Abruzzo, the largest region in Southern Italy, has a tradition of winemaking that dates back for centuries. The region is located two hours east of Rome, spans 60 miles north to south and is known for diverse landscapes – ranging from Marche to the north, Molise to the south, the Apennines Mountains to the west, and the Adriatic Coast to the east.
I had the chance to visit with Miriam Lee, who is second generation from the Masciarelli family, the largest single vintage and first vineyard in the region, who told us the family story.
Gianni Masciarelli founded Masciarelli Tenute Agricole in 1981 with only two hectares of vines. He was inspired by his experience in Burgundy and Champagne to use those practices that were suited to the varied terroirs of Abruzzo.
Gianni inherited his passion for vineyards and wine from his grandfather, a dream to build awareness of the native vines in Abruzzo to give wine from the region an international stage and showcase indigenous grapes from the region. Masciarelli is the only producer in Abruzzo that makes wines from all four provinces: Chieti (80 percent of wines produced), Pescara, Teramo, and l’Aquila.
He started the winery with innovative techniques from the introduction of the Guyot training system, choosing to select the oldest and least productive vineyards, and using French barrels for aging. His commitment to doing things differently has been part of Masciarelli’s approach from its very inception.
In 1987, Gianni met Marina Cvetic when looking for a cooper for his barrels. They fell in love and got married. Unfortunately, Gianni died in a heart attack in June of 2008 when he was in his young 50’s.
Today the company is led by Marina and their eldest daughter Miriam Lee Masciarelli, who together have taken the legacy of continuing to elevate Abruzzo wines and vines into the world wine scene. Masciarelli Winery was built in 2020 and is located across the street from Villa Gemma, one of the main vineyards for the winery.
The winery has five product lines and 18 labels including Gianni Masciarelli, Villa Gemma, Marina Cvetic, Castello di Semivicoli. The winery is the leader in the production of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo wines. Abruzzo’s vineyards are grown in a Mediterranean climate, providing an ideal environment for grape cultivation.
The organization is dedicated to safeguarding the ecosystem, enhancing the local community, and prioritizing the well-being of its employees. The winery actively implements initiatives to minimize its environmental footprint, focusing on optimizing water, electric, and thermal energy consumption. This commitment to sustainability is evidenced by certifications such as ISO 14001:2015 and EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme), an initiative supported by the European Union, which allows companies to voluntarily participate in efforts to improve environmental performance and transparently report progress. Furthermore, the workforce “demonstrates a commitment to diversity, with women comprising 54% of employees, occupying many key roles within the company. The company has also announced a commitment to becoming net zero and making plans for that to happen including reducing carbon emissions and bottle weight.
2022 Villa Gemma Bianco Colline Teatine IGT, $24 –Blend of three traditional Abruzzo grapes — Trebbiano, Pecorino, and Cococciola. It’s a crisp white with green apple, pear, herb with a great minerality. I really enjoyed this wine.
2020 Marina Cvetic Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC Riserva, $60 – This wine is the signature indigenous white of the region. I tasted notes of vanilla, pineapple, coconut, tropical fruit, white flowers, green apple, honey, and citrus. This was an age-worthy wine.
2022 Villa Gemma Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC Superiore, $24 – This was a rosé wine with 100 percent Montepulciano grapes. The name cerasuolo translates to “cherry-red” and refers to the wine’s deep color from brief skin-contact with the Montepulciano grapes. Not to be confused with Tuscany’s Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, which is made with Sangiovese grapes, this wine is the signature red of this region. It had lots of cherry notes, citrus, rose petals, spice, and herbs. It was a savory and complex wine.
2019 Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Riserva, $38 – This was an intense, but balanced wine. I tasted red and black fruit, clove, herbs, vanilla, and tobacco.
2018 Villa Gemma Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Riserva ,$98 – Notes of blackberry, black cherry, pomegranate, violets, and chocolate. This vineyard is known for producing the most iconic, single vineyard wine. Over the days I tried it, there was an evolution in the glass. Really enjoyed this one too.
The journey of savoring wines with diverse terroirs was a true adventure, each one proving to be a delightful discovery. Although this region may not be in the spotlight, it merits exploration. As Marriam aptly put it, “you can ski in the morning and go to the beach in the afternoon.” Pairing the region’s natural beauty, often referred to as the “Green Region of Europe,” with an exceptional wine experience unveils a special wine culture and heritage that is truly worth discovering.