Amarone, Barolo, Brunello, Chianti, the list goes on and on. But despite the deserved popularity of these great wines, Italy (currently the World’s greatest producer of wines) produces a veritable river of fine wines from indigenous and ancient grapes we never, or very seldom, encounter.
At Valley Wines and Spirits we are committed to discovering and introducing these fine wines to our customers. As importantly to us at Valley wines, these rare wines represent great values for our customers. Case in point: Fiano de Avellino, and, on the red side of the aisle, Taurasi (Aglianico).
At Valley we now carry two great wines from Campania’s greatest producer, Mastroberardino. I particularly looked for these wines given this family’s importance to the preservation of less known grapes and the 11 Generations they have farmed and vinified in this area..
Eric Asimov (NY Times acclaimed wine writer) in a Times column in January, 2005, has noted that:
Campania for Centuries has been a viticultural backwater in a country that is an ocean of wine…. But Campania and the south have never accepted the north’s version of the truth [that its wines, as its people, were simple and rustic]. …And while the north, which initially attracted attention with wines made from French varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Campania is doing it with grapes that were growing in the region even before Vesuvius buried Pompeii.
In their textbook for the wines of Italy, Vino Italiano (The Regional Wines of Italy) Joe Bastianich and David Lynch have noted in a similar vein that:
Campania is the main repository for the viticultural history of the Italian south …. More so than any other region of Italy, Campania is an archeological dig of ancient grapevines. (P. 292).
Thus, although there are only three DOCG in this area the wines are pure and ancient expressions of the Italian experience. Consider and try these exemplars:
Fiano di Avellino, Radici, Mastroberardino.
This white wine was crafted entirely from the fiano grape, from the Fiano di Avellino DOCG, from the Radici vineyard. This property has been in the Mastroberardino family since the early 1800’s. I first tasted a Mastroberardino Fiano probably 25 years ago. I frankly no longer remember who introduced me to this wine. I remember that it was a wine released to honor the death of a family patriarch and that it was labeled simply “M”. I probably bought and drank upwards of a case then, and have never heard of it again.
In my memory it was sublime. Crisp, acidic and mineral, with a nut like foretaste and a smoky finish.
That wine and the wine we now carry, reflect both the grape and the terroir in which those grapes were planted. The village of Avellino sits amid forests of Chestnut and hazelnut trees, climbing up hills and mountains formed from extinct, and some still active volcanos. Volcanic ash is central to the soil typology. The Radici vineyard itself, reaches over 1800 feet up slope. That the wine is acidic, smoky and kissed with nut scent and taste is to be expected. For Bastianich and Lynch, the Fiano do Avellino is:
… almost a pesto in a bottle.(295) …. Fiano di Avellino is not a full bodied wine but it is very aromatic, a direct reflection of the dewy, piney hills in which it grows. A slight suggestion of hazelnut, another big Irpinia crop, is often detected in Fiano di Avellino. But the predominant aromas and flavors are sour and herbal, with scents of pine needles and cider apples, infused with an almost smokiness.
At the tasting we drank the 2013 vintage. The acidity was remarkable. To my mind that acidity may well result in a wine that will age gracefully for the next ten years. This wine may be too much for simple seafood, but with gamier birds or even well-seasoned chicken, this should be sublime.
Our second Campania/Mastroberardino wine was the “Mastro”, 100% Aglianico. From the Taurasi DOCG.
Bastianich and Lynch , in their seminal work on the regional wines of Italy, noted of Aglianaco:
[I]t all began, commercially speaking anyway, in Taurasi, a zone that flanks the Calore River east of Avellino, where vineyards spill down slopes that reach to elevations of twenty-one hundred or higher. The soils are a mix of volcanic deposits and calcareous marls and the high limestone content in the soils is said to lend the reds of Taurasi their tannic bite. The Taurasi production discipline calls for a minimum of three years aging (with at least one year in oak barrels) to soften its rough edges…. Mastroberardino’s early releases were called the Barolo’s of the South. (p.298)
Now we hope to keep both of these exceptional wines in stock at Valley Wines for the immediate future, although the allocation of each in New Jersey is severely limited. If you are desire to taste these wines, we will be able to offer a tasting of each again this Wednesday and Friday, from 3-6 pm.
In line with our goal to make Valley Wine and Spirits the areas go to source of value and craft wines, beers and spirits, we are also offering our valued customers an opportunity to taste a collection of six “Meritage” wines from around the world. This special tasting will occur at 3:00 and again at 4:30 this Sunday, April 10th. As seating, and some of these wines, are very limited (imagine a Super Tuscan with only 28 cases in the entire N.J. Market, and priced under $14.00) please call the store and reserve your place and taste.
See you then.
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