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Stefano Rossoni

Woodhouse Riserva 1815

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A few months ago I opened a very rare bottle of Woodhouse Marsala Riserva 1815, I'm offering some samples from that bottle for sale. I'm about to move and need to clean up my cabinet. Some here already tasted this (Brian, Scott, Greytail...).

 

But let me tell you something about Marsala, because it’s my understanding that there is very little, if any, knowledge of this outstanding fortified wine here in the US, where most people associate Marsala with the cheap “cooking wine” you buy at the supermarket. Needless to say that the Marsala sold in the supermarket is as close to real Marsala as Hill’s is close to real absinthe.

 

The legend has it that in 1773 a British merchant by the name of John Woodhouse, was forced to spend a few days in the Marsala harbor (in Sicily) with his ship because of rough seas. During his stay in Marsala he happened to taste a traditional wine that the locals were calling “perpetuum” (latin for “never-ending”). This wine was aged in oak casks and produced in a way that was similar to the solera technique that was used in Spain and Portugal; every year some of the wine was withdrawn from the cask to be consumed and some young wine from the new harvest was added to the cask to replace it. The result was a progressive aging that would allow the inhabitants of Marsala to drink a wine that was increasingly more aged (as the part of the wine left in the cask would contain more and more old vintages).

Mr. Woodhouse was so impressed with this wine that he decided to bring some back to Britain, but before beginning the trip he fortified the wine with some distilled wine alcohol, to increase the proof and make it more likely that it would withstand the long trip.

This wine, now called Marsala, was hugely successful in England. Mr. Woodhouse decided to travel back to Sicily to open a winery near the city of Marsala where he started the production of the Marsala wine. Woodhouse & Co. was the very first Marsala winery and was known for producing very high quality Marsala. In fact, Woodhouse Marsala was so prized at the time that it because the Marsala of choice for the King of Italy (as stated on the label where it says “provveditori di S.M. il Re d’Italia”) and Admiral Nelson nicknamed it his “victory wine”, since he drank it to celebrate a victory.

After seeing the success of Woodhouse, another Englishman, Mr. Ingham, opened a Marsala winery in Sicily, followed by an Italian entrepreneur, Mr. Florio. In the mid 900s Marsala suffered a decrease in popularity and the Woodhouse and Ingham wineries were purchased by the then much bigger Florio winery. As often happens, the larger company eventually discontinued the Woodhouse and Ingham brands to focus on its own core brand. Now, Florio is still sold and is a pretty huge company, but the quality of their marsala is what you could expect from any huge company: mediocre at best.

The bottle of Marsala Woodhouse I opened is from the 1960s and is a Riserva 1815, which means that it comes from a very old oak cask that started to be filled with wine in 1815 and then more wine was added from the best harvests every 5-10 years. In addition to that it’s been aging in the bottle for an extra 50+ years before being opened by me a few weeks ago.
I carefully poured the content into several 50ml sample bottles minimizing the oxygen exposure and spraying each sample with wine saver inert gas before sealing it.

This wine is extremely rich in flavor, with the classic honey-like finish that is a trademark of good Marsala wines, classic aged notes, and the most glorious oak flavor I’ve ever tasted in a wine. The oak is in fact so big that it almost makes you forget for a second that you are drinking a wine and not a distillate.

Hope you enjoyed the little marsala history lesson! The samples will be offered on a first come first served basis and there are not many left.

The samples are $45 shipped to lower 48.

PM me if interested.

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