Winds of change
A trip to Sicily and the historic wine cellars of Marsala.
The history of Marsala wine begins with a storm. In 1773, rough sea conditions forced the wealthy Liverpudlian merchant, John Woodhouse, to dock at the port of Marsala instead that of Mazara del Vallo, to which he had been bound. It was here that he tasted the local Perpetuum wine and decided to purchase a large quantity of it to take back home with him to England. During the return journey, a gale force sea agitated the barrels to such an extent that the contents were spoiled. Not deterred, Woodhouse added alcohol to each barrel to increase the percentage of alcohol and thus better conserve the wine. This simple strategy proved to be surprisingly successful and the resulting wine was much appreciated by his countrymen, so much so that Woodhouses's Marsala soon became one of their favorite wines. Admiral Nelson was apparently a particularly devoted fan of the strong wine and used it to toast his many victories.
In 1832, Vincenzo Florio, became the first Italian producer of Marsala, and built splendid cellars in the town's tuff rock in which to produce and conserve the wine. At the time, the Florio family was one of the most influential in Sicily, operating in diverse sectors from tuna fishing and packing, to shipping, from the manufacture of ceramics to sulfur mining. Needless to say, the family's pride and joy was their Marsala, a wine produced by chance, the perfume of which evokes Sicily in every corner of the globe.
The historic Florio cellars are situated in the town of Marsala (located just a few kilometers from the city of Trapani, on the western coast of Sicily), inside a 19th century "baglio" overlooking the sea. During the tour of the cellars, visitors are taken on a journey back in time, walking beneath the wide lancet arches of halls in which, in times past,famous names such as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Tomasi di Lampedusa might easily have been found enjoying a glass of Florio's Marsala.
This is the realm of the world's most famous Marsala; a wine still made and aged in 20.000sqm of cellars which, with their cool, silent halls, made from compressed tuff or drip stone, have a solemn, almost church-like, atmosphere. The tour culminates in the visit to the Historic Enoteca created by the Florio family to house some 49.000 bottles of the company's finest vintages, including the prestigious 1939 and 1944 reserves.
Via Vincenzo Florio, 1
Tel. +39 0923 781306/305
Visiting hours (by appointment only)
From Monday to Friday: 10:00/11:00/15:30/16:30
Food & Drink
Hotels in the area
Mazara del Vallo
San Vito Lo Capo
Mazara del Vallo