Third-generation Italian winemaker Miriam Masciarelli grew up in the family business. As a child, she would attend wine fairs and tastings with her father Gianni Masciarelli, and in high school, she worked in restaurants. After studying economics and management at the University of Rome, she spent time in New York working in public relations and for a wine importer. Today she is the winemaker, working alongside her mother Marina Cvetic, of Masciarelli Winery in Abruzzo, Italy.
Tucked between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic coast, Abruzzo is located in the center of Italy and is broken into four provinces: L’Aquila, Pescara, Teramo, and Chieti. Not a touristy area like Tuscany or Piemonte, Abruzzo is one of the greenest regions with four national parks and an uncontaminated and wild landscape. There are 8000 kilometers of coastline on one side and the mountains on the other. It is a region where you can ski as you look at the sea. Abruzzo gets a lot of snow in the winter, providing a water reservoir for the summer. The region gets a lot of wind and diurnal shifts during the growing season.
For many years, Abruzzo was known for its quantity rather than quality with regard to table wines. But, in 1981, Gianni Masciarelli, a visionary, set a new standard for Abruzzo wines. He returned from Champagne where he had worked as a seasonal grape picker and focused on producing high-quality, world-class wines with local grapes. Montepulciano became the grape for red wines and Trebbiano became the grape for white wines. He also introduced Guyot-trained vines and French oak barrels to the region. When Gianni started forty years ago, it was not “cool” to be a winemaker in Abruzzo, but he changed that.
The Masciarelli Story
Gianni met his wife, Marina Cvetic, who is half Serbian and half Croatian, through her father. Marina’s father was a cooper and Gianna bought barrels from him. Gianni and Marina married in 1987 had three children and Miriam is the oldest. Sadly, Gianni passed away in 2008 at the age of 53 and Miriam, along with her mother, took over the responsibilities of running the winery. The Masciarelli family estate has 350 hectares of vineyards. They work exclusively with estate fruit and have five product lines (Classic Line, Gianni Masciarelli, Villa Gemma, Marina Cvetic (named after her mother), and Castello di Semivicoli) and 18 labels. Masciarelli is the leader in the production of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo wines. They farm their vineyards sustainably and hand harvest.
The Wines of Masciarelli Winery
Marina Cvetic Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2018 ($50)
Once thought to be a workhorse grape, Gianni saw the grape’s potential. The Trebbiano is sourced from two specific vineyards that sit at altitudes ranging from 750-1200 feet with calcareous clay soils and 40-year-old vines. The grapes are farmed sustainably, hand harvested, and then fermented in stainless steel for 15-20 days, followed by a maceration lasting 20-30 days. The wine is then aged for 12 months in new French barriques, followed by 12 months in bottle. The resulting wine is powerful and elegant. Notes of citrus, hazelnuts, and green apple skins lead to a textured wine with lots of acidity. The Trebbiano d’Abruzzo will pair with shellfish, fish and cheese.
Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2016 ($32)
The 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is sourced from eight vineyards with 38-year-old vines, ranging in altitudes from 435 to 1,200 feet. The soils are calcareous clay and lime with alluvial sediments. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel for 15-20 days, followed by a maceration lasting 20-30 days. The wine is aged in new French oak for 12-18 months. The wine has aromas of dark red fruits, bramble, thyme and other herbs, and dark chocolate. On the palate, the full-bodied wine has fresh acidity and lightly drying tannins.
Marina Cvetic ISKRA 2015 ($38)
Iskra is the Russian word for “spark” and is a wine dedicated to the love story between Gianni and his wife Marina. The Montepulciano is sourced from a single vineyard in the north of Abruzzo in Controguerra, in the province of Teramo. Closer to the coast, the vineyard has sandier soils. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel and aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, followed by 24 months of aging in the bottle. Floral notes, as well as aromas of black cherry, wild strawberry, black currant, and blackberries are found on the nose. On the palate, the wine is fresh and mouthwatering but with drying tannins. Pair this wine with cured meats, stews, and cheeses.
Villa Gemma Montepulciano 2015 ($90)
A new wine in the US market, the Villa Gemma Rosso is sourced from a single five-hectare vineyard. The 30-year-old high-density vineyard is located near the winery in the village of San Martino sulla Marrucina. This wine was a dream of Gianni Masciarelli and he named this wine after his great-grandmother Gemma. The first vintage of this wine was in 1991 and Villa Gemma Montepulciano Riserva is the only Italian wine with 14 consecutive Tre Bicchieri awards. Since Gianni’s death, Miriam has been responsible for this wine. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel and then spend 18 months in new French oak. Once in bottle, it spends five years in bottle before releasing it in the market.
Miriam says that 2015 is one of the best vintages in Abruzzo. An intense wine with pretty aromas of dark red fruits, cherry, currants, lavender, and tobacco, the wine is powering with drying tannins. This is a wine to age but when you drink it, enjoy it with meat, game, and mature cheeses.
Abruzzo is an exciting wine region to discover thanks to the wines of Masciarelli. Gianni Masciarelli was a pioneer in the Abruzzo region and his daughter Miriam is continuing the legacy
Allison Levine is the owner of Please The Palate, a boutique agency specializing in marketing and event planning for the wine and spirits industry. With over 15 years of experience in communications, marketing, and event planning, Allison is passionate about the world around her and the diverse people in it. Allison is a freelance writer and contributes to numerous publications, as well as her blog at www.pleasethepalate.com. She is the host of the podcast WineSoundtrack USA where she interviews winemakers and winery owners who share their stories, insights, and some humorous anecdotes. She also co-hosts a wine video series on YouTube called Crush On This. Allison holds a master’s degree in International Communications with a focus on cross-cultural training from the American University School of International Service. She also holds a WSET Level 3 Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers.