The amazing history of the world-famous Marsala wine and the prestigious Florio Winery
Marsala: not only the name of a city but also that of a fine wine. The scent of sea breeze and the pleasant taste of a full-bodied wine, born thanks to the obstinacy of the Florio family, are what make Marsala one of Sicily’s most suggestive destinations.
The history of the Florio Winery in Marsala
Marsala, Sicily. The year is 1833. Vincenzo Florio, the son of a Calabrian grocer, buys a plot of land on the coast, between the properties of Ingham and Woodhouse, and gives birth to “Cantine Florio”, a winery that would have a great impact on the city of Marsala, making it one of Sicily’s richest towns.Over the following twenty years, Vincenzo broadened his business interests and invested his capital first in maritime transport and later in activities such as tuna fishing and sulphur mining. Today, however, he is best remembered as the producer of a very popular fortified wine: Marsala.
In 1915, Cantine Florio launched VecchioFlorio, the world’s most famous Marsala wine. This was just the beginning of a production that would continue throughout the whole century and saw the birth of many other wines, such as Ala, a marasca cherry flavoured wine to be enjoyed together with a piece of chocolate.
In 1924, the winery was acquired by the Cinzano brand and, a few years later, Woodhouse, Whitaker and Ingham – the three wineries that gave birth to Marsala wine – became part of the Florio company. Cantine Florio is currently owned by the ILLVA Saronno Holding group, which decided to maintain the historic family name and add the production of fine table wines to that of Marsala.
Marsala Florio: a wine that has marked the history of Sicily
Marsala is one of the most renowned Italian wines, but not many people know that it was not actually created by an Italian. To discover its history, we need to go back to 1773, when the English merchant John Woodhouse sailed to Mazara del Vallo, a town in Sicily.
During his voyage, the ship was hit by a severe storm, forcing Woodhouse to dock at the port of Marsala and take shelter in a tavern. There, he was offered a glass of a local wine known as Perpetuum, as it was stored in casks that were “perpetually” filled with new wine and never left empty. Woodhouse was seduced by the taste of this nectar and decided to buy a batch of the wine and trade it in England.
To preserve the quality of the wine on the journey to England, Woodhouse added an extra percentage of alcohol to each barrel of Perpetuum. Upon tasting the new blend, he realised that it tasted even better than the original. He thus sailed back to Sicily and started the production of what would then become the favourite drink of the British Royal Navy.
News of Woohouse’s fame soon reached his home country, leading two other English men, Benjamin Ingham and his nephew John Whitaker, to build an establishment near that of Woodhouse and start their own production of Marsala wine.
It was not long before Vincenzo Florio entered the picture and started another winery, managing to export Marsala wine to US by taking advantage of another business that was run by his family, namely the production and trade of antimalarial medications, a drug that was sold in a small bottle with an ill lion printed on its label. The wine, passed off as medication, began to be exported overseas.
Today, Marsala wine is one of the most popular Sicilian wines and is kept in barrels that were built before the Second World War.
With its warm, rich and dry taste, Marsala wine pairs well with both sweet and savoury food, like chocolate, cheese or roasted almonds. Behind the scent of caramel, honey, spices and candied fruit, hides an intriguing, fresh flavour, to be enjoyed together with one of the most famous Sicilian desserts: the cannolo.
Visiting Florio Winery in Marsala
If the fascinating history of Marsala wine has aroused your curiosity and left you with the desire of knowing more about Florio Winery cellars and their wines, then you cannot miss the opportunity of taking a guided tour around their cellars, surrounded by refined spaces and captivating aromas.
The tour will start with a visit to the majestic, ancient vats, where still today Marsala wine is refined, and will then move to the three barrel chambers, where you will be able to admire the ancient tufa floors. At the end of the tour, you can enjoy a wine tasting experience on the Terrazza Florio, a splendid terrace overlooking the sea. There, the sweet and rich taste of Marsala wine and the warm colours of a beautiful sunset will make you feel like you are living a dream.
The best holiday villas for your stay in Marsala area
A holiday in Marsala is a journey through scents and flavours. If you are looking for an exclusive and elegant accommodation, here is our selection of beautiful holiday villas in and around Marsala. With their spacious and comfortable rooms, our villas are ready to welcome you and to make your holiday in Sicily an unforgettable experience.
Il Giardino Ritrovato in Marsala
Il Giardino Ritrovato is a splendid, recently restored dwelling. Set in a beautiful garden of citrus trees, this villa boasts a big swimming pool and spacious terraces, the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Its refined design and bright, comfortable rooms make this villa the ideal place for a relaxing and pleasant holiday in Sicily.
Arangea in Marsala
Arangea is a beautiful villa with private pool, surrounded by olive trees, hammocks and a lovely garden with lawn. This villa has five elegant bedrooms, a large living room and terraces where to enjoy a moment of relaxation.
Villa Rita in Marsala
For those who want to spend their holiday by the sea, Villa Rita is the ideal solution. Located in Marsala, a few metres from a gorgeous sandy beach, this villa is the perfect place for your beach holiday.
Salinella in Trapani
Situated between Marsala and Trapani, Salinella is a luxury villa with private pool just a stone’s throw away from the beach and from Trapani’s saltpans nature reserve. There, you might be lucky enough to see the gentle flight of pink flamingos, a memory that you will carry in your heart for the rest of your life.
Evinte Garden – Diantha in Marsala
Situated just a few metres from the beach of Lido Signorino, Evanthe Garden – Diantha is a holiday villa with a captivating modern design and private swimming pool, surrounded by a beautiful green garden.