Marsala can be classified as being both white and red, depending on how it is made. The Oro and Ambra wine varieties of Marsala have a gold and amber color, respectively, and are produced using Catarratto, Inzola and Grillo white grape varieties. Marsala Rubino, on the other hand, is made by mixing the white grapes with the red grapes Perricone, Calabrese, Nero d'Avola and Nero Mascalese, which gives it a ruby color.
Marsala is a variety of wine produced in the region around Marsala City in the Italian island of Sicily. It is the very first Italian wine to receive the Denominazione de Origine Controllata, or DOC, status. The DOC status restricts the use of the term Marsala for wines that are produced only within the Marsala region.
John Woodhouse, an 18th century English trader, is credited with making Marsala wine known outside of the Marsala region. Woodhouse landed at the port of Marsala in 1773, and got to sample the wine in the region. He immediately took a liking to it, comparing the Marsala wine to Spanish and Portuguese fortified wines, which were popular in England at the time. As Woodhouse predicted, Marsala wine became a hit in England. This prompted Woodhouse to return to Marsala to begin the mass production and commercialization of Marsala wine.