A SUCCESSFUL ADVENTURE
PART 4 – THE ADVENTURES OF PODERI MARCARINI
With this final post, we conclude our saga of the fascinating life of Manuel Marchetti. You can read the other posts here: Wine is my destiny, Return to the land of wine, La Morra – Barcelona roundtrip. Before becoming a winemaker, Manuel Marchetti traversed three continents: from South America where he was born to the United States, from Turin to Barcelona, and finally to La Morra. Here on the hills of Barolo alongside his wife Luisa, he guided the historical winery of Marcarini in a new direction. Today he is the owner with his children Andrea, Chiara, and Elisa.
Manuel, the last we left off, we were in the year 1990 at the moment of your return to Italy, after three years of working in Spain in the textiles industry.
When we arrived in Italy, we knew we would take over Poderi Marcarini, the winery that my in-laws owned, my wife’s parents. The historical winery had an excellent name and image as well as long experience in winemaking. It was a time of expansion for Italian wine and of renewed interest in Barolo, so we had to modernize and expand our market. We already owned excellent land in La Morra, including Brunate and La Serra, highly prized crus, and we decided to entrust the operations of our winery to the great enologist Armando Cordero. He helped us to create memorable wines and, above all, passed down his experience to us.
In 1991, there was the Gulf War.
And with that, wine consumption in the United States fell, nudged along by the financial crisis. The paradox was that we had incredible harvests, but the wine wouldn’t sell!
We took our suitcases and began the battle in the United States for finding a market for our wines. When we presented them, we would tell the incredible story of my life and the history of my wife’s family, who’d been producers for generations. I was always traveling and I used my contacts on the American continent to help sales.
1992 was a key year for you.
Thanks to another promotion in the Big Apple, which was Italian wine’s main market at the time, our Barolo was reviewed by The New Yorker, who called it “the hottest in the city.” In those years, a review by an important wine critic could really get your sales going. And that’s how it happened: in just a few months, we sold out, and American locales wanted our wines, which had become well-known and appreciated all throughout the States.
The Nineties were a decade of important changes for the Marcarini winery.
In 1992, our first son Andrea was born. At the same time, we were working to improve our wines. We knew that if we wanted to increase quality, we had to act in the vineyards, reducing chemical and synthetic treatments to a minimum, favor biodiversity, and respect the environment and the people who work the earth. These were once undervalued concepts. Imagine a time when you walked in the vineyards and heard no birds singing.
Because the insects were gone, killed off by pesticides.
Were there other changes?
We restructured the winery and modernized our techniques and machinery. We began to streamline and recover the vineyards. We bought new vineyards in the zone of Neviglie where we planted nebbiolo, barbera, and moscato to expand our production. And I was personally responsible for a technological revolution.
I decided it was time to bring computers to the vineyards. I was so proud when I brought one into the winery, explaining how big of a help it would be for our accountability. The farmers looked at me in confusion. “This guy is crazy,” they said. In 1995, Elisa was born and we bought the Sargentin farmhouse, an old 19th century noble residence. After years of restoration, today it is the beautiful seat of the Agriturismo Marcarini. And before becoming a touristic structure, the Sargentin hosted other kinds of adventures.
In the rooms of the old house, we discovered the production technique for an ancient and aromatized noble wine: Barolo Chinato. We recovered an old recipe from Armando Cordero, and in 1998, began its production. It is just as important as the amari, or bitters, made in the zone. Today, this experience is still alive in the Barolo Chinato Marcarini, one of our top products, produced in six to seven thousand bottles a year and exported around the world.
Was Moscato d’Asti also a successful bet?
At the end of the Nineties, everyone was cultivating moscato grapes. It was almost an overproduction, and it was mostly absorbed by the industrial wines of Asti Spumante. I, on the other hand, was always enthusiastic about artisan Moscato d’Asti, with is aromas and sweetness that this grape knows how to express so well. When I proposed buying moscato vineyards, everyone scratched their heads. But as always, I was guided by my instinct and I insisted. In just a few short years, we went from two thousand bottles to over thirty thousand. Today, Moscato d’Asti is living a golden age. It is known and appreciated most of all in Asia, where China has opened its doors to us, a real alternative to the US market.
So now we arrive to current-day.
In 2004, we began restructuring the Sargentin farmhouse, where my daughter Chiara manages the hospitality and kitchen today. The year after, we crossed over to the other side of the Tanaro River and purchased arneis vineyards in the Roero. Arnies is a native grape variety used in making Roero Arneis, an important white wine of Piedmont. We selected several pieces of land in the municipality of Montaldo Roero and restored the soil and vineyards. The territory has incredible potential for vines, and it’s well-exposed. Today it gives us truly a gem of a wine. In the same year, Arneis was recognized as a DOCG, so it was almost like a prize for our efforts. I’ve always believed that the richness of our hills was not only expressed in our greatest wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, but also in other varieties. My job as a winemaker is to evaluate the entire zone where I live so that no wine takes the spotlight from another. On the contrary, the variety of wines is an added value. From appetizer to dessert, the Langhe and Roero can give us a great “local flavor.”
Did Andrea and Elisa choose to work in the family business, too?
Yes. Like Chiara, the new Marchetti generation has decided to continue our “wine destiny.” Since 2014, Andrea has worked in the administrative, accounting, and commercial areas. Elisa is studying agriculture and, in the near future, will work in the vineyards of Poderi Marcarini.
What do you see in the future of your hills?
The new potential of this territory lies in…tourism. After the Langhe-Roero and Monferrato were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage, people who come to visit us want to eat and drink but also ride bikes, go horseback riding, go up in the hot air balloon, go rafting, walk the trails, and visit the medieval villages. Wine and food will be the excuse to come here, and all these the activities will be the reason to stay.