Posts tagged ‘mastroberardino’
As we head into the final few weeks of 2010, it’s time to look back on some of the more memorable wines of the year. I’ll list some of my top choices over the next few weeks, but for now, I’m focusing on the best values. This post is about Italian white wines, while the next will be on the reds:
2009 MASTROBERARDINO LACRYMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO BIANCO
There is so much excitement about the white wines of Campania these days, given the wonderful bottlings of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina that are being produced in regular numbers. But don’t forget about the humble Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, a popular wine served in many trattorie in Napoli. Produced entirely from the Coda di Volpe grape, this has gorgeous perfumes of lilacs, quince and Bosc pear, offers good depth of fruit and glides across the palate. Aged only in stainless steel, this would be an ideal partner for shrimp, clams or just about any shellfish – I love it with seafood pasta as well. This 2009 bottling (a wonderful vintage) from this iconic Campanian producer is a standout for its suggested $18-$20 price tag.
2009 BASTIANICH “ADRIATICO” FRIULANO
I just posted on the Adriatico project from Joseph Bastianich, a selection of three whites from areas near the Adriatic Sea. Each of the wines is notable, but it is the 2009 Friulano (DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli) that is the most complete and complex. This is a delicious white with notes of Anjou pear, mango and cinnamon that has remarkable richness and complexity for $15. This is an outstanding value!
2009 GRADIS’CIUTTA BRATINIS (DOC Collio Bianco)
I featured this wine in a post last month and raved about the quality as well as the price tag. Robert Princic manages this estate in San Floriano del Collio, which has rapidly emerged as one of Friuli’s finest. This blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Ribolla Gialla offers gorgeous aromatics, impressive concentration, vibrant acidity and a distinct streak of minerality and should drink well for another 2-3 years (perhaps longer). Not bad for a wine that retails for $20!
2009 COFFELE SOAVE CLASSICO “CA’ VISCO”
This family estate has released one of its finest bottlings in recent years with the 2009 Ca’ Visco. Produced from 80% Garganega and 20% Trebbiano di Soave, the grapes are sourced from the family hillside estate in Castelcerino in the heart of the Classico zone. Medium-bodied with excellent complexity and light minerality, this is ideal with vegetable or seafood risotto or lighter white meats. ($17)
2009 FRATELLI GIACOSA ROERO ARNEIS
I featured this wine in a post on my other blog back in August. This is a typically fresh, no-oak version of Arneis with textbook pine and pear aromas and a rich, refreshing finish. Perfect with risotto or lighter poultry dishes or just by itself over the next 1-2 years. Arneis has become very popular over the past decade, driving prices up slightly, so the $17 price tag here is quite welcome.
I have just returned from Campania where I toured vineyards in the Avellino province, home to two DOCG whites, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. The province is more commonly referred to by vintners and wine writers as Irpinia, its ancient name.
While Irpinia is also home to a famous DOCG red – Taurasi, produced from Aglianico – many believe this province is best suited to white varieties. Much of this has to do with the rainfall, which moderates temperatures, thus providing acidity and structure in the wines. The cool climate also benefits white grapes, assuring a long growing season, which in turn yields wines with more complex aromatics.
There are nine towns approved for vineyards for the production of Greco di Tufo, including Tufo, Santa Paolina and Montefusco. The name of the town of Tufo comes from the tufaceous soil, which is a yellowish clay that is easily broken up. Below is a photo of the Cutizzi vineyard of Feudi di San Gregorio, located in San Paolo, a frazione of Tufo. You can easily see the makeup of the tufo soil in this vineyard, one of the finest in the zone.
As for Fiano di Avellino, there are 26 towns where vineyards are permitted for production of this particular white, yet total acreage in this area is less than the nine towns of Greco di Tufo. The major towns for Fiano di Avellino include Montefalcione, Lapio, Sorbo Serpico and Santo Stefano del Sole.
