A Fresh Look at Marsala
Florio is an innovator by tradition, a historic brand known for taking risks and pushing the envelope of taste. “Vincenzo Florio was an eclectic man who made Sicily the ideal stage to express his entrepreneurial creativity,” reveals Roberto Magnisi, Winery Director of Florio’s parent company, the Duca di Salaparuta Group, “and this allowed Sicily to express itself to the world.”
It was 1832 when Vincenzo Florio began building the Cantine Florio winery on a strip of Sicilian beach. He created an architectural masterpiece in Anglo Saxon style, complete with lancet arches and pressed tuff floors, an enterprise that helped bring Sicily into the modern era and transformed the city of Marsala into one of its richest business centers. Ahead of the times, the first DOC of Sicily was in Marsala, and Florio was at the forefront of this movement. Today, Marsala traditions are moving far beyond a simple ingredient to a dish – and the category is experiencing a resurgence, with Florio leading the way.
A Heritage of Innovation
There were other Marsalas on the market to be sure, but Florio was confident he could create a wine that would stand out. He knew aging was crucial to quality Marsala, so he waited, more than twenty years, to let the wine develop its distinctive complex flavors. It was only in 1855 that Florio felt he had created the ideal fortified wine. In 1924 the company launched what has become the world’s best known Marsala, VecchioFlorio: Dry, amber-colored, and aged in barrels of ancient Slavonian durmast wood from the sessile oak, a tree considered sacred by the early Romans, Greeks, and Celts for its legendary strength and durability.
Florio’s taste for innovation and appreciation of its artisan history has never diminished, and the brand is best known for reinterpreting the past with modern winemaking technology. In addition to innovative practices, Florio is committed to re-establishing Marsala as a wine to be consumed in all occasions. Marsala is a wine with deep rooted history in production, but also consumption. Florio is dedicated to changing the perception of Marsala to be an enjoyable accompaniment to any food, mood or setting.
The Florio Winery Welcomes Wine Lovers
Little human intervention is needed, notes Winery Director Magnisi, as the thrill of Marsala is encapsulated in its natural aging process. “Time is at the center of every evolution, where the combination of oxygen and oak offers a winemaker the possibility of transforming the wine in a controlled way, enriching its profile.”
Less than 20 miles from Trapani looking out towards the sea of Marsala, the winery is a visionary blend of design, architecture, lights, sounds, and scents, all open to guests. Visits begin in the elegant cellars built by Vincenzo Florio in 1832, 104 dramatic arches of volcanic tuff stone sheltering nearly 1,400 kegs and 600 casks and vats.
Tasting: A Cavalcade of the Senses
“Florio is a fortified wine that has seen the highest peaks of prestige even in times of misunderstanding,” Magnisi notes, as when many thought Marsala should only be used for cooking or to pair with sweets. “But Marsala is versatile,” he states. “I see this wine as a tool for food and wine discovery with unexpected combinations like blue cheeses, raw seafood, spicy cured meats, and desserts.” To some wine lovers’ surprise, the tasting part of the tour is a sensory discovery, as they are offered a unusual pairing choices such as smoked fish, dried apricots, Marcona almonds, olive tapenade, and dark chocolate, each calling up different notes of this complex wine. (Detailed pairing notes below.)
“Florio is not just a brand,” avows Winery Director Magnisi. Founded by a family of great pioneers, to whom quality has been a passion for almost 200 years, “Florio is history with deep roots.” It is a product linked to its territory of origin, but also artisanal and modern, revealing an intense and unexpected soul. “Florio is Marsala,” declares Magnisi. “Florio is Sicily.”
Marsala and Cheese:
• Savory cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano are ideal with the dry, smooth flavor of Florio Dry Marsala.
• These wines also sublimely enhance the still young aromas of medium mature cheeses such as Piacentinu Ennese, Fontina or Caciotta.
• For blue cheeses with a more pronounced taste, such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola or Stilton, try Florio Sweet with its warm, ample, soft flavors.
Marsala and Flavors of the Sea:
Florio Targa are excellent paired with refined smoked fish or tuna roe appetizers for a combination as unexpected as it is fascinating.