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A Thrilling Vertical at Mastroberardino

Ben Weinberg

60+-YEAR-OLD AGLIANICO IN CAMPANIA

Campania is a thrilling place. The hectic metropolis of Naples, the mysteries of Pompeii, the bucolic surroundings and gutsy wines of Taurasi and, of course, magnificent foodstuffs as exemplified by Mozzarella di Bufala (the best in the world and a D.O.P. product), help create a destination that is unique in the world of wine, food and travel.


The vertical tasting at Mastroberardino.
PHOTO: BEN WEINBERG


I recently spent the afternoon of Saturday, March 9, 2013, engrossed in a vertical tasting of Taurasi at Mastroberardino that spanned more than six decades. I have long considered Mastroberardino, the first winery in the region to export outside of the province, to be the best such operation in Campania. I had also previously met Piero Mastroberardino in Denver in 2012 and had instantly bonded with this humble, artistic, articulate, tenth-generation winery owner.

Mastroberardino was originally established in the 1750s by Pietro di Mastro Berardino, who was awarded the professional title of Mastro as a testament to his winemaking skills. Current winery owner Piero Mastroberardino, son of legendary Antonio, is much like Pietro, an artist grounded in reality. His paintings adorn many of the winery's open spaces as well as the restaurant and clubhouse walls at the family's Morabianca del Radici Resort and Golf Club in Irpinia. He is also an accomplished musician and a full professor of social science at nearby Università degli Studi di Foggia.

Clearly this is a man with layers, and his wines all express a high level of complexity. Because of Mastroberardino's rich history, the winery maintains a collection of letters and photographs spanning more than 120 years that show an impressive entrepreneurial bent. Letters from Pietro's son Michele, sent from South America before the turn of the century, detail his first ventures in Montevideo, Uruguay and São Paulo, Brazil. One missive from 1906, asking for financial backing to visit the emerging city of New York, demonstrates how this family has always looked forward while embracing its heritage.

Piero Mastroberardino, his father Antonio and their entire staff work diligently to ensure that every aspect of their winery's operations are models of integrity and excellence, not just for Campania but also all of Italy. If you get a chance to spend any time in the area, don't hesitate to contact them for an appointment. You won't regret it.

 
Antonio and Piero Mastroberardino.
PHOTO: BEN WEINBERG

TASTING NOTES

Mastroberardino 1952 Taurasi DOCG ($N/A)

The 1952 Mastroberardino Taurasi was strawberry red in color, with a nose of beef blood and cedar. On the palate this focused on tomato leaf, porchini, cinnamon, and ripe strawberry. Only moderately long, but at more than 60 years old, who cares?


The author at the tasting.
Mastroberardino 1961 Taurasi Riserva DOCG ($N/A)
1961's entry was hued a dark red. Almond, balsam, and black cherry dominated the nose while black pepper and black cherry honed the taste of this incredibly youthful wine. Moderate acidity and tremendous length completed a very impressive package.

   
Mastroberardino 1970 Taurasi Riserva DOCG ($N/A)
This 43-year-old juice appeared reddish-brown. Smelling of black cherry and pumice, this headed to a deep, intense finish with waves of raspberry liqueur, hazelnut, and mocha. Edged out the '61 by a nose as my favorite wine of the entire vertical.

Mastroberardino 1985 Taurasi DOCG ($85)

1985's version was red-brown in color, with a nose of strawberry and black licorice and a palate of chewy mocha, black tea, and Bing cherry. The finish was of high intensity and very long. This was a true monster of a wine that will still be vibrant long after I am not.

Mastroberardino 1996 Taurasi DOCG ($75)

A wine that showed dark cherry tones in the glass while tomato leaf, ash, white pepper, and cola hit the nose in waves. Red strawberry and red licorice dominated the finish, which was bright but only moderate in length.

Mastroberardino 2006 Taurasi Riserva Radici DOCG ($65)
This Riserva poured as a blood-red wine that nosed red licorice and strawberry. On the tongue this was all about red cherry, red licorice, and dark chocolate. Just a baby so it was very bright and long. I am sure these characteristics will both mellow with age.

NOTE - A 1980 earthquake that devastated Irpinia caused many local families to pack up and leave. The Mastroberardinos stayed because of their deep roots in the countryside of Avellino. This philosophy gave rise to the name "Radici" or "roots," a trade moniker now given to a Mastroberardino's DOCG Taurasi.

Mastroberardino is imported by Winebow.



 


Mastroberardino's Special Relationship with Pompeii

Wine played a central role in the lives of the Vesuvian people. Archaeological excavations, botanical studies, and the discovery of casts of vine roots and their support stakes have confirmed that vines were grown within ancient Pompeii's city walls, in the gardens and orchards which beautified local villas, and especially in the quarters located on the outskirts of the city near the amphitheater.




Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
In 1996, the archaeological superintendent of Pompeii appointed Mastroberardino to plant experimental vineyards using ancient traditions in several locations on the outskirts of Pompeii. Now, more than 1900 years after Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii, grapevines are again being grown in the ancient city, and only by Mastroberardino. The resulting grapes are used in several of their bottlings. The work also gives top employees and honored guests special access to the treasures of this haunting city.


 
Mastroberardino vineyards outside Pompeii, with Vesuvius in the distance.
PHOTO: BEN WEINBERG


CONTACT INFO:

Mastroberardino S.P.A.

Via Manfredi 75/81
83042 Atripalda, Italy
Tel: +39 0825 614 111
www.mastroberardino.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Certified sommelier and unfilteredunfined.com Editor-in-Chief Ben Weinberg has written for The Daily Beast , Worth Magazine , The World of Fine Wine , Sommelier Journal and Wine Enthusiast , and is the Rocky Mountain Editor of THE TASTING PANEL Magazine . He also offers luxurious, behind-the-scenes tours of the world's most famous wine regions at www.wineontheroad.com.  He's looking to return to Argentina with a Wine on The Road tour in early 2014. If you are interested in coming along or want more information on any of his tours, please email benweinberg@wineontheroad.com.

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