“Oh I know that Marsala… Wait it isn’t Marsala. I didn’t know Florio made an Amaro.” They do. They have a slightly more modern label now. It is purportedly made with 13 ingredients and aged over a year in barrel. It has forward orange peel notes that are obvious without being dominant; contrary to the Amara Amaro brand from Sicily that is essentially an Italian Grand Marnier. I wonder if orange dominant Amaros are the norm in Sicily. There is even a tradition of flavoring wine with oranges on the island.
I am familiar with products that still carry “The Royal Seal of Approval”. My tea, Angostura bitters and Barbour all have the HM seals on them. My H&B Whisky continues to sport the “By Warrant of Appointment to” from King George VI 1940 and Queen Victoria 1837 to the mainland King of Portugal 1908 and the other island’s Emperor of Japan 1905.
None of this is surprising. We are all familiar with whisky and tea and Barbours being used by the island’s largest landowners and we can make the assumption that there is at least a bottle of Scotch in every wealthy household out there, regardless of taste or consciousness.
Amaro Santa Maria al Monte continues to host the “Dal 1892 Fornitori di S.A.R. il Duca d’Aosta”; a title akin to the Prince of Wales for the late Kingdom of Sardinia and then later Italy. Levi Dalton had a post on this a while back. Link.
The four crests on the Florio were completely unexpected. The King of Italy, Ok sure. But the King of Belgium, Prince Leopold of Bavaria and the King of Romania? I was first hit with the irony or rather esotericism of that clear fact: that these Courts, Governments and in one case, Nation, do not even exist anymore.
I got archeological. What were people in Bavaria and Romania doing drinking Amaro? Maybe the simple reasoning that Marsala was once amongst the classic wines served at any respectable state household. The Amaro of one of the most well known brands would have been a simple addition to any order or importer’s ledger.
Did this bring some Mediterranean sunshine into rainy Brussels or Cold Munich? Or has Amaro always been a cherished spirit and digestive outside of the realms of Italian households? There is certainly plenty of tradition of bitter digestive liquors stretching from Holland to Latvia. These tend to be strong, astringent and better as male chest hair drinking challenges. A sweeter Southern Italian Amaro has a luxurious quality to it that in the period before Cola must have seemed divine.
On the Anglo side, we are used to seeing a Whiskey or Cognac with a cigar or beside the fire. Offered for an important birthday or simply a sign of a complete meal. Was Amaro playing this role in the smoking rooms of Bavaria? Was a Romanian wondering which brand of Amaro would be a good gift?
Regardless, it does signal a time when Marsala was in the pantheon of Noble Wines to buy, gift, and collect. It would be present in any respectable wine merchant’s books. It reflects a time when Sicily was economically linked in trade to the rest of Europe more so than with the Peninsula. Sicilian merchants may have never even stopped on the peninsula save for Genoa and Livorno. An island unto itself, apparently many Sicilians rose up in arms against the ruling Bourbon Dynasty in Napoli during the reunification of Italy, only later to be dismayed that what they had fought for was not independance after all.