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Italy's Shin
Ben Weinberg

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


I was recently in Campania, Italy, for the first edition of the Campania Stories festival near the town of Sannio, and for Taurasi Vendemmia, a ten-year-old festival celebrating the noblest expression of Aglianico in the villages of Avellino and Taurasi.

Originally colonized by ancient Greeks, Campania is a place where lemon and blood orange groves punctuate grape vines and olive trees. It is rich in gastronomy, music, architecture and archaeology, including ancient sites such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum and Velia. Rich natural beauty also makes Campania an important tourist destination, especially along the Amalfi Coast, Mount Vesuvius, the island of Capri, and the capital of Naples, a frenetic, food-mecca metropolis.

The most famous food product is savory, best-in-the-world Mozzarella di Bufala DOP. But it is with the wines of indigenous varieties such as Fiano, Falanghina, Greco di Tufo, Piedirosso, Primitivo, and Aglianico that Campania truly excites. There is also a deep history of excellent passito (straw wine) dessert juice, often quite expensive but capable of very long life.


Campania Stories

 

Upon landing in Naples I was driven to my lodgings at the Aquapetra Resort & Spa in the small town of Telese Terme. After lunch I headed off to Antica Masseria Venditti for a tour, tasting and dinner of local specialties prepared by the wife of winemaker Nicola Venditti, who also owns the property.

The next morning I visited Trabucco, where I met with owner/winemaker Nicola Trabucco. Nicola is into many businesses, including pasta and olive oil, but wine is his passion. After Trabucco came a transfer to Masseria Felicia. There, owner Felicia Brini, her husband, and her winemaker gave me the grand tour before a cozy dinner in her parents' home.



Vineyards at Fattoria La Rivolta
PHOTO COURTESY OF FATTORIA LA RIVOLTA



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Paola Mustilli picked me up the following day for an early visit with her sister Anna Chiara, the principal winemaker of the family's Mustilli estate. Aftewards, I headed to Fattoria La Rivolta to meet Paolo Cotroneo at. Paolo's estate is quite orderly but his wines are full of passion and, as a group, were among the best I tasted during my entire visit. That afternoon Campania Stories began with an introductory press conference and gala dinner. There I learned that the region's regulatory system has recently been redone, with several DOCs eliminated to produce a single DOC with many subareas.

The next day's primary event was the Grand Tasting, held in the Aquapetra's conference room. I then headed off to Terre del Principe, where I tasted product from several wineries. I returned to the hotel for a short break before trekking back to Mustilli for dinner. The most special element of this appointment came when the sisters pulled out a 1977 Greco di Tufo and a 1988 Aglianico that were still full of life.


    Taurasi Vendemmia

  Taurasi Vendemmia, literally "Harvest of Taurasi," takes place in and around the black volcanic peaks which ring the Calore River.

There is a village called Taurasi at the heart of the DOCG, but this is only one of 17 towns that are allowed to label as Taurasi their local sub-form of Aglianico. It is, along with Piedmont's Nebbiolo, the last-harvested grape in Italy.

At the end of Campania Stories I transferred from Sannio to Feudi di San Gregorio. I tasted with Chairman Antonio Capaldo and had lunch in their modern, expansive dining room. I then rolled back to basecamp at the Grand Hotel Serino, where I attended the introductory press conference before an early evening departure to Colli di Castelfranci, a local winery where the hospitality was also home-grown.
Saturday's traditional Grand Tasting preceded a vertical tasting of Taurasi at Mastroberardino that spanned more than six decades (click here for the story on this extraordinary tasting). A quick stop at the Grand Hotel Serino left me ready for that evening's event at Antico Castello, another family winery that couldn't have been more welcoming.

My last winery visit of Taurasi Vendemmia occurred the next morning at Terredora di Paolo, owned by another branch of the Mastroberardino family that split away in the early 1990s. Winery owner Daniela Mastroberardino, Piero's stylish first cousin, showed me around before a mozzarella-laden lunch.


BEN WEINBERG'S TOP PICKS FROM CAMPANIA

Sparkling


Venditti NV Il Poggio Primus Albus Vino Spumante ($40)
PORTOVINO LLC

White


Venditti2011  Falanghina DOC ($20)
PORTOVINO LLC

Mustilli 2011 Fiano Sannio DOC N/A
CASA DE CASE, DOMENICO SELECTIONS

Feudi di San Gregorio 2011 Greco di Tufo DOCG ($15)
PALM BAY INTERNATIONAL

Mastroberardino 2012 Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio White ($19)
EMPSON USA

Red

Fattoria la Rivolta 2008 Aglianico del Taburno Riserva Terra di Rivolta DOC ($35)
ITALIA WINE IMPORTS LTD

De Conciliis Paestum 2006 Aglianico Naima DOC ($45)
CAPITAL WINES LLC

Terredora di Paolo 2006 Aglianico Pago dei Fusi DOC ($60)
VIAS IMPORTS

Colli di Castelfranci 2007 Alta Valle Taurasi DOCG ($45)
COMMUNAL BRANDS

Contrade di Taurasi 2008 Taurasi Coste DOCG ($75)
TRIAGE WINES

Salvatore Molettieri 2008 Taurasi Renonno DOCG ($75)
ESTATE WINES LTD.

Trabucco 2011 Falerno del Massico Rapicano DOC ($37)
BEVI BEVERAGES

Masseria Felicia 2008 Falerno del Massico Etichetta Bronze Rosso DOC ($33)
VINIFERA IMPORTS LTD

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. If you are interested in more information on any of his tours, please email benweinberg@wineontheroad.com.