Posts tagged ‘mastroberardino’
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
This is part two of my discussion of white wines from Campania. The last post dealt with Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. This time around, I will discuss Falanghina as well as white wines from the Amalfi Coast.
Falanghina is another of the great ancient white varieties of Campania. The name comes from the word falerna, meaning “poles,” a reference to the system used by the Greeks more than a thousand years ago of attaching the vines to stakes, rather than having the vine directly in the ground. In the province of Caserta in northern Campania, Falerna is the local name of Falanghina.
The signature of Falanghina is its vibrant acidity; this is enhanced when the grapes are planted near the coast, as with the Villa Matilde estate in Caserta (Falerno del Massico DOC) or the Campi Flegrei DOC that hugs the shoreline just north of Napoli. Yet even inland in Benevento (Sannio DOC) and in Avellino, Falanghina maintains its healthy acidity.
This is a wine with lovely aromatics; apple and pear are most common, but today, the best bottlings offer greater complexity in their perfumes, including notes of quince, acacia, white peaches and even some tropical fruits such as kiwi or guava. As the aromatics are so special, most offerings are aged in stainless steel; an exception is the “Caracci” bottling from Villa Matilde.
The best examples of Falanghina available in the United States today include:
- Mastroberardino “Morabianca”
- Feudi di San Gregorio “Serrocielo”
- Villa Matilde “Caracci”
- La Sibilla “Cruna deLago”
These cru bottlings are priced in the $22-28 range. However there are many fine examples of Falanghina labeled as Sannio DOC or Beneventano IGT that are less expensive, well-made wines (often priced in the mid-teens); these include bottlings from Mastroberardino and Vinosia.
Feudi di San Gregorio also produces a lovely sparkling Falanghina as part of its DUBL series, which is co-produced with the French Champagne firm Selosse. As you might guess from the natural acidity of Falanghina, this is a nicely structured wine; the aromatics of pear and lemon along with a light yeastiness makes for a lovely wine.
Given its high acidity, Falanghina is ideal with shellfish.
Everyone knows about the gorgeous seaside setting of the Amalfi Coast, but few realize this is an excellent wine zone as well (Costa d’Amalfi DOC). Here growers use the traditional pergola system of training the vines; in this system, the overhead canopy protects the grapes from too much sun.
Vintners along the Amalfi Coast work with several white varieties not found elsewher; these incude Fenile, Ginestra and Biancolella. Most of the whites produced here are blends, offering lovely aromatics (most notably citrus, pear and melon) with vibrant acidity. Usually non-oak aged, most of the bottlings are meant for consumption within 2-3 years of the vintage date; they are perfect with local shellfish such as vongole, the tiny clams from the sea.
Among the best producers of white wine from the Amalfi Coast are:
- Marisa Cuomo
- Giuseppe Apicella
- Tenuta San Francesco
Marisa Cuomo, along with her husband/winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, is recognnized as one of Italy’s finest white wine producers. Their most famous wine, Fiorduva, is a powerful Amalfi blend fermented in barrique.
OTHER CAMPANIAN WHITES
There are a few other excellent areas for white wine in Campania, including the island of Ischia, off the coast of Napoli. Here producers struggle with high winds and other conditions to make white blends from varieties such as Forestera and Biancolella. Top producers from Ischia include Pietratorcia and Casa d’Ambra.
In the province of Caserta, there are a few producers working with Pallagrello Bianco; this variety is quite unique in that the aromatics are not fresh melon and pear, but more along the lines of dried herbs, flowers (such as acacia) and a distinct nuttiness. These wines remind one of Campania’s past! Look for producers such as Alois and Terre del Principe.
Finally, a white variety named Aspirinio is grown in Caserta in northern Campania. The vines of Aspirinio in the Aspirinio di Aversa DOC are trained to poles and reach as high as 30 feet off the ground, meaning pickers must climb ladders to harvest the grapes. While a dry white and sparkling version of Aspirinio di Aversa is produced, the most famous version is the passito bottling.
When you think of Italian white wines, such offerings as Soave and Pinot Grigio may come immediately to mind, while such specialties as Ribolla Gialla from Friuli, Gewurztraminer from Alto Adige or Vermentino from Sardinia are among the most distinct of all of the country’s whites. Yet few people talk much about the white wines of Campania, which for me are not only some of the best in the country, but also represent an excellent price/quality ratio.
In this post, I will deal with wines made from Greco and Fiano. In the next post, I will discuss other whites wines from Campania, including Falanghina as well as the wines from the Amalfi Coast and other areas of this lovely region.
Greco di Tufo / Fiano di Avellino
The two most heralded white wines of Campania are from the inland province of Avellino, some 30 miles east of Napoli. The wines are Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino, both DOCG. Greco is named for the Greeks colonists, who first planted these vines in this area some 2000 years ago. Greco di Tufo – or Greco made from the Tufo area – offers flavors of lemon and pear, generally with a note of almond and minerality in the finish. Most bottlings are fermented and aged in stainless steel, so as not to obscure the wonderful aromatics of the wine. Most examples drink well at 2-5 years after the vintage, depending on the producer and given year.
Fiano di Avellino – made from the Fiano grape in the Avellino province – tends to offer a bit more body than Greco di Tufo. The aromas generally are of pear and orange blossom with a note of honey. These wines are also given stainless steel treatment by most producers; most age well for 3-7 years after the vintage.
The best producers of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino include:
- Feudi di San Gregorio
- Antonio Caggiano
- Villa Raiano
A few producers will release both a regular and special bottling of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. The special bottling may be a selection of the finest grapes or it may be a single vineyard offering. These wines offer more complex aromas, are richer on the palate and tend to age longer periods of time than a regular offering. Examples of these special bottlings include:
- “Nova Serra” Greco di Tufo from Mastroberardino
- “Cutizzi” Greco di Tufo from Feudi di San Gregorio
- “Loggia della Serra” Greco di Tufo from Terredora
- “Radici” Fiano di Avellino from Mastroberardino
- “Pietracalda” Fiano di Avellino from Feudi di San Gregorio
- “Terre di Dora” Fiano di Avellino from Terredora
- “Vigna della Congregazione” Fiano di Avellino from Villa Diamante
A few producers offer a special blend of Greco and Fiano; the most famous include “Campanaro” from Feudi di San Gregorio and “Doceassaje” from Vinosia.
There are other bottlings of Greco and Fiano from outside the province of Avellino. The best are the wines made from Fiano by Luigi Maffini, a producer in the Salrno province, south of Napoli. He produces three versions of Fiano: a stainless steel bottling called “Kratos”, a barrique-aged version named “Pietraincatenata” and a wonderful dessert offering made in a Passito style, where the grapes are dried naturally for several months. There are numerous producers of Fiano Passito; to my tastes, the Luigi Maffini version with its flavors of pineapple, apricot and dried honey backed by great fruit persistence, cleansing acidity and delicate sweetness, is among the finest dessert wines produced today in all of Italy.
I mentioned the price/quality ratio earlier; most versions of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino can be found in the $20-$25 price range on American retail shelves; the special bottlings may be in the $30 price range or a few dollars higher. Compared to some of the finest white blends of Friuli, for example, these represent fine values.