Is Marsala Wine Red Or White?

Regardless of whether you have had a glass of Marsala wine before, you have probably enjoyed a meal that has included this go-to cooking wine. 

However, do not underestimate this wine and write it off as just a cooking wine when it has so much more to offer.  In this article, we will look at whether Marsala wine is red or white, and everything in between.

What Is Marsala Wine?

Marsala is a type of fortified wine that is produced in Sicily, near the town of Marsala.  It is made with various types of grapes that are local to the area including Inzolia, Damaschino, Grillo, and Catarratto. 

Although all of these grapes are white, Marsala can also be made with red grapes.  

As with all fortified wines, Marsala wine is made featuring a distilled spirit.  In the case of Marsala wine, it is most commonly brandy  (You might also want to see: What Is Cognac?) that is used.  

Although Marsala wine is a common addition to cooking in its dry and semi-dry forms, it is also a great, sweet wine when purchased at a higher quality. 

In its sweet form, it is common to see it served as either an aperitif or a digestif with a meal. 

Marsala wine is often priced and classified based solely on its color and its age.  It will also most commonly be served in small portions due to the relatively high ABV of the fortified wine. 

What Does Marsala Wine Taste Like?

One of the most important aspects of any wine is its taste.  The flavor of the wine helps us to know what to best pair it with or what sort of dish it provides an appropriate flavor profile for.  

There are four most common flavors that feature in Marsala wines, they are vanilla, tamarind, brown sugar, and apricot.  The flavors of this wine can range from dry or semi-dry styles to sweet, like sap. 

To get the most out of the flavor of your Marsala wine, it should be served at a slightly cool temperature of around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  The temperature of Marsala wine when used for cooking purposes does not matter.  

How Long Does Marsala Wine Last Once Open?

Once you have opened your bottle of Marsala wine, it is able to stay fresh and retain its desired flavor for up to a month. 

If you want to extend the shelf life of the wine once it is open, store it in a cool, dark place.  It is also a good idea to use a wine preserver to remove the oxygen from the bottle before you secure the lid, this way the wine will last even longer.  

Food Pairing

Dry and semi-dry versions of Marsala wine pair brilliantly with rich foods such as blue cheese, olives, and nuts, as well as fruits and pastries. 

The sweeter variants of Marsala wine make a great dessert wine that perfectly complements rich chocolate desserts such as truffles and cakes.  

Styles Of Marsala Wine

There are a few different styles of Marsala wine that are available to purchase, all of which have different flavor profiles and levels of sweetness. 

Sweetness Levels

There are various sweetness levels available with Marsala wine as classified by the color and age of the wine. 

The lowest level of sweetness or the driest Marsala wine is classified as Secco.  This type of Marsala contains less than 40 grams of sugar per liter.

In the middle, there is Semi-Secco Marsala wine that is semi-dry, the middle ground between dry and sweet.  In a bottle of Semi-Secco Marsala wine, there will be between 50 and 100 grams of sugar per liter.

The sweetest classification of Marsala wine is Dolce.  This is a sweet, dessert wine that features over 100 grams of sugar per liter. 


When classifying Marsala wine, the color is key.  Much like the levels of sweetness, there are three main hues that Marsala comes in. 

Amber or Ambra-colored Marsala wine is made with white grapes local to Sicily.  Amber Marsala wine will have undertones of dried fruits and nuts. 

Ruby or Rubino Marsala wine is, as the name suggests, made with red grapes which produce a gorgeous ruby-hued wine. 

The most common types of grapes used in the production of Ruby Marsala are Perricone, Nerello Mascalese, and Pignatello. 

This type of Marsala wine has a fruity flavor and aroma that creates a brilliant contrast with the tannin content of the red grapes. 

The final color classification is Gold or Oro Marsala which boasts a gorgeous golden color.  This wine is made with white grapes that produce a flavor profile that contains undertones of vanilla, licorice, and hazelnuts. 


The final classification of Marsala wine is its age.   As a general rule with Marsala wine, the younger the wine, the more likely it is to be used for cooking rather than drinking. 

The older the wine, the more likely it is to be used to sip as an aperitif or digestif with a meal.  

The age classifications for this wine are as follows:

  • Fine: This classification is aged for at least one year
  • Superiore: This is aged for a minimum of two years and a maximum of three years
  • Superiore Riserva: Has been aged for between 4 and 6 years 
  • Soleras or Vergine: Has been aged for between 5 and 7 years
  • Stravecchio: Has aged for a minimum of 10 years with no added sugar

Marsala Wine And Cooking

The two main types of Marsala wine that are used for cooking are dry or Secco and sweet or Dolce.  

Secco Marsala wine is great for adding to savory dishes where it brings a nutty or caramelization effect to ingredients such as beef and mushrooms 

Dolce Marsala wine is perfect for adding to sweet, viscous sauces used in desserts and with main dishes that involve chicken, such as chicken marsala. 

If you are unable to find Marsala wine, a great substitute in cooking is Madeira wine which features a similar flavor profile. 

Marsala Wine For Vov Liqueur

You can also use Marsala wine to make an Italian Vov Liqueur at home.  Follow this recipe posted by our friends at The Tolerant Vegan for instructions.

Rachel Edwards
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