After I offered wine full time, I made it some extent to by no means decide prospects primarily based on what they had been shopping for. The one time a buyer’s selection pissed off me was after they got here in searching for so-called “cooking wine.” The shop I labored at carried them, after all, these huge, 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 had been a far cry from the historic, artisanal wines they had been imitating, extra akin to Kraft Singles masquerading as a freshly cracked wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. And although we offered them, I at all times 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 value.

Of the most typical cooking wines, Marsala was each essentially the most ceaselessly wanted and, towards my finest efforts, essentially the most ceaselessly purchased in jug type. It comes from the Italian island of Sicily, and it’s most well-known for its use within the Italian dish rooster 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 nearly 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, they usually play with the same array of flavors: a savory nuttiness that swings someplace between roadhouse peanuts and candied pralines.

The dry model is what you’ll need to prepare dinner with, nevertheless it’s the candy variations which are usually 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, nevertheless it’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 proper instance: oozing with heady notes of vanilla bean and baked fig. Certain, it will pair with nearly any cake or pie, however why trouble baking after we may simply drink our dessert?

Want a recipe on your subsequent Marsala journey? Let me know on Instagram at @sethebarlow or through electronic mail at … Simply promise me you gained’t use “cooking wine.”

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