Mastroberardino Aglianico 2008
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Mastroberardino is one of the leading wineries and wine families in all of Italy in terms of production, market impact, and innovation. This is one single family with a winemaking history which dates back to the early 18th century, and which is largely responsible for the viticultural success of Campania's remote Irpinia area. The Mastroberardino family have earned themselves a place in Italy’s viticultural history as a guardian and protector of indigenous grapes of Southern Italy’s Campania region. The family has not just worked to maintain these varieties, but Mastroberardino has successfully turned would-be extinct grapes into world class varieties. This work of transformation began in earnest after WWII when Antonio Mastroberardino returned to his family’s estate to find it in ruins-- the result of economic hardships, phylloxera, neglect and war. Antonio refused to let his family’s legacy fall to circumstance, however, and he worked tirelessly to restore the land he loved. The Mastroberardino family achieved this restorative transformatoin by replanting existing vineyards and purchasing the best land they could find to focus on revitalizing Campania’s three ancient varietals of Fiano, Greco, and Aglianico. The family first established itself in the town of Atripalda, some 30 km from Naples in the shadow of the infamous Mt. Vesuvius. Since then, ten generations have cultivated the neighboring land, maintaining their hard fought mission to protect the indigenous varieties and winemaking traditions native to Campania. For the Mastroberardino family, the revitalization of ancient Irpinian grapes was just the beginning. Today Mastroberardino’s production has grown to 14 wine estates across Campania, all situated in the heart of the three DOCG production areas of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, and Taurasi. Here, they continue the family’s mission to preserve tradition while incorporating modern approaches to their winemaking and marketing practices. Antonio’s son Piero is now the 10th generation Mastroberardino to lead the winery, overseeing not just the business operations, but also a multitude of research projects, including classification, planting, and viticultural zoning across the entire region. In 1996 the winery’s work was further recognized when the Italian government selected Mastroberardino to manage the preservation of Pompeii’s ancient viticultural techniques at the Villa dei Misteri archaeological site. Here the winery carefully planted vines inside the Pompeii ruins following the plans and methods used by the Ancient Romans prior to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 B.C. Proceeds from the sale of these unique wines support the restoration of the ancient wine cellar at Foro Bario, one of Pompeii’s most impressive archaeological sites. Today many Campania's top wines enjoy recognition among the finest wines in the world with much of this well-deserved reputation owing to the perseverance and cultural commitment of 10 generations of the Mastroberardino family.
A winemaking renaissance is underfoot in Campania as more and more small, artisan and family-run wineries redefine their style with vineyard improvements and cellar upgrades. The region boasts a cool Mediterranean climate with extreme coastal, as well as high elevation mountain terroirs. It is cooler than one might expect in Campania; the region usually sees some of the last harvest dates in Italy.
Just south of Mount Vesuvio, the volcanic and sandy soils create aromatic and fresh reds based on Piedirosso and whites, made from Coda di Volpe and Falanghina. Both reds and whites go by the name, Lacryma Christi, meaning the "tears of Christ." South of Mount Vesuvio, along the Amalfi Coast, the white varieties of Falanghina and Biancolella make fresh, flirty, mineral-driven whites, and the red Piedirosso and Sciasinoso vines, which cling to steeply terraced coastlines, make snappy and ripe red wines.
Farther inland, as hills become mountains, the limestone soil of Irpinia supports the whites Fiano di Avellino, Falanghina and Greco di Tufo as well as the most-respected red of the south, Aglianico. Here the best and most age-worthy examples come from Taurasi.
Farther north and inland near the city of Benevento, the Taburno region also produces Aglianico of note—called Aglianico del Taburno—on alluvial soils. While not boasting the same heft as Taurasi, these are also reliable components of any cellar.
Taking its home in the mountainous southern Italian regions of Campania and Basilicata, Aglianico is a bold red variety that needs a long hang time to fully develop and is actually one of the very last of the Italian red varieties to be harvested each year. It often spends until November on the vine and pushing it any faster often leads to rough and untamable tannins.
The name “Aglianico” bears striking resemblance to Ellenico, the Italian word for "Greek," but no evidence shows it having any ancestry in Greece. However, first documentation of its plantings appear around an ancient Greek colony located in the lush hills of present-day Avellino, Campania. It thrives there today as the exclusive variety in the strikingly delicious and age-worthy, red wine called Taurasi. While maybe not as popular as Brunello or Barolo, among Italy’s noble reds, it certainly can boast the same aging potential. Aglianico also has great success in volcanic soils such as those found in Basilicata where it makes the robust, Aglianico del Vulture. It is also found scattered throughout vineyards in Calabria, Puglia and Molise.
The best Aglianicos are rustic and earthy, deep in color with dried fig, plum, blackberry, black pepper and dark chocolate. Full of fine-grained tannins, Aglianico has good acidity and an intense, lingering finish. Aglianico is fantastic alongside roasted or grilled meats, anything with black truffles and aged cheeses.