Comparing the wines, Greco tends to be a bit lighter on the palate with notes of almond, while Fiano tends to offer notes of honey in the aromatics or in the finish. Both wines, especially selezioni or those made from a single vineyard (cru) can age well, sometimes as long as 10-15 years. Even in average vintages, both wines from the top producers age for 3-5 years; generally Fiano di Avellino ages longer than Greco di Tufo, though this is not always the case.
There are subtle differences among the wines and where the grapes are grown. For Greco, the town of Montefusco at 707 meters above sea level (about 2300 feet) is the high point of the zone. Grapes ripen later here thanks to the cooler temperatures and the wines are very high in acidity. In an area such as Tufo at a lower elevation, the wines have a more distinct mineral quality. The Cutizzi Greco of Feudi di San Gregorio is a prime example of this style, while the Nova Serra Greco from Mastroberardino is a flavorful and elegant bottling of the Montefusco style.
For Fiano, there are also differences due to origin. Near Sorbo Serpico or Santo Stefano del Sole, the wines are quite aromatic with good structure, while in the towns of Montefalcione and Lapio, the wines offer more mineral notes. The former style is represented by the Pietracalda bottling of Feudi di San Gregorio and the Radici bottling of Mastroberardino, while the latter style is evidenced in wines from Colli di Lapio, Joaquin, San Paolo (Montefredane), Vadiaperti (Aiperti) and Villa Diamante (Vigna della Congregazione).
What’s helpful about touring these vineyards and then tasting these wines is the sense of terroir. Few producers work with much oak for these wines, so the variety is the focal point, meaning the local terroir has a chance to emerge. We don’t often think about terroir for too many white wines, but I can promise you that sampling the best examples of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino will be an educational and rewarding experience – as well as a most pleasant one!
In a few weeks, I’ll be at VinItaly, the huge wine fair held in Verona over a period of five days. Besides being able to taste wines from all over Italy, a major benefit of this event is to sample brand new releases, from be it big reds from Toscana or Piemonte or beautifully crafted whites from Alto Adige, Liguria and Friuli.
As readers of my blogs and articles know, I’m a passionate fan of the white wines of Campania. I’m currently working on a print article on these offerings, which has given me the oppportunity to catch up on some wines I first tried almost one year ago.
The 2008 whites from Campania are in a word, lovely. There have been several impressive vintages for the whites of this region lately, going back to 2004, which produced wines that were quite rich. The wines from 2005 were a bit more subtle, while the 2006s were in-between the 2004s and 2005s in terms of weight. 2007 was a superb vintage with excellent concentration and very good acidity levels.
Following that wonderful year, the Campania whites of 2008 were not as rich, but offered beautifully defined acidity and outstanding aromatics and in my opinion, are more typical than the bottlings from 2007. When I first tasted these wines, I was delighted with their quality, but now after another 9-12 months in the bottle, they are showing brilliantly. So while trying wines upon release (or even a month or two before the official release) can be eye opening, trying them again after some time passes is a great example of how a little evolution can help define what a wine is all about. (To argue in another way, the snap judgments on wine that dominate coverage these days from the smallest blogs to the most influential international wine publications may be necessary, but we all need to take them with a grain of salt. Time is the ultimate judge of a wine.)
A few of my favorite Campanian whites from 2008 include:
- Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo “Cutizzi”
- Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra”
- Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino
- Pietracupa Fiano di Avellino
- Terredora Fiano di Avellino “Terre di Dora”
- Mastroberardino Falanghina “Morabianca”
- Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina “Serrocielo”
- La Sibilla Falanghina (Campi Flegrei)
- Giuseppe Apicella (Tramonti Bianco)
- Joaquin “110 Oyster” (Greco/ Falanghina)
- Luigi Maffini Fiano “Kratos” (IGT Paestum)
Each of these wines offers beautiful varietal character, lively acidity and admirable structure; each bottling will drink well for at least another three years, with a few showing their best qualities in as many as five to seven years from today. I would award each of these wines (and there are several more I haven’t listed) as excellent or outstanding. A few of the wines are priced in the low $40 range, but many of them are $25 and under, offering notable value.
