When her father Gianni suddenly passed away in 2008, Miriam Lee Masciarelli took over his role as a winery. At the time, the 18-year-old student was enrolled in a program aimed at obtaining a degree in economics and management from Luiss University in Rome, and also became Junior Brand Ambassador for Masciarelli Tenute Agricole, the winery that her father started in 1978 Abruzzo founded.
After graduation, Miriam Lee worked for a wine importer and then for a communication agency specializing in wine, both in New York, before returning to Abruzzo to work full-time at the winery with her mother, Marina Cvetić. Today she is a Brand Ambassador and focuses on promotions, sponsorships and events around the world, but any day she can be found at her family’s hotel, Castello di Semivicoli, to help guests plan a complete wine tourism experience, or in one of the Masciarelli wineries work alongside the winemaker Attilio Alfino.
While her father is credited with making Abruzzo known as a region capable of producing good wine, the younger Masciarelli has the job of continuing to spread the news to the rest of the world. Gianni Masciarelli founded the Masciarelli Tenute Agricole in San Martino, Chieti, Abruzzo in 1979, 10 years before the birth of Miriam, the first child of him and Marina. Since then, Masciarelli has expanded into all four provinces of Abruzzo – Chieti, Teramo, Pescara and L’Aquila – and now has more than 60 plots of vineyards in 13 municipalities in this rugged region east of Rome. With over 741 hectares of vineyards, they are the largest privately owned winery in Abruzzo, stretching from the mountains of central Italy to the Adriatic Sea.
The first vintage of Gianni Mascarelli, 1981, produced 700 bottles of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and 1300 bottles of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. Today the brand produces around 2,200,000 bottles a year. In addition to the local grapes Montepulciano, Trebbiano and Pecorino, Masciarelli also grows and vinifies Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malvasia and Chardonnay. When Gianni bought more vineyard land and further explored the connection between terroir and taste in winemaking, he met Marina Cvetić in 1987, and the two married in 1989. Today, with the support of her daughter, Marina is responsible for all the vineyards and wineries, Miriam. They produce wines in six areas: Masciarelli Classic, Villa Gemma, Marina Cvetić, Castello di Semivicoli, Gianni Masciarelli and ISKRA.
In 2004 Gianni and Marina bought the Castello di Semivicoli, the former country residence of the Perticone family, which was built in the 17th centurythat and 18that Centuries. The restoration took five years and the castello opened as a high-end wine and culinary destination decorated with a charming mix of antique pieces and contemporary furniture. It is the first tourism company and the eighth in Italy to receive EMAS certification, the EU eco-management and audit system for sustainability measures, and a member of Les Collectionneurs, the prestigious community of hoteliers, restaurateurs and travelers chaired by the prestigious French chef Alain Ducasse.
We visited Castello di Semivicoli earlier this year and tasted the wines with Miriam Lee Mascarielli, which gave us the opportunity to talk to her about her inspiration and career path, as well as her family’s winery and hotel.
World Wine Guys: Why do you think it is important to talk about Abruzzo first and then Masciarelli when presenting your wines?
Miriam Lee Masciarelli: It is important to talk about Abruzzo first because we believe that the terroir defines our wines. The Abruzzo region is very rich and has one of the greatest natural biodiversity in all of Italy. Terrain, climate, solar radiation; they are all unique to this country. It is therefore important to first communicate the qualities of the place where a particular wine is made and only then to discuss individual characteristics or different personalities depending on the producer. In this sense, Masciarelli fully represents Abruzzo, as we have vineyards in all four provinces and are therefore an expression of the entire terroir. Thanks to this great biodiversity, we are able to produce four different Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, as they are all different from one another, with particular characteristics that depend precisely on the region of origin of the grapes.
WWG: How did your professional experience outside of the family business prepare you for returning to Masciarelli?
MLM: My experience in the United States has helped me improve the way we organize and manage the various departments of our company, particularly marketing and PR. On a human level, it made my unique strengths and weaknesses clear to me and fully revealed my calling and desire to work in the world of wine to follow in the footsteps of both of my parents.
WWG: What qualities or traits do you think you have inherited from each of your parents that help you in your job?
MLM: I inherited my extreme curiosity and great passion for wine from my father. I noticed a lot on my mother’s side, but the most important thing is persistence. She taught me that trouble creates great opportunities and that if you fall you keep getting up.
WWG: Do you have any female role models besides your mother?
MLM: One woman I admire very much is Gaia Gaja, the daughter of Angelo Gaja. She was born to two strong parents, famous personalities who have established themselves very well in the world of wine and thanks to their persistence and personality have also been able to stand out in the world of wine and achieve great success.
WWG: What can a guest of the Castello di Semivicoli expect when they visit?
MLM: The holiday experiences of our guests are tailor-made. The people who visit us are different so we love to sit down with them to understand their needs and provide a more personalized service. We offer private tours of our winery and let them experience the harvest to fully appreciate the path that starts from the vineyard and brings the wine to the table. For those guests who want to immerse themselves one hundred percent in the flavors of Abruzzo, we also organize outdoor tastings and personalized cooking classes. For born explorers, we offer bike rental and organize hiking trips. Whatever your idea of a vacation, we always adapt an experience to the needs and wishes of our guests. We define ourselves as “craftsmen of the future”. Therefore, behind all the activities that we offer, be it viticulture, bottling, sales or hospitality, there is always a personal approach to this work, which is done with love, perseverance and patience.