Abruzzo, Italy – The Local Wine (Part I of IV)
I have experienced a secret part of Italy. That’s right…a mysterious, less-frequented side to this beautiful and enchanting country that I remember with fondness and am eager to revisit soon. When you hear the word Italy, what places come to your mind? Maybe Rome and Venice or perhaps Florence and the region of Tuscany…these are sumptuous places, and yes I mean to use the word sumptuous because to experience them is like eating. The culture, people, architecture and landscape is so rich and beautiful, it feels like you’ve had a delicious meal and you’re left full and joyous, yet eager for more, it was so good.
In the center of Italy and along the eastern coast is the region of Abruzzo. This rugged and mountainous countryside borders the more popular region of Lazio, where Rome is located. Taking the train from Rome to Pescara, I could see why the area is not as well-known. The slow regional train is a long ride, taking about five hours winding through steep mountains and deep green valleys. Driving there from Rome only takes about three hours. These are good signs for the traveler seeking new destinations and desiring to escape the tourist crowds. And escape the tourist crowds I did, but not to what I was expecting…I was to be pleasantly surprised.
My discoveries revealed that this pristine and tranquil part of Italy is home to world-class wine making, luxurious castle accommodations, and modern dinning amidst eccentric art. Each of these cultured experiences came with an even deeper sense of enjoyment thanks to the area’s magical touch of ancient history and its precious remoteness from the rest of the world. Spread out amongst majestic snow-capped mountains, it felt more medieval here than other areas I had been to in Italy. I would not have discovered these amazing characteristics if it had not been for the wonderful dear friends I was visiting in the region. The Di Cresenzo family, who have lived for generations in Abruzzo’s small village of San Martino sulla Marrucina, were my loving hosts and guides to discovering these treasures that I now get to introduce you to.
To truly enjoy Abruzzo, one must learn about the area’s renowned Masciarelli Wine. Since experience is in my opinion the best teacher, I jumped at the opportunity to have a private tour of the winery facility (in Italian called the Azienda Agricola Masciarelli), which is located in San Martino sulla Marrucina. Arriving at the winery, I was immediately in love with its location that looks out onto a nearby mountain range that dominates the landscape in stone hues of blue and grey. In May, there were still patches of snow spread along the peaks. Blending in cozily along a hill-top, the facility is unobtrusive and did not have the traditional appearance of a winery. Across the street from the stone home belonging to the family, is the building where production is done. The offices are to one side in a modern-style building of steel and glass windows, contrasted by tall yellow wildflowers.
Somewhat out of sight is the production area, underground and tucked into the side of the hill. It was exciting to learn on the tour that the location of the facility is done in such a way as to maximize the use of the elements on the creation of the wine and at the same time minimize the impact left on the environment itself. For example, where the barrels are stored has walls made of the local rocks and boulders that resulted from construction of the facility. They are piled onto each other and contained by enforced steel fencing, forming the walls of the barrel rooms underground. So when it rains and when the lawn above is watered, the remaining water seeps down through the ground and trickles into these rock barriers. As it continues cascading in between the rocks, it naturally cools the barrel rooms for the ideal temperature for the storage of the wine. The wood barrels used for storing are of French Oak and other larger vats made of steel are used for the processing as well as for storing certain select wines. The grapes they harvest are from over 400 hectare (the equivalent of almost 1,000 acres) of grapevines throughout the Abruzzo region, resulting in a creatively tasteful collaboration of the Trebbiano and Montepulciano grapes.
The founder of the Masciarelli winery, Gianni Masciarelli, has impacted the region and the world through the amazing legacy he left as a man who loved his land and demonstrated this through his industrious passion for making wine. Having passed away in 2008, his wife, Marina Cvetic, and their three children now carry on this flourishing business that is based on love and passion for the land and its gifts. No wonder they are considered to be one of Italy’s best wine producers. In 2000, they were awarded by Gambero Rosso Guide the Best Italian Red wine award in all Italy for their Montepulciano, Villa Gemma Rosso 1995. Then in 2004, Masciarelli was awarded by Gambero Rosso Guide the Best Italian winery and Winemaker in all Italy. Since their beginning in 1991, they have produced over 2 million bottles of wine. This continues to be attributed to Gianni’s creed that his winery is founded on, “I do not sell wine, I sell emotions”. For him, truly good wine was not about selling or taste alone. Wine embodies the emotions of his people, their love for the land and the emotions that the land and wine arouse in its people. Even after the wonderful tour and leaving the Masciarelli winery, Gianni’s creed came to mind again and again, as I experienced his homeland in all its natural beauty and creative, rich spirit. (Enjoy more pictures by visiting my photo album: The Masciarelli Winery)
Stay tuned and visit back soon for part II of IV, featuring the Castello di Semivicoli… (postings will be published every other day).