Posted by: tomciocco | March 4, 2011

A NEW LOOK INTO THE DISTANT PAST

This wine, officially dubbed a Lacryma Christi, is made from predominately Piedirosso (or Sciascinoso, but let’s leave that alone) and Aglianico and though plainly the name didn’t exist in antiquity, the “wine” almost certainly did, in that it is extremely likely that the very same patches of land were growing the very same grapes in the time of Augustus and before. Both of these vine varieties are very old – well over 2000 years, the both – and the Romans, and the people who lived in what is now Campania, Italy before the Latin legions conquered them, knew that the black volcanic soils around the Vesuvio produced grapes of the highest quality for winemaking.

Unfortunately, over the past two decades or so, too many producers became hypnotized by market research groups promising big sales in exchange for wines that moved boxes, but likely never moved an actual human being, and a place that has terroir in spades, ceded it to homogeneity. Thankfully, of late lots of producers have shaken the spell, and have begun making wines that actually feature the region’s native grapes living in the place that they’ve always lived. And due to each local variety’s truly unique character and their natural complimentarity, and the premium (though ultimately pretty dangerous!) volcanic soil, the region is able to produce truly expressive and nuanced wines at very good prices.

I put this extremely interesting wine with a first course of penne, fresh artichokes (first good ones – nice, tight, unblemished leaves), peas, and basil, etc. and then a true Neopolitan classic, mozzarella in carrozza (“mozzarella in a carriage”) – essentially a milked, floured, and egged crustless sandwich of the cheese and anchovies, fried in oil, followed by a nice mixed salad.

Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso 2008

Slightly cloudy dark blackish purple color. Complex and elegant nose of mixed berries, cherries, black coffee, roses, lilies, and smoky minerals. The wine is medium in body with a decidedly velvety texture that is well-balanced, but with a austere finesse underlying crunchy currant fruit, and a fairly long herby, black pepper finish

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Responses

  1. This has long been one of my favorite wines. In fact, I had the pleasure of a private tasting at Mastroberardino about a year ago. In addition to enjoying the Lacryma Christi 2008, I found a delightful select Greco di Tufo of theirs, labeled Nova Serra. It was hard to find here, but worth the effort.

    How did the Lacryma Christi work with your artichokes? The rest of the meal sounds ideal, and I await the photos.

    • Hey Abbott-

      After the family business split (if memory serves, one side kept the Mastroberardino name and the cellars, and the other side got most of the vineyard land and is now Terredora di Paolo) there was a certain dip in Mastroberardino’s quality, but they’re well on their way back…

      As far as the wine and the ‘chokes go, I don’t typically find them to be the BEAR of a match that they’re supposed to be, and in this setting (tempered by pasta, peas, Parmigiano, etc.), and because ‘chokes tend to somewhat awkwardly “sweeten” the perception of a wine, this wine’s sinewy structure and undercurrent of austerity balanced that tendency pretty deftly…Ideally, I would have gone with a white for this dish – a Bianchetta Genovese or a Furlan (FKA Tocai) but it was just Jen and I…

      Thanks for the comment
      TC

  2. Hi, Tom,

    Thanks so much for the reply. I would have tremendous confidence dining with you and enjoying your selections. You certainly understand all the elements and have a marvelous feel for the food as well. No apologies needed.

    I don’t know much about the family history, but my visit was to Azienda Vinicola Mastroberardino in Atripaldi, which –as you know — is 4-5 km. from Avellino. In addition to the Nova Serra, I enjoyed a rose they offered, as well.


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