Monday, June 27, 2016

The King of Aglianico – Piero at Mastroberardino Winery

I first met Piero Mastroberardino at Vinitaly several years ago.  As a fellow professor, we immediately had something in common.  He invited me to join a vertical tasting of his Taurasi Aglianico, which featured four wines from each decade of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s.  It couldn’t have been a better introduction to aglianico, because it made me fall in love with the grape and wine.  The complex black plum, tar and earth notes, with the piercing acidity and structured tannins of the wine allows it to last for decades, and grow in complexity. Rightly called the “Barolo of the South,” aglianico from the famous Taurasi region of Campania is an icon of the wine world.

Famous Taurasi Aglianico Wines from Mastroberardino

We had a 10:30 appointment at the Mastroberardino Winery in the small town of Atripalda, so we departed Rome around 7am and arrived by 10:20. Since Piero was out of town, he had arranged for us to be met by Virgina in hospitality and Daniela in winemaking.  They were both ultimate professionals, providing us with a tour of the winemaking facilities, the ancient cellar with a treasure trove of old Taurasi wines, a video overview, and then a sit down tasting.

Mastroberardino Wine Production Facility in Campania

Overview of Mastroberardino Winery

Established in 1878, Mastroberardino is the oldest continually operating winery in Campania. Piero’s great grandfather, Angelo, started the winery with a vision to save the ancient indigenous grapes of the region from extinction – mainly aglianico, fiano, greco, and falanghina.

In the beginning they had a hard time getting anyone to purchase wines made from such unusual grapes, so Angelo traveled to South America where he was successful in selling his wines to the many Italians who had immigrated there.  Eventually the high quality and unique style of the wines gained global recognition, and he was able to begin exporting to the US and other countries.  Today 35% of Mastroberardino’s production is exported around the world.

In the Winemaking Cellars of Mastroberardino

Currently they have 200 hectares of vineyards that are farmed sustainably, with many of the vineyards at higher altitudes.  They also purchase grapes from other growers, so that in total they produce around 2 million bottles annually. As a member of the Instituto Grandi Marchi, they are considered to be one of the top 20 most famous wine brands of Italy, along with other such famous names of Gaja and Sassicaia.

Ceiling of Mastroberardino Cellar

A Tasting of Two Distinctive Wines

Daniela led us through a technical tasting of two wines, including in-depth explanations of vineyard specifics and winemaking processes.

2015 Radici Fiano de Avellino Mastroberardino –Nose of white flowers and minerality.  On the palate, more minerality with pear and hazelnuts. Medium textured body with crisp acid. Long complex finish. Grapes are from a single vineyard at 500 meters on the hillsides. Stainless steel fermentation at 10-12 C, followed by 3 to 4 months aging in bottle before release.  Though tasting fine at such a young age, we were told this fiano can easily last for 20 to 25 years in the bottle, taking on more complex and nutty notes over time.

Tasting of Mastroberardino Wines

2011 Radici Taurasi Aglianico Mastroberardino – Nose of black plum and earthy notes, followed through on palate with the addition of tar, tobacco and dried cherry. Very high acid and massive tannins, with long finish. Fermented in stainless steel at 18-19 C; with a gentle pump over once a day. Daniela stressed that, similar to nebbiolo, aglianco should not have too much extraction due to the huge tannin structure. Aged for 24 months in French barrique and Slovonian casks, and then for another 24 months in bottle before release 4 years after harvest.

Daniela and Virginia Leading Technical Tasting at Mastroberardino

After the tasting, we purchased many bottles/cases of wine in the wine shop, including a rose made from aglianico grapes, as well as some lacyrma christi in both the white and red varietals.  The red turned out to be extremely delicious with jammy berry notes and soft creamy tannins.  I also bought the Historia, which is an aglianico made with grapes from very old vines and comes in a beautifully engraved bottle with a bull motif.  In addition, we were shown the 100 euro wine made from an ancient vineyard in the ruins of Pompeii.

All in all, a very educational and enjoyable visit to Mastroberardino.

Mosaic in Mastroberardino Ancient Cellars

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