2004 Mastroberardino, Taurasi “Radici”
It seems fitting that this month’s Specialty Club red should be 100% Aglianico, as it was that grape which converted Bear into a lover of fine wine. Aglianico has been grown in the volcanic soil of the high-altitude Taurasi region of Campania since the Greeks brought it there over two thousand years ago. Despite this ancient lineage, and the status of Taurasi as the most famous wine of the Roman Empire, it was not exported outside of Italy until Mastroberardino produced this wine from the Radici vineyard in 1986. Mastoberardino is Campania’s oldest and most renowned winery, established in the 1750’s by Pierre Berardino, who received the honorary title of “Mastro” in recognition of his reputation as the leading winemaker of his day. Over its 250 years, this winery has been responsible for the survival of most of Campania’s indigenous grapes, including Aglianico, Falanghina, Fiano d’Avellino, and Greco di Tufo. The wine itself is a classic Aglianico, featuring an intense bouquet of violets and berries with an elegantly structured body of plum, cherry, strawberry jam, licorice, black pepper, and yes, hints of smoke. As is required for Taurasi, it is aged 24 months in oak barrels, but the oak is far better integrated and the tannins more moderate than the few Taurasi Riservas we have tasted. While it could develop for another 15 years, our judgment is that it will begin to reach its peak in five to eight years. A perfect match for osso buco, it costs $60, and we have only a few bottles left.
2008 Lo Triolet, Valle d’Aosta Pinot Gris
Moving to the other end of Italy, the Valle d’Aosta is Italy’s smallest wine region, in the extreme northwest, bordering France and Switzerland. Think Alps and you can imagine the steep, rocky terrain here, even steeper than Taurasi, where winemaking has been described as nothing short of heroic. The Lo Triolet estate is located deep in the Introd Mountains, not far from where the Pope spends his summer holidays. Marco Martin is considered one of Italy’s most promising young winemakers, and his Pinot Gris always receives at least two glasses from the Gambero Rosso, the most reliable guide to Italian wine. It has lovely minerality, hints of lemon zest and a nice, long finish. It would pair perfectly with creamy seafood and pasta dishes. It’s $35, drinking beautifully now and, although it was a very limited direct import from Small Vineyards, we do have another case of this treat left. Enjoy!