Every March, the United Nations promotes International Women’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. One woman who fits that description perfectly is Marina Cvetic (pictured). This formidable lady produces two of our most popular Italian wines at San Martino sulla Marrucina in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Marina took up winemaking in tragic circumstances. Her husband Gianni Masciarelli died in 2008, leaving her with a thriving vineyard and three young children. She ruled out the possibility of closing the winery. The business has continued to grow and she now shares the workload with her daughter Miriam.
The Masciarelli Tenute Agricole company was established by Gianni in 1981. The focus initially was on San Martino which is in Chieti, one of Abruzzi’s four provinces. The Masciarelli label now has vineyards and olive groves in all four. The vineyard remains loyal to Gianni’s dream. He inherited a house and rented some vines. His aim was to revive the fortunes of two regional grape varieties, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. They were used largely by makers to add balance to better known wine varieties in other parts of Italy.
Gianni aimed to take advantage of the region’s favourable weather and the ideal growing conditions that included soil packed with nutrients. He wanted to grow basic local grapes and use them to produce high quality wines. His efforts were rewarded. Many of the people who had been detractors have become fans. Under his management, the winery’s annual production grew. His untimely death cast doubt over the future of the vineyard and forced Marina to make a difficult decision. There is little doubt that she made the correct one.
Since being thrust into the role of winemakers and businesswomen, she and her daughter have continued to develop the vineyard and the output is multiples of what it was when they took over. Not content to increase the productivity of the vines, Marina and Miriam have boosted exports of the wine, and foreign sales now account for more than half of sales. They have also restored Semivicoli Castle as luxury tourist accommodation and extended the product range to include salt, grappa and olive oil.
If Marina is the inspiration and the driving force behind the success of the business, the steely determination of Miriam is now making an equally important contribution as the pair continue to produce outstanding wines. Together they form an impressive team. The bulk of production uses the grape that features in the full-bodied red that we love so much. However, we are also big fans of the white which is aromatic and combines the flavours of green apple and almonds.
The Masciarelli ladies are an inspiration and a perfect fit for the United Nations definition of extraordinary women, although in their case it is every day of the year.