal wine.
Coming back to the wine, full name Terre di Giumara Frappato/Nerello Mascalese, it can be picked up for an absolute song (£8.79) at All About Wine, and also found for around the £9 mark at The Fine Wine Co (Edinburgh), Buy Great Wine (Surrey), Winebuyers (London), Cellar Door Wines (Hertfordshire) and Kwoff (Manchester). Outside of the UK, it is available in Hungary, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and the USA (in Michigan, New York, California, Illinois, Florida and New Jersey). The 2019 is equally good, but not yet widely available. Snap either of them up if you can.