The passing of Antonio Mastoberardino, the legendary wine producer from Campania, saddened me. I immediately called my friend, Philip di Belardino, who was largely responsible for bringing the Mastroberardino wines into this county and promoting them. I suggested to Philip that we have a lunch in honor of the memory of Antonio. I suggested SD26 in NYC and Philip agreed because the owner Tony May was a friend of Antonio and a lover of his wines. We decided to invite a few of the people who had promoted the wines in this country and representatives of Winebow, the present importer.
During his lifetime, Antonio had been presented with many honors for his work in preserving the indigenous grapes of his region including, Fiano del Avellino and Greco di Tufo. With the permission of the local government, he planted a vineyard inside the walls of Pompeii from which he made a wine called Villa dei Misteri. I always remember Antonio saying that you cannot understand the wine and food of a region unless you understand its culture. He received the title of Cavaliere del Lavoro. See Tom Maresca’s excellent article: http://ubriaco.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/ave-atque-vale-antonio-mastroberardino/
For our lunch, each guest was asked to bring one bottle of Mastroberardino wine. What better way to honor Antonio then to drink his wine? Piero Mastroberadino, Antonio’s son heard of the lunch and with his daughter Camilla came to NYC to attend. We were greatly honored by their presence.
Mastroberardino Wines at the lunch
Lacryma Christi Bianco 2012 made from 100% Coda del Volpe
Fiano di Avellino 1982
Ten years ago when I was the wine director for I Trulli Restaurant, a wine salesmen asked me if I wanted two cases of white wine. The youngest, he said, was 20 years old and he did not know if they were any good. He said that the producer was Mastroberardino and I agreed to take them. Among the wines were a few Greco di Tufo’s from the 1983 vintage and a few Fiano di Avellino’s from the 1982 vintage. Both the Greco and Fiano were drinking like young wines. Now ten years later I was able to drink the 1982 Fiano again and it was still in great shape with very little sign of aging. I believe that both the Greco and Fiano were fermented in cement tanks and aged in large chestnut oak casks, one reason why they may have lasted so long. Of the 24 bottles I received, only two were not drinkable.
1997 More Maiorum 100% single vineyard Fiano di Avellino. The name means “observance of the customs of our ancestors.” This wine was showing some signs of age but was still very nice. It did not hold up as well as the 1982 Fiano I mentioned above.
Lacrimarosa 2012 Campania IGT Rose made from 100 Aglianico
Lacryma Christi Rosso 2012 Made from 100% Piedirosso
Aglianico Irpinia IGT Vintage 1998 made from 100% Aglianico and drinking very well.
Taurasi Riserva 1958, 1968 and 1977
Looking over notes from almost 25 years ago I came across this from Palace Brands Company the importer for Mastroberardino at the time:
“The soil is poor in organic substances but with a high content of clay, limestone, minerals and mico-elements. Taurasi spends one year in Slovenian oak barrels and two years in bottle, the wine can be laid down for 10 to 15 years. The riserva stays in medium sized 40 to 50HL oak casks for 2 years and 2 years in bottle. It can live in the bottle for 25-40 years. The aging depends on the vintage, the 1977 Riserva was aged 3years in oak, and one batch spent 7 years in oak”.
They were right about the aging. The wine was in excellent condition.
Sheldon Wasserman in his book the Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1985) says that Mastorberardino is the zone’s best producer. He says about their Taurasi, “At Mastroberardino they pick their grapes late to produce wines with more richness and character. Taurasi is aged in either oak or chestnut casks. Mastroberardino uses both. They age their riserva for four years, for the first year in the traditional large chestnut casks and then in casks of Slovenian oak ranging in capacity from 30 tom 50 hectoliters”.
Piero brought these three wines from the winery and they were all in very good condition especially the legendary 68 and the 77.
1997 Radici Taurasi Riserva
Centrotrento Taurasi Riserva D.O.C.G. 1999 This wine was made in honor of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the company. On the label appear the figures of 3 men that played leading roles: Angelo Masteroberardino (1850-1914), Michele Mastroberardino (1866-1945) and Antonio Mastroberardino (1928 -2014).
1999 Radici Taurasi Riserva
2000 Radici Taurasi Riserva
Magnum of 2005 Radici Taurasi Riserva
Taurasi “Radici” DOCG 100% Aglianico Mastroberardino SPA. (Campania) Piero Mastroberardino said that the vineyards for Taurasi “Radici” are located on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard was much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 24 months in French barriques and Slovenian oak barrels and remains in the bottle for 24 months before release. Piero made a point of telling me that the barriques were second and third passage. These are full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice and a touch of leather.
Will the wines from the late 1990’s age as well as the older wines? I believe so because none of them were showing any signs of age.