So while I’m curious about the 2009 whites, which I’ll report upon soon, I’ll be enjoying the 2008 whites from Campania for some time to come.
For my final post of 2009, I want to salute some of the finest Italian producers of this decade. Each year in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, I list the year’s best wines and producers. I’ll be working on that shortly, but for now, let’s focus on the most important producers of the decade. There is no way I can do this with a single post, so this is part one. I’m juding not only on the quality of the wines, but also the influence these producers had in the marketplace and media and among their peers.
If Luca Currado at Vietti only made Barolo, this winery would have made the list, but there are also gorgeous bottlings of Barbera, as well as a sleek, delicious offering of Arneis. The wines are beautifully made and sell through in good order.
This family-owned winery makes the list for maintaining its traditional winemaking methods, as the great Barolos are aged in botti grandi - no barriques here. Is there a more graceful and ageworthy Barolo than the Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe Riserva?
Very modern Barolos here, aged in barrique, but amazing concentration and style. You may or may not like this style of winemaking, but you cannot help but admire the class of the offerings here.
Produttori del Barbaresco
Ultratraditional wines that show what the local terroir of Barbaresco is all about. An excellent Barbaresco normale and outstanding (often stunning) cru bottlings from the town’s best sites, including Asili, Rabaja and Montestefano. General manager Aldo Vacca is as classy as his wines!
I am saluting Gian Luigi Orsolani for his outstanding work with the Erbaluce grape, an indigenous white variety from northern PIemonte. Orsolani is the finest producer of this grape type in my opinion, crafting first-rate examples of dry white, sparkling and passito versions.
Braida – Giacomo Bologna
Splendid bottlings of Barbera d’Asti, from the humble to the sublime, especially the Bricco dell’Uccellone and the Bricco della Bigotta. Still one of the finest and most influential producers of Barbara d’Asti. Also a superb Moscato d’Asti (Vigna Senza Nome) and arguably the finest bottling of Brachetto d’Acqui. Raffaella Bologna is continuing her late father’s work in fine fashion.
This gorgeous estate in the heart of the Barolo zone has been improving dramatically for the past decade, thanks to the efforts of general manager Giovanni Minetti and winemaker Danilo Drocco. A few years ago, Oscar Farinetti, the owner of the gourmet food store, Eataly, became the prinicpal owner of the winery and has already shown his influence by introducing value-priced Barbera and Dolcetto. There are so many excellent wines produced at Fontanafredda; this is an estate that has numerous wines for a wide consumer base and any producer that wants to grow their business in the coming decade should be looking at this model.
Tenuta San Guido/Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
I am putting these two estates in Bolgheri together, as they both produce outstanding examples of local reds that not only are beautiful wines on their own, but are also known around the world. These estates, along with Grattamacco and Le Macchiole continue to be the identity for Bolgheri, Tuscany’s new light.
Bottles of Ornellaia and Masseto, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Brunello di Montalcino has been in the news as of late, and not for all the right reasons. So let’s salute Il Poggione for making Brunello the right way – the traditional way. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci has a gentle winemaking hand, as he prefers to let the local terroir shine through in his wines. I’ve tasted examples of Il Poggione Brunello from the 1970s that are still in fine shape. As for the recent controversy about the possible inclusion of grapes other than Sangiovese in Brunello, well, there was never any doubt about that at Il Poggione; so the respect for the land and the wine as seen here (as well as at dozens of other local estates such as Biondi-Santi, Col d’Orcia, Talenti and Sesta di Sopra to name only a few) needs to be saluted.
Federico Carletti has done as much as any producer in Montepulciano to revive the fortunes of its most famous wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The regular bottling is always very good, but it is the Vigna Asinone bottling is the star here. Deeply concentrated with new oak and sleek tannins, this is a modern, but very precise wine that is one of Tuscany’s finest.
