I first discovered Abruzzo and the Pecorino grape in 2021 at the Wine Media Conference. Two years later, I am revisiting Abruzzo with one of the area’s pioneering wineries, Masciarelli. This time my exploration dwells into the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC.
Abruzzo is a region in the east-central portion of Italy spanning 60 miles from north to south and approximately 2 hours east of Rome. Its northern border abuts another wine region, Marche and Molise, to the south. Spanning from the Apennine Mountains on the west and the Adriatic Sea on the east, Abruzzo is known as the greenest area in Europe due to its three national parks and 38 protected nature reserves, including a protected Marine reserve. Many are World Wildlife Fund protected areas. Its natural beauty garnered the 2022 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast.
The area is known predominately for producing Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. In addition, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo represents its dominant white wine, and of course, the popularity of Pecorino is blossoming.
Gianni Masciarelli had the foresight to envision making Aburzzo a great wine region and making Montepulciano its best wine. It started with 2.5 hectares of land owned by his grandfather adjacent to the family home, San Martino sulla Marrucina, in the province of Chieti. He produced his first vintage in 1981 and, over the years, expanded his vineyards to its current size of 300 hectares or 741 acres of vineyards and olive groves.
His determination to grow the finest grapes made him a pioneer for the Abruzzo region. He was the first to introduce the Gayot training system for vineyard management. His formula for success included reduced yields, sustainable farming, the gentle handling of fruit in the winery, and taming tannins.
Gianni passed away in 2008, but the company lives on with his wife, Marina Cvelic, and daughter Miriam Lee Masciarelli at the helm, who both aspire to continue Gianni’s legacy and passion for Abruzzo.
Miriam Lee Masciarelli defines the future of Masciarelli by saying, “What I see in wine is individuality, a refined character that sets it apart, something you never forget.” This statement is very true, as I discovered when I sampled the Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo.
Miriam says, “Our team in the vineyard, some of whom have 40 harvests, can no longer make predictions based on experience alone. Sudden change, whether frost or drought, has become the new normal.” Of utmost concern is water resource management. Environmental stewardship and social consciousness also remain at the forefront, which includes initiatives to reduce water, electric, and thermal energy consumption and waste management.
In March of 2022, Masciarelli’s played an active role in helping to create and implement a new regulation that replaced eight separate Abruzzo appellations with a single IGT called Terre d’Abruzzo designation.
To demonstrate the diversity in producing Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Masciarelli, unlike other wineries, has vineyards in all four provinces of Abruzzo, Chieti, Pescara, Teranio, and L’Aquila. The estate consists of 60 plots of vineyards in 13 municipalities, covering 741 acres.
The Province of Chieti has 80% of the Abruzzo plantings and is the location of Masciarelli’s main vineyard, San Martino sulla Marrucina.
Terroir, Climate, Growing Grapes, And Winemaking
The climate varies from Mediterranean to temperate continental. The location’s proximity to the sea results in diurnal swings from day to night. The soils contain mostly Limestone mixed with clay.
Masciarelli is transitioning all their vineyards to organic farming. The environment and social consciousness are at the forefront of vineyard and winery practices.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, The Grape
Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo is an indigenous grape to the Abruzzo area. It is a late ripener with thick skin that creates a wine with a firm structure. Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo received its DOC designation in 1968. The DOC requirements for this area are 85% Montepulciano with up to 15% Sangiovese.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Wines
Masciarelli Rosato IFT Colline Teatine DOC Linea Classica: This Rosé is made with the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape. The wine delivers strawberry and rose petals aromas. The palate is citrusy, with a little spritz revealing more delicate cherry flavors.
Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Linea Classica: The wine reveals a bright fruity ripeness of dark fruits, while on the nose, I detected notes of cedar.
The Masciarelli wines are very drinkable and are priced reasonably.
Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.