Marsala Vergine Riserva
100% Grillo. The best way to consider this very traditional Marsala is in relation to its closest relative in the De Bartoli line-up, the unfortified Vecchio Samperi wine (see entry on our website). There are 2 key differences however: the vergine riserva wine was separated from the main solera in 1988 for oxidative aging and also fortified, but much more lightly than is typical and also only with brandy (no mistella which would add sweetness), in order to maintain its secco or dry style.
As with all of De Bartoli's Marsala-style wines, the only grape used is Grillo, grown organically and harvested by hand on the De Bartoli estate. The wine was fermented with natural yeasts and aged in oak and chestnut vats in the solera system, topped with new wine at the rate of 5% of the total volume annually. But then in 1988, what was to become this Vergine bottling was removed from the solera. This wine was gently fortified with De Bartoli grape brandy only and then aged oxidatively, untopped, in barrel. Riserva by law requires a minimum aging of 10 years before bottling; De Bartoli's riserva was aged for 26 years, starting in 1988 and ending at bottling in 2014. Vergine indicates a secco or "dry" wine of maximum sweetness of 40 grams/liter of residual sugar; the 1988 has less than that. Naturally, there is a finite supply of this unique bottling from De Bartoli.
To bring the related Vecchio Samperi bottling back into the discussion: whereas the De Bartolis recommend it as a pairing with all manner of savory things like aged cheeses, oysters, bottarga and braised meats, they consider the 1988 more in the vein of a vino da meditazione which they prefer in a snifter. To be sure, the Vergine is even finer, drier and more complex, reminiscent of the lengthiest of Amontillado sherries, nutty, salty and long with a rich, almost viscous texure yet very clean and seemingly endless finish.