Campania’s most historically important winemaking estate, this winery continued to improve after a family split in the 1980s (some of the family members established a new winery in the Avellino province) and the change in leadership from Antonio Mastroberardino to his son Piero. Clonal research became an important factor here, and today, the family is producing the best examples of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina they have ever made. Of course, Taurasi is still the most important wine here, and if today’s bottlings are not as staunchly tradtional as those from the 1960s and early 1970s, they are still first-rate and just as importantly, are not covered up by the vanilla and spice of new oak that other Taurasi producers seem to prefer these days. How nice that this defender of the local winemaking heritage is doing so well these days!
Feudi di San Gregorio
This estate made a splash with its entrance on the scene in the mid 1980s and they are still one of Campania’s most important producers. Rich, deeply concentrated bottlings of Taurasi, but even more impressive white wines, especially Cutizzi Greco di Tufo and Pietracalda Fiano di Avellino. Now there are even beautifully made single variety sparkling wines in the classic method produced from Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico. Congratulations to owner Antonio Capaldo on his innovative efforts at this great estate!
Luigi Maffini is making some of the most brilliant white wines in all of Italy as his small estate in the province of Salerno, south of Napoli. While his reds made from Aglianico are nicely done, the whites made from Fiano are routinely outstanding. There is the non-oak aged Kratos and the French oak-aged Pietraincatenata, an age-worthy Fiano. There is also a sumptuous Fiano Passito, which in my opinion, is one of the greatest dessert wines in all of Italy (the 2004 is particularly exceptional).
Cantine Marisa Cuomo
This small estate, located in the town of Furore on the Amalfi Coast, is set in an exceptionally beautiful seting, as the pergola vineyards cling to steep slopes a few hundred feet above the sea. Marisa and her husband, winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, are best known for the exceptional white, Fiorduva, a blend of indigenous varieties (Ripole, Fenile and Ginestra), but I think the Furore Rosso Riserva is also an important wine. This is extreme viticulture at its finest!
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Today, I am beginning my posts on the Top 100 wine estates of Italy. I like to mix things up a bit, so instead of starting with a producer from Piemonte or Toscana, let’s commence with a great producer from Campania – Mastroberardino.
Mastroberardino is arguably the most classical wine estate in Campania; the family certainly represents everything that is good about the tradition of this land. Long-time growers in the province of Avellino, some thirty miles east of Napoli and the sea, the family established its winery in the town of Atripalda in 1878. Back in the 1940s, Antonio Mastroberardino and his father worked tirelessly to save indigenous varieties such as Greco, Fiano and Aglianico from extinction, as post World War ll vineyards in this area (and much of Italy) were in poor condition. It is not a stretch to say that thanks to the efforts of the Mastroberardino family at that time, we can enjoy wines made from these varieties today.
Piero Mastroberadino, son of Antonio, currently manages the company and has brought about changes that have updated the winery, bringing it into the 21st century, as per modern equipment in the cellars. He has also put a great deal of time and money into research of new clones of Greco, Fiano, Coda di Volpe and Aglianico and has assembled a first-rate team of employees on the viticultural as well as production side of the business.
All of these changes however have been undertaken to preserve the mission of his father in producing the finest examples of Campanian wines from indigenous varieties while maintaning tradition. “When you are in the position as the leader of a family business, you have to take the values and regive the values, possibly to a higher level. This is not my decision, this is about cultural and social values,” Piero Mastroberardino comments.
The best wines of Mastroberardino include:
- Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra”
- Fiano di Avellino “Radici”
- Fiano di Avellino “More Maiorum”
- Falanghina “Morabianca”
- Taurasi “Radici”
- Taurasi “Naturalis Historia”
- Villa dei Misteri
Of all the wines produced by Mastroberardino, the Taurasi “Radici” is their most acclaimed bottling. Produced today entirely from Aglianico, this is a long-lived, deeply concentrated red that offers expressive notes of black cherry and bitter chocolate. Bottlings from the 1960s are still drinking beautifully (especially the 1968) and examples from the finest recent vintages, such as 1999, 2001 and 2004 should drink well for another 15-20 years.
