“The Marina Cvetić 2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Iskra opens to thick concentration and a dark, rich appearance. This is the Montepulciano grape as interpreted in a hot and dry vintage. The wine is bold and contemporary in spirit with lots of fruit weight and texture that is smoothed out by oak toast and sweet spice. This is a full-bodied red that would pair with thinly cut beef on skewers called spiedini that you often find at outdoor cookouts in this part of Italy. Drink: 2021-2027. 93 points
Those lucky enough to have met Gianni Masciarelli before his sudden passing in 2008 will remember a man who was deeply passionate about Abruzzo, his beautifully rugged homeland on the Adriatic flank of central Italy.
In many ways, and certainly in my own mind, Gianni Masciarelli would become a spirit deity of Abruzzo, with its stubborn, sometimes brooding personality, its landscape extremes that drop from snowy mountain peaks to sandy shorelines, and its ever-tormented earthquake-prone reality.
When Gianni died of a heart attack 13 years ago, his wife, Belgrade-born Marina Cvetić Masciarelli, took over immediate management of the winery in San Martino sulla Marrucina. It was one of the bravest and most meaningful inheritance successions to ever befall an Italian winery. With her young children at her side, she has been able to build upon Gianni’s blueprint.
Founded in 1981, the estate farms vines and olive trees in all four provinces of Abruzzo: Chieti, L’Aquila, Pescara and Teramo. There are several different wines in the portfolio starting with the top-shelf Villa Gemma, Iskra and Marina Cvetić lines. Montepulciano and Trebbiano grapes are also expressed in the Gianni Masciarelli and the Castello di Semivicoli lines, and there is an entry-level line called the Linea Classica. A limited selection of wines is released under the name La Botte di Gianni, or “Gianni’s barrel selection,” with only 900 bottles per type.
This spotlight includes some new releases from the brands Masciarelli and Marina Cvetić. To mark her winery’s 40th birthday, I sat down with five questions for Marina Cvetić Masciarelli.
1. How do you plan to celebrate the estate’s 40th anniversary?
The gift we have given ourselves on our 40th birthday is the Masciarelli Art Project, with a first installation that seeks to forge a union between artisanal and contemporary art, all framed by the timeless beauty of the Castello di Semivicoli. Following a period of residency and full immersion in the Masciarelli reality, the Belgian artist Job Smeets created a site-specific artwork called “The Harvest” that consists of two giant light boxes affixed to the façade of Castello di Semivicoli to shine a light on its most outstanding historic moments. There will also be a limited-edition wine label for the 2015 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Villa Gemma. That will be a real collector’s bottle.
2. Today, the wines of Abruzzo show a wide stylistic range with cult classics on one side (like Valentini or Emidio Pepe) and bigger, more commercial ventures on the other. What is your take on the true identity of Abruzzo wine?
Like every big producing region, such as the Veneto or Tuscany that come to mind, Abruzzo’s wine identity reveals an increasingly layered approach with wines that match all philosophies and price points: from elite top-quality producers to a wide net of medium-quality producers who aim to make easy-drinking and affordable wines. Personally, I don’t see this as weakness but strength.
3. What do you foresee in the future of Abruzzo wines?
Montepulciano and Trebbiano have the true potential for success on a global level, especially as the public grows more familiar with these grapes, thanks to the credibility of the commercial estates that is growing parallel to the fine wine estates. These contrasting sides contribute to the success of Abruzzo wine, one of the top export regions for Italian wine.
4. As a charismatic take-charge woman, dear Marina, can you tell us about your experience at the helm of this important Abruzzo winery?
It’s been a big challenge since the very first day. When Gianni was at my side, I learned so much, but now being left to manage everything on my own is a whole other story. Over the years, I’ve learned to wear many different hats. I invested in my own personal training in order to lead the company on a managerial level and to give impetus to the improvements necessary. I traveled far and wide to meet our clients all over the world and dedicated lots of my time to telling the story of Abruzzo wine, why the territory is so special and what makes it excellent.
5. Is there anything you would have wanted Gianni to see before his death in 2008?
I was able to achieve the biggest dream Gianni had laid out for himself: the public opening of Castello di Semivicoli. Over the past 10 years, it has become a landmark wine destination, hospitality and wellness center, not just for my region but also beyond.“
Monica Larner, Wine Advocate (10/21)