Marsala is a fortified dessert wine that comes from grapes grown in Sicily. It is most well known for its role in cooking where it is the key ingredient in the creamy rich sauce of chicken Marsala. There are many different variations of Marsala varying in sweetness, color, and age.
The closest substitute to Marsala both in flavor and color is Madeira wine. Other acceptable wines that would work with cooking would be most fortified wines including dry sherry, port, and Pedro Ximenez.
Marsala wine comes in many different versions of sweetness, but for chicken Marsala, dry Marsala is the ideal option. Look for “secco” on the label. Save your sweet (dolce) Marsala for dessert.
While mostly known for its role in cooking, Marsala is a fine dessert wine that can be enjoyed by the glass. Dry Marsala (secco) and semi-sweet Marsala (semi-seco) pair well with richly flavored foods while sweet Marsala (dolce) is the perfect accompaniment for almost any dessert.
Like most fortified wines, Marsala has a high alcohol content around 15-20% ABV. The average for most wines hovers around 12% ABV. As a strong dessert wine, you will find that it is typically served in smaller portions.