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Now that Taurasi is finally receiving widespread recognition as one of Italy’s greatest red wines, we can all offer thanks to Mastroberardino, the greatest producer and champion of this ancient Campanian wine. Without Mastroberardino, the “Barolo of the South” might no longer exist.
Brothers Antonio and Walter Mastroberardino, as co-directors of this historic azienda in the post-World War II era, dedicated themselves to preserving Campania’s traditional grape varieties, particularly Taurasi’s Aglianico, brought to the area by the ancient Greeks.
For decades Mastroberardino was the only producer of high quality Aglianico, single- handedly establishing the reputation of Taurasi and saving it from extinction. What Antonio and Walter knew was that Aglianico—when grown on Taurasi’s high slope with low yields—produced a wine that could stand with, and age as well as, the better-known Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello.
The brother’s unwavering belief in the magical combination of Aglianico and Taurasi’s terroir resulted in a series of wines that are, as Burton Anderson wrote in Vino, “the ultimate expression of the antique nobility of the Aglianico grape”.
Their towering blended 1968 Riserva still stands as Taurasi’s benchmark—a monumental wine that is today as remarkable for its youthful vigor as for its ethereal complexity. And the ultra-rare riservas made that same year from three specific zones within the Taurasi appellation—Castelfranci, Montemarano and Piano d’Angelo—are every bit as incredible.
When Antonio and Walter took charge of their family’s 200-year-old estate in 1945, it was at a critical point in both Mastroberardino’s, and the region’s, history. Devastated by phylloxera and World War II, Taurasi’s vineyards were in ruin, and the agricultural authorities were recommending planting high-yielding lesser varieties for bulk wine production.
Though only in their teens at the time, the brothers refused, intent on restoring Aglianico as the true noble expression of this great terroir. But they weren’t content to just save Taurasi—they wanted to make the greatest wines that they could.
Antonio and Walter began acquiring vineyard land in the best zones and planted them with cuttings taken from the few surviving Aglianico vines—famed for their elegant character—that had developed there over the centuries.
And they dedicated themselves to classic methods—still employed today by 10th generation brothers Piero and Carlo—including long fermentations featuring gentle extraction and extended aging, both in Slovenian oak botti and in bottle. This is in following the long-held family belief that, like Barolo, Taurasi really needs time, particularly in barrel, to fully express itself.
Since 1986, Mastroberardino’s flagship wine has been Taurasi Radici, which is released as both a normale, and in fine vintages, as a riserva. Radici is the Italian word for roots, a reference to the family’s role as guardian of Campania’s ancient noble varietals.
Today the Radici normale is sourced from their vineyards in the villages of Montemarano and Mirabella Eclano, sited at the 1650 foot sweet spot on Taurasi’s steep, south-through-southeast facing slopes of volcanic deposits and limestone. Here the cool climate, soils and exposures are ideally suited for Aglianico, producing Taurasi of rich black fruit aromas and flavors, complex bouquet and firm structure.
The Radici riserva is composed exclusively from the best lots from Montemarano, Mastroberardino’s finest Taurasi cru, selected both for quality and suitability to its extended period of aging in cask and bottle.
In addition to Radici, Mastroberardino makes a Taurasi named Naturalis Historia after Pliny the Elder’s writing, which is sourced from the oldest Mirabella Eclano vines. And in 1999 a special Centotrenta Taurasi was released, commemorating 130 years of fine Taurasi wines made by Antonio, his father Michele and grandfather Angelo. From the highest section of Montemarano, aged 8 years before release, it is a wine of enormous depth and complexity.
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