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Wine Legend: Mastroberardino, Taurasi Riserva 1968

Why Mastroberardino, Taurasi Riserva 1968 is a wine legend…

Although by 1968 Mastroberardino already enjoyed a high reputation for its Taurasi (the 1958 was widely admired too) this vintage was of such quality that the company produced three special cuvées of Taurasi (based on zonal terroir differences) as well as this riserva, which was a blend from all three. Mastroberardino’s Taurasi owes its reputation as an extremely long-lived wine to vintages such as this, which are still in their prime.

Looking back

The Mastroberardino firm dates back to 1878 but had to be relaunched after all its markets were lost during World War II. It was the late Antonio Mastroberardino who transformed Campanian viticulture by reviving the almost extinct Fiano and Greco di Tufo grape varieties. This was at a time when Italian wine authorities were urging growers in Campania to plant Sangiovese and Montepulciano rather than revive the indigenous varieties. While Taurasi existed as a wine long before, it was thanks to Mastroberardino that it gained an international reputation. (The oldest Taurasi in the Mastroberardino cellars dates from 1928, and vintages from the 1920s are still alive if fully mature.)

The vintage

The growing season in 1968 was very warm, with only a few millimeters of rainfall in summer. These dry, warm conditions created a generous crop with great concentration of colour and tannin; this concentration ensured the excellent quality of the Aglianico grapes and explains the remarkable longevity of wines from this vintage. The quality of the vintage was immediately apparent, and current president Piero Mastroberardino (who was age two at the time) remembers 1968 being spoken of with reverence ever since.

The terroir

The Aglianico grapes came primarily from the company’s 12-hectare vineyard at Montemarano in the southern part of the present DOCG region. Other grapes would have come from sites in Pian d’Angelo and Castelfranci. At Montemarano the vines are planted at elevation of 500m to 650m and face southeast. The soils are clay and crushed limestone, and planting density is 4,000 vines per hectare. The climate is essentially continental, with hot days and cool nights, which delay maturation and consolidate the acidity and tannins. Grapes are usually harvested in early November, at yields generally between 45hl/ha and 50hl/ha.

The wine

Although DOCG regulations allow the inclusion of 15% of other grape varieties, Taurasi at Mastroberardino has always been made entirely from Aglianico. The grapes were picked by hand and destemmed at the winery. The wine remained 10 days on the skins during fermentation. It was given long ageing, up to 36 months, in large casks of Slavonian chestnut wood. In the 1960s the wines were aged for about eight years in the company’s cellars in Atripalda before being released.

The reaction

Burton Anderson in 2001 remarked in Best Italian Wines: ‘Admirers of Taurasi will never forget Mastroberardino’s riserva from the 1968 vintage.’ My own appreciation in the same year was similar: ‘Sweet, intense nose, still floral and lifted, with charm and freshness. Medium- bodied, completely fresh, concentrated and balanced, still tannic and bright and vigorous, elegant and persistent, with little sign of age.’ In 2014, Ian D’Agata wrote in International Wine Cellar: ‘Vibrant aromas of raspberry, sour red cherry, tobacco and mint are complicated by an intense minerality. Juicy, perfumed and concentrated, with red fruit and chocolate flavours that have wonderful precision and amazing inner-mouth energy. Creamy-sweet but with nicely integrated acids, and with sweet, fine-grained tannins on the extremely long, perfumed and smooth finish. This is still amazingly youthful, and a paragon of balance.’

The Facts

Bottles produced 20,000
Composition 100% Aglianico
Yield 40 hl/ha
Alcohol 12.25%
Release price N/A
Price today £450

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