Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Leader of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo in Italy is Masciarelli Tenute Agricole

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

 Marina Cvetic Masciarelli of Masciarelli Tenute Agricole
 The wines of Masciarelli Tenute Agricole

Villa Gema Montepulciano D'Abruzzo DOC 2008-$85 is poured from the decanter. The wine is capable of aging for 40 years and is aged up to two years in French Oak barrels

NEW YORK--From the very beginning, when Giani Masciarelli established the Masciarelli Tenute Agricole in 1981, the goal was always to produce high quality wines that showcased the culture and traditions of the extraordinary Italian wine region of Abruzzo. When he met and married Marina Cvetic in 1989, he made his wife the marketing director and vineyard manager. She quickly played an integral part in propelling the company toward its current success.

On a recent trip to the U.S., Marina stopped by the midtown Manhattan offices of Colangelo Pr, headed by wine marketing guru Gino Colangelo to conduct a personalized tasting for a small group of wine journalists. The tasting featured wines representative of two of the estate's four wine lines, including Villa Gema and Marina Cvetic. which Giani lovingly named for his wife,who now is in full control of all Masciarelli operations. In addition to overseeing a yearly production of more than 2.5 million bottles of wine, Marina is also active in producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil. She also is promoting wine tourism, or "ecotourism" at the winery through the purchase and restoration of the Castello di Semivicoli, a baronial mansion from the 17th Century which is located on the property. It serves as the site of tastings, art shows and musical events at the winery. Marina has received numerous awards, including "Businesswoman of the Year 2006" by Abruzzo Impresa magazine and "Woman of Wine and Life" from the Golosario of Paolo Massobrio and the Merit Mention as "Grand Officer" of the Italian Republic in 2013. 

Enough with the resume roundup. Time to move onto the wines, which are excellent. 

Villa Gemma Bianco Colline Teatine 2014 ($28) is a white wine made from two indigenous varietals, Trebbiano D' Abruzzo and Cococciola, and a healthy dose of Chardonnay. Fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks, this is a surprisingly big wine for a white. Gushing with intense ripe fruit flavors and a very floral nose, the wine has a juicy cornucopia of fruit flavors, including ripe banana, green apples and a hint of jasmine. Sushi, or its Italian cousin, Crudo and pretty much any type of seafood, especially firm, fleshy white fish, are best with this wine. I tried it with Bronzini, a fleshy white sea bass, common in Italy and becoming increasingly so among fishmongers here in the U.S. Cooked on the the open grill with copious smoke from a hickory log, it was a flavor delight.

Marina Cvetic Trebbiano d'Abruzzo Riserva DOC is 100% indigenous Trebbiano D' Abruzzo and, according to its namesake, a stunning example of what the trebbiano grape is all about. Fermented in new oak barrels and then aged for at least 18 months in barrels over yeast, this late harvested wine has a richness and complexity that can only be achieved with wine that is aged 'on the lees.'

It has a hip-hop dancer's bouncy step of crisp acidity and bright fruit, with hints of Papaya, ripe Georgia peaches, orange blossom honey and wild lavender. Try that grilled fish again with this wine or some fine aged Stilton and you'll get a clearer picture of what it'll be like to sip a glass while lunching at the Castello during you next eno-trip.

Villa Gemma Cerasuolo D'Abruzzo DOC 2014 ($14) is the real steal of the whole lineup. The name Cerasuolo translates literally to 'cherry color,' and that's exactly how this 100% Montepulciano grape beauty looks. It gets its distinctive color from brief contact with the red grape skins during fermentation process. The wine is like drinking a bouquet of of bright red roses. Drink it chilled alone or with just about anything that rings your bell for a good summertime meal. Pasta and Pizza also make for a dynamic pairing. Don't bother taking it down to the cellar. This one is meant to be drunk fresh and young. Marina calls it the "wine of the future." It's uncomplicated, easy to drink and affordable. On top of that, it just plain tastes good.

Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d' Abruzzo DOC San Martino Rosso ($27) gets us back into more serious enophile territory. Its at the top of the line that Giani Masciarelli named for his wife and it says everything there is to say about the region of Abruzzo and one of its more historical native grapes. Produced since 1997, the wine is pure Montepulciano through and thorough, with all of the characteristic intense fruit on the palate, including ripe bananas, Golden Delicious Apple and white wildflowers. Break out the grill with this one. It's great with Char-grilled steak or lamb chops or ribs right off the grill. Throw in an ear of corn and some grilled veggies brushed with garlic and olive oil and you've got one heck of an Abruzzo-style lunch. Abbondanza!

Gino Colangelo's fancy curved Riedel decanter got a workout with the $85 Villa Gemma Montepulciano D'Abruzzo DOC. Another 100% Montepulciano wine fermented and aged all in French Oak for up to two years, this is a big, elegant wine with personality. A late harvest at the end of October ensures ripe, luscious fruit that drips with flavors of ripe black cherries, blackberries and a hint of licorice. The finish is long and polished with a strong spine of 14.5% alcohol and soft tannins. This is a big wine that can keep in the cellar up to 40 years. The juice spends a month on the skin, giving it an almost India-ink color.  A wine this powerful almost demands your undivided attention. Some Mozart or early Boz Scaggs, depending on your taste in music,  and a nice Cuban cigar (they're practically legal now) would make for a perfect evening outdoors by the fire pit.

Various views of the Castello di Semivicoli, the vineyards and the inn where frequent eno-tours are conducted.

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