Marina Marcarino

Marina Marcarino

Punset (Barbaresco) (Enologa/Winemaker & Owner)

“My philosophy is to produce excellent wines in complete harmony with nature.”

Marina Macarino has always marched to her own drummer. Through commitment, tenacity, and perseverance, she has forged a respected space for her philosophy and her wines, within the conservative and very masculine world of viticulture and winemaking. She is among the very few early woman winemakers in Piemonte, and an early advocate of organic farming, now using biodynamic techniques on her property. Punset, located west of Neive in the Barbaresco denomination, is the oldest organic winery in the area.

Her love for viticulture and the environment started as a child. “My grandmother always had me in the vineyards, not in front of the TV or playing with dolls. We could see blue chemicals everywhere (farmers wanted to be “modern”), and saw the negative effects of spraying on our neighbor and on the birds and butterflies.” Consistent with her interests, Marina wanted to enter the Alba oenological school in 1978 when she was 14, but her parents would not allow this. Nonetheless, she had plans to pursue studies in enology at the university in Turin when she was 19.

However, her family again had other ideas for her. Her father and grandfather owned land and made wine as a hobby, but the real business of the family was construction. Her parents wanted Marina to study engineering and join the family business. But Marina’s passion was elsewhere, and she quietly continued her oenological studies in Turin until she was “found out” and consequently left the university to work in the family business. After six months of being unhappy in her work, she approached her father with a business proposition that involved her running the family farm for one year. His response was that if she could make a profit, she could keep doing so.

Marina had little money, but she had a project in mind for the farm and the passion to see it through. She approached one of her former professors and asked about the possibility of assigning students as interns to assist her in the vineyards and cellar. The professor responded that if she came up with something worthwhile and educational, he could assign student workers to her project. This was all the encouragement she needed, and soon proposed a project associated with organic farming. Organic farming was a promising new idea in the mid-1980s in Italy and the university wisely agreed to participate in it for several years.

The project was successful in that Marina kept the estate profitable, but the resistance to her as a woman winemaker and to implementing organic farming practices was considerable. She kept her focus and also continued to hire younger people “because of their mentality and their openness.” Things slowly changed in her favor. In 2012, Wine Spectator listed her 2007 Barbaresco among the Best 100 Wines; it was listed as the 17th wine from the top. This was a huge event and brought Marina and her wines the respect they had long deserved. Two years later, in 2014, Coldiretti (Italy’s national association of farmers) began to promote organic practices and chose Punset for a field trail. The visit of many growers to the Punset vineyards raised awareness of organic practices and contributed to her stature in the region.

Marina and her husband, a lawyer, keep their professional lives separate. Their son, who has grown up with great respect for the environment and the land, is studying engineering.

Words of Advice. “Time is too short to do things you do not like.” Marina believes that one needs passion and enthusiasm “inside” to be successful as a winemaker.

The Wines. Punset produces Barbaresco, Barbera d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Alba, and Langhe wines. Its production is 100,000 bottles, 70% of which is exported. Interested in expanding distribution abroad, Punset also is part of the Consorzio Vintesa Italian Wines, the organic winemakers group.

The Punset wines have received strongly positive reviews from wine critics, especially the winery’s Barbarescos. The 2007 Punset Barbaresco was awarded 95 points by Wine Spectator, the 2008 received a 93, and these excellent rating have continued in subsequent years. The 2010 vintage, for example, earned a score of 91 from Wine Spectator.