Any visit to Campania has to include Mastroberardino. This was the winery which put the region on the map, formally founded in 1874 but much older than that, now in its 10th generation of the family. They started as plain Berardino with the ‘mastro’ being added as an honorific; they virtually drew up the rules for the quality wine areas in Campania; and they now are conducting an experimental vineyard within the site of Pompei itself, with the closest you can get to Roman varieties. The old Professore, now in his 80 s, is still to be seen around the winery. As befits the history, the winery includes the old road (above) which has been incorporated into it and has a underground treasure store in the old cellar. Here you can marvel at vintages back into the 1930s (above).
The sun shone on us and on the Aglianico still on the vine in the last week of October, a picture of abundance. As we arrived at
Mastroberardino’s old winery, the grapes were being delivered, the beginning of this late harvest for what should be another excellent year.
After a tour of the old cellar, our tasting of the quality wines was conducted by Chiara Giorleo, who followed university (with work on promoting Italian goods in China) with work in Canada. After a year at Mastroberardino, she is well versed in the firm already. For whites we tasted the Nova Serra Greco di Tufo and then Fiano di Avellino, sold under the Radici (‘roots’) label. The former is elegant and long, quickly developing some complexity in the glass, flowers and minerals. By comparison the Fiano is more demonstrative, with dried apricots and nuts to the fore.
Of course there was Aglianico to follow, but first in the unlikely guise of a rosé. As this Campanian grape is so full of colour only 3-4 hours of contact with the skins is necessary to create a delicious pale pink. This has just won a prize as the best rosé in Italy and it’s not difficult to see why: good floral and mineral notes leap out of the glass.
But the real thing here is Taurasi, deep dense wines with years, decades, of life. In the line there were one basic wine, 2007, and then two riservas, Radici 1999 (12-14 months in wood, at least two years in the bottle before release) and, to strike the historical note, homage to Pliny, Naturalis Historia 2004 (18 months in wood, 18 in the bottle). The latter’s fruit comes from around Montemerano which we visited later in the day. These share excellent dark fruit and life-giving acidity, the former with more liquorish notes, the latter with tobacco. And they are great value – the ten year old wine being available in the shop for €26.
If you like your wine dark, slow evolving and capable of lasting for decades, head for Campania’s Aglianico. And you can’t do much better than begin with the wines of the Mastroberardino family which put Campania on the road to quality in the glass.