The term radici is used for this most famous bottling of Taurasi (as well as for a selection of Fiano di Avellino). This is quite fitting, given the family’s respect of tradition, as the word radici in Italian means “roots.” As Piero Mastroberardino says, “the people here work in the continuity, the roots and the history of this terroir.” Thanks to Piero and his family for staying the course!
Text and photos ©Tom Hyland. Use of this text or images is forbidden unless permission is granted by the author.
Along with some superb whites made from Greco, Fiano, Falanghina and a few other indigenous varieties, there are also some remarkable red wines produced in Campania. Without question, Aglianico is the principal variety of these bottlings.
The most famous Aglianico-based wine in Campania is Taurasi, produced from grapes grown in a small zone in the province of Avellino (two great whites – Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino – are also produced in this province; see previous post). Taurasi must contain at least 85% Aglianico and must be aged for a minimum of three years, with one of those years in wood. (While most producers do make their Taurasi exclusively from Aglianico, some blend in small amounts of Piedirosso, a red variety with higher acidity and softer tannins.)
Taurasi features the black cherry fruit and bitter chocolate notes of Aglianico along with its firm tannins. Most examples of Taurasi need a few years to settle down and round out to shed some youthful bitterness. Most examples from average to good vintages are at their best 5-7 years after the vintage date, while the best bottlings from the finest producers in the best years age anywhere from 12-20 years. A few exceptional bottlings, such as the 1968 from Mastroberardino, are still drinking well. This longevity has earned Taurasi the nickname, “Barolo of the South.”
Among the finest producers of Taurasi are the following:
- Feudi di San Gregorio
- Antonio Caggiano
- Cantine Lonardo (Contrade de Taurasi)
Most bottlings of Taurasi are in the $35-$45 price range, which puts them well below the best bottlings of more famous Italian reds such as Brunello di Montalcino or Barolo. If you are looking for a lesser expensive example of Aglianico, look for a bottling simply listed as Aglianico Campania or Irpinia Aglianico which will be priced between $18 to $25. Basically, these are examples of Aglianico that have not been aged long enough to be called Taurasi, so they must be labeled differently. These wines are often from younger vines and while they will not age as long as a Taurasi, they still drink well for anywhere from three to seven years, and are much more approachable upon release. Look for these bottlings from Mastroberardino, Feudi di San Gregorio (Rubrato) and Vinosia, among others.
AGLIANICO DEL TABURNO
Another great example of Aglianico is Aglianico del Taburno from the province of Benevento to the north of Avellino. This DOC is home to some excellent wines; with less acidity than Taurasi, a typical Aglianico del Taburno will not age as long as that wine, but it has the same flavors and richness and is an impressive wine. Look for examples from producers such as:
- Cantina del Taburno
A change in style
As with many famous red wines throughout Italy, Taurasi has undergone some changes over the past decade. Most bottlings up until the mid 1980s or early 1990s were aged in large oak casks known as botti grandi; a few producers even aged their wines in chestnut barrels.
Today, however most producers use barriques for aging their Taurasi, which has changed the style of the wine, as there is more wood influence (vanilla, toast, spice) from these small barrels. Mastroberardino, for example, starts the aging in barriques (only one-third new) and then finishes it in large casks, so their Taurasi has just a touch of modernity; though different from the older bottlings, their newer examples of Taurasi are still subdued when it comes to oak.
Yet other producers use only barriques for aging; several of these wines have been awarded top ratings from certain wine publications, so it’s easy to see why more producers are using small barrels to age their Taurasi. But the question remains if these new examples will age as long as the classically produced bottlings from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Time will tell, I guess.
All text on Learn Italian Wines is ©Tom Hyland