Tag Archives: Mastroberardino

Campania in the glass in England

Tasting in situ is a dangerous business.   Wines can taste so much better when you are in the winery, the sun is shining or if the proprietor is particularly persuasive.  So, it is good to have the chance to re-taste wines in a more neutral setting, with a bit of distance and with the comparison of other styles of wines to hand.  After an autumn visit to Campania, Andover Wine Friends’ recent tasting was an opportunity to try the main styles again. 

IMG_4433 Campanian wines used to be known for the big, slow-evolving reds.  The key wine is a version of Aglianico, the most important red grape, with long ageing potential.  Called Taurasi it is grown around the small town of the same name.  But there is much more to Campania nowadays, especially the whites made from local grape varieties.  This tasting featured wines from three companies, two large players based in heart of the Campanian wine scene, Mastroberardino and Feudi di San Gregorio, and one medium size family firm, de Conciliis, much further south, quite close to the famous temples at Paestum.  These wines are available in the UK, from Raeburn Fine Wines and Winedirect, both with good delivery services. 

The evening started with de Conciliis’ very unusual sparker, Selim, made from the unlikely mix of Fiano (of which much IMG_4411more), Aglianico, picked very young, and Barbera, a bit of a stranger in these parts.  The sparkling bit is actually done up in Prosecco in northern Italy, to de Conciliis’ orders.  These include an unusual 100 days on the lees, using the tank method, to gain extra complexity.  It found favour, even on a cool, damp evening in northern Europe:  bright, decent fruit (you can taste the fruit of the red grapes plus the high acidity of young Aglianico and Barbera), nice yeasty notes and the good acidity that sparkling wine needs. 

At times it’s tempting to jump to the conclusion: although Campania is famous for its grand red wine, Taurasi, the stars of this evening – at least for me – were the three native white varieties.  Falanghina, Greco and Fiano were never cut out to be a rock band or a firm of solicitors, but they are a great a trio of whites.  None is really obviously fruit-led like Sauvignon Blanc or perfumed like Viognier, but they do have decent aroma, excellent texture, weight in the mouth and refreshing acidity. In short, they are full of character and superb food wines. 

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Of the three whites, first up was the staple of Campania, Falanghina.  This can be merely competent, if never really dull like Tuscany’s Trebbiano.  However, Feudi di San Gregorio’s Sannio Falanghina 2008 was much more than competent: pleasantly vegetal (perhaps even the bitterness of olives), almondy, followed by a shot of lime, and excellent texture.   Mastroberardino’s Nova Serra Greco di Tufo 2008 has good citrusy notes, perhaps grapefruit, almost fleshy in substance and very persistent with great acidity.  Then there was the same company’s Radici Fiano di Avellino 2008, rather more neutral on the nose, but herbaceous again and herby, very slightly honeyed, good texture.  Although it is Fiano which is the prized grape, it was the other two in these young and medium priced wines (£11-£14 in the UK) which really stood out. 

Of course Fiano can come in all sorts of styles, fresh and contemporary but occasionally IMG_4440oxidative and aged.  To demonstrate this style we had a bottle from 2003 of de Conciliis’ Antece.  This ‘white made as red’ was an extraordinary colour, verging on amber despite it being only 7 years old.  It leads with a good madeira style nose, marmalade and burnt sugar, but its weight in the mouth makes it a table wine, interesting if quite simple.  Once people got over the shock of the style some warmed to its peculiar charms. 

The evening of course had to end with those famous reds.  Aglianico in Italy itself – especially from the barrel  – can be a bit of an acidic/tannic challenge (see the post on Molletieri).  What the wines need is time in the bottle.   Two of our examples had just that.  First, the ‘simple’ Aglianico of de Conciliis (‘Donnaluna’), not the young, bracingly vibrant examples we tasted in Italy but a bottle of 2004.   This was rounded, dark cherries in there, with signs of good oak ageing … the acidity and tannins civilised by time. 

IMG_4430 Secondly, the classier wines of Taurasi, picked as late as possible in early November for maximum richness, with 12-18 months in oak making up a part of a minimum of three years ageing.  The Radici Taurasi 2005 from Mastroberardino is a highly approachable and balanced wine after ‘only’ five years.  This leads with evidence of oak ageing with mildly balsamic notes and also has a good depth of fruit. 

Finally we had a rather older Taurasi from the single vineyard Piano IMG_4423 di Montevergine 2001 from Feudi di San Gregorio.  This really took time to show itself.  It had been double decanted two hours earlier but it was still rather mute in the glass to start with, but piano, piano it began to emerge from its rest in the bottle.  The colour seemed pretty unchanged, perhaps the slightest hint of browning but still a good dense red.  On the nose there was an initial leatheriness, perhaps the odd whiff of bacon but also good dense fruit and now silky tannins. 

IMG_4436 All in all this was an excellent tasting.   Campania has so much to offer and this was a great opportunity to taste its individual, characterful and located wines.

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Campania 4 – Mastroberardino

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 vineyardIMG_4033 IMG_4031 in within the site of Pompei, with the closest you can get to Roman varieties.  The old Professore, now in his 80s, 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

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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 IMG_4026 (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 IMG_4047unlikely guise of a roséAs 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 IMG_4046historical 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. 

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