After I offered wine full time, I made it some extent to by no means choose prospects primarily based on what they have been shopping for. The one time a buyer’s alternative annoyed me was once they got here in in search of so-called “cooking wine.” The shop I labored at carried them, in fact, these large, fats bottles on the bottom shelf, with nondescript labels that mentioned “Sherry” or “Port” or no matter else the liquid inside claimed to be. These have been a far cry from the historic, artisanal wines they have been imitating, extra akin to Kraft Singles masquerading as a freshly cracked wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. And although we offered them, I all the time tried to persuade the visitor to purchase a bottle of the particular wine they wanted. Certain, the hand-harvested Madeira or the normal sherry will value a couple of {dollars} greater than the jug wine, however I promised them that their dish would prove 10 instances higher for the worth.

Of the most typical cooking wines, Marsala was each probably the most continuously wanted and, in opposition to my finest efforts, probably the most continuously purchased in jug kind. It comes from the Italian island of Sicily, and it’s most well-known for its use within the Italian dish hen Marsala, the place it’s decreased to make a wealthy and flavorful sauce.

Although Marsala has been overshadowed by Italy’s different wines and even by different fortified wines, I’ve discovered that it’s virtually an ideal nexus of affordability, uniqueness and flexibility. My go-to bottle is the VecchioFlorio Marsala Superiore DOC from Cantine Florio ($15). They produce a dry and a candy model (and every is clearly famous as such on the entrance label). Each are made with the native Sicilian grapes grillo and cataratto, and so they play with an identical array of flavors: a savory nuttiness that swings someplace between roadhouse peanuts and candied pralines.

The dry model is what you’ll need to cook dinner with, but it surely’s the candy variations which are sometimes finest for baking and for ingesting by themselves (I used a couple of bottles of it to get me via final month’s single-digit temperatures). These sweeter variations are available one among two sweetness ranges, both the lighter “semi-secco” or the decadent “dolce.” Blame it on my Cleveland County upbringing, but it surely’s these dolce wines which are the place Marsala reaches its peak for me for my palate. Cantine Florio’s Oltre Cento Dolce ($20) is the right instance: oozing with heady notes of vanilla bean and baked fig. Certain, it will pair with virtually any cake or pie, however why hassle baking once we may simply drink our dessert?

Want a recipe to your subsequent Marsala journey? Let me know on Instagram at @sethebarlow or by way of e-mail at sethebarlowwine@gmail.com. … Simply promise me you gained’t use “cooking wine.”

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