Marsala Wine And Its Top 10 Substitutes

Made in Sicily, Marsala fortified wine is used mainly as cooking wine. It is used to make rich, nutty, and caramelised sauces which helps the chef create their signature dishes.

However, a Marsala wine that is not made in Sicily can be the unauthentic one. Therefore, never trust a wine as Marsala which is not made in Sicily.

What is Marsala wine?

Marsala wine
Marsala wine

As we have mentioned earlier, Marsala is a fortified wine made in Italy in the city named Marsala in Sicily. There are both sweet and dry Marsala wines. In 1969 this wine achieved the title of Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), and The European Union has offered Marsala the title of Protected Designation of Origin (POD). But in maximum countries, the word Marsala is prohibited from using for Marsala-made items.

Unfortified wines are also made in Marsala, but they are not as per the standards of DOC.

It was an English trader John Woodhouse who made Marsala grow outside Sicily. He arrived in Marsala in 1973 and explored the regional wines kept in wooden barrels for aging and similar in taste like fortified Spanish or Portuguese wines, which were famous in England at that period. The production of Marsala follows a process named Perpetuum. Woodhouse observed that this process is beneficial in raising the alcohol percentage in Marsala. It’s also effective in holding the taste while traveling in the seas for a long time.

In 1806 Benjamin Ingham landed in Sicily from Leeds. He was the reason for Marsala to get new markets in America and Europe. In 1833 a businessman named Vincenzo Florio purchased vast lands to found his vineyards with new grape varieties. He started to produce new types of Marsala wines with unique grape varieties.

Later in the 19th century, Florio purchased Woodhouse’s agency and merged it with his Marsala production units. At present, Florio and Pellegrino are the top makers of Marsala.

Basic Taste and Flavours of Marsala Wine:

Marsala is mainly used for cooking, but it is much more than only a cooking wine. Other than Marsala cooking wine, many Marsala wines can be consumed, like Madeira or Sherry.

Marsala largely resembles the taste of Madeira. Vanilla, brown sugar, tamarind, and sweet apricot are the most typical aromas one can get from Marsala. It is best to serve Marsala wine to serve Marsala at a nearly cool temperature around 550 F to get the best aroma of the wine. The high-quality Marsala offers higher range aromas of cherry, honey, apple, dry fruits, walnut, licorice, walnut, etc.

You can pair Marsala with Brussel sprouts, asparagus, and chocolates which can hardly be paired with other wines.

Marsala Wine Substitutes

Marsala wines are mainly used to prepare Italian rich and creamy snack items. There is Marsala wine sauce prepared with this wine. Dry Marsala wines are used to prepare Marsala chicken, Marsala veal, and other risotto dishes in most US-oriented Italian restaurants. Sweet Marsala are used to prepare zabaglione, tiramisu, shortcake, etc.

But it’s not possible to have Marsala easily outside Italy. So, restaurants are looking for substitutes for Marsala wine. Here are some replacements that can be used for cooking as the substitute for Marsala.


If you want to have the best Marsala wine substitute, our first recommendation would definitely be Madeira. It resembles Marsala closely in taste and aroma. Five types of grapes are used to make Madeira, so it has a robust aroma. Other than it, it becomes firm as it grows old. But the wine should be used carefully in cooking due to its intense flavors. Otherwise, it may spoil your recipes.

Fortified wine

Usually, fortified wines are enhanced by adding some pure spirits like brandy. The fortified wines like Madeira, Commandaria, Sherry, Vermouth, and Port can be good substitutes for Marsala.

Dry Sherry

Dry Sherry can be an excellent replacement as Marsala wine substitute. However, Marsala is able to add complex aromas to items, but dry Sherry can provide very close results if not the same.

Sweet Vermouth and Sherry wine

Dry sherry wine can closely incorporate the flavors of Marsala into food, but for the same flavors as Marsala, a combination of Sherry and sweet Vermouth can be the trick. This is the perfect combination to incorporate the intense flavors of Marsala.

Amontillado Wine and Pedro Ximenez

Amontillado is a variant of Sherry that was founded in 18th century Spain. It can be a good substitute for dry Marsala. Pedro Ximenez is another Spanish wine that can be a good substitute for sweet Marsala.


Port wine can be a marsala wine substitute, particularly for making desserts and sweet dishes.

White Grape Juice with Brandy

White grape juice brandy can replace Marsala cooking wine with a combination of brandy.

Non-fortified wine

non-fortified white wines can also be the Marsala substitute in cooking. The flavor can be enhanced with the touch of brandy.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir red-wine made of Pinot Noir grape variety is readily available in the market. This sweet wine can be a Marsala wines substitute easily to prepare any signature Marsala recipes.

Dry white wine

Dry white wine is a quick substitute for Marsala wine. So, if Marsala is not available at your nearby stores, you can easily use dry white wines for preparing your recipes.

However, all the wines mentioned above are alcoholic substitutes for Marsala wine. There are also non-alcoholic Marsala substitutes that can be used for cooking.