Monday, December 11, 2023

Masciarelli d'Abruzzo Masterclass with Miriam Lee Masciarelli

For the last few months we have been fortunate to receive several samples from the Abruzzo producer Masciarelli and have written multiple posts concentrating on Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, and their Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo. Last week we received a personal overview of the winery and their wines through the daughter of the founders, Miriam Lee Masciarelli.  Her father Gianna founded the winery in the early 1980's and we learned during the masterclass that during an early trip to Croatia searching for Slavonian oak barrels he returned with her mother Marina Cvetić instead. When Gianna  died suddenly in 2008, Marina took over the winery's management and today shares that responsibility with Miriam Lee.

Loreto Aprutino Vineyard, Pescara
(photo courtesy of Masciarelli) 

During the masterclass Ms. Masciarelli discussed the history and innovations established by Masciarelli Winery such as the introduction of the Guyot training system in Abruzzo and the use of French oak barrels to age Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  Also, the heart of the Cerasuolo DOC lies in a area first sourced by Gianni in 1986 for a Rosato wine. Finally, Masciarelli was also the first winery in Abruzzo to produce a reserve-level Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (1984) which they continue to produce today from the original 12-acre Colle Cave “home vineyard,” dating back to 1930.

We sampled this lineage through the 2018 Villa Gemma Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Riserva ($98) and quickly understood the sticker shock. The Riserva is only produced in the best of harvests and fermented in stainless steel. The wine is then aged for five to six years in new French barriques, then more aging in the bottle. This is both a luscious and elegant wine with dark fruit, earthiness, and cocoa on the nose. The structured center is full bodied, with dark cherries and slight spice and chocolate. The tannins are very approachable and the finish lingers and lingers....

Masciarelli is also the only Abruzzo producer with vineyards in all four Abruzzo provinces (Chieti, Pescara, Teramo, l’Aquila) and Ms. Masciarelli discussed the geographic attributes of each regarding soil, climate, and temperatures. The southernmost Province of Chieti is their primary source of grapes and is host to the home San Martino sulla Marrucina estate - the source of the above Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Riserva - as well as three other vineyards.  

San Martino sulla Marrucina Vineyard, Chieti
(photo courtesy of Masciarelli)
"In the northernmost part of the province of Chieti, the landscape is more arid, whereas in the south it is smoother and full of small scattered settlements. A large part of the Majella massif, which is the second highest mountain of the Apennines chain after the Gran Sasso d’Italia, is also located in the province of Chieti. After the limestone peaks, the landscape of the rolling hills at the foot of the Apennines is characterized by extraordinary phenomena, such as the impressive ravines."

The Province of Pescara lies just north of Chieti and is the home of the Loreto Aprutino vineyard, which looks up to the Calderone glacier on top of Gran Sasso. The 2022 Villa Gemma Abruzzo Bianco DOC ($24) is a blend of 50% Trebbiano, 30% Pecorino, 20% Cococciola where some of the grapes are derived from this vineyard and the rest from Chieti. What I find most interesting about this wine is the distinct lime profile that Ms. Masciarelli attributed to the Cococciola grape. The variety also contributed herbaceous to the nose, whereas the Pecorino provides minerality and a fruit/floral balance. A truly unique, refreshing, and satisfying wine. 

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