Thursday, April 14, 2011

Muffa Nobile in a Glass- the Passitos of Mastroberardino


It wasn’t really a promise. More like a comment. A comment made by Antonio Dente , agronomist for Mastroberardino,  last fall after a visit to their vineyards of Montemarano and Santo Stefano in Avellino. Back from a muddy version of Vineyard Hopping where I got a chance to see grapes on the vine that had developed that beautiful muffa nobile . Aglianico and Fiano grapes on their way to becoming Mastroberardino’s dessert wines.


That afternoon Antonio mentioned that the next time I visited, we could see what was going on in the winery and taste their Melìzie and Anthères passitos along with Massimo Di Renzo, Mastrobeardino’s winemaker. A couple of weeks ago, that statement came to life. After a few emails, phone calls, and scheduling changes, the day arrived where I could sit down in the comfort of Mastroberardino’s wine tasting room and have a mini wine tasting lesson on passito-Mastroberadino’s muffa nobile in a glass.




We began with Melìzie Fiano Passito 2008. A passito that I was familiar with. One I had tried on various occasions at Radici Resort, most recently with chef Francesco Spagnuolo’s mille foglie con crème de amarene. But the intention here was have me start with a base. A beginning. To try their last passito before they started using Fiano grapes that had developed botrytis cinera on the vine. We observed and discussed our glass that shared a golden yellow color and aromas such as apricots and candied fruits. I sipped while our conversation continued. I experienced flavors similar to an orange jam with a hazelnut aftertaste…a light note of toasted wood. It was important to begin with this glass. Because this glass would help me to understand the next.

The next glass was also a glass of Melìzie. Melìzie Fiano Passito 2009. Their first Fiano passito made with grapes that remained on the vine until Mastroberardino felt that they had dried enough…had reached the right level of sugar content…that perfect quality of muffa nobile. I thought back to my stroll last fall in the vineyards of Santo Stefano with Dente. I remembered him showing me grapes destined for the 2010 harvest in an area of the vineyard that was perfect for the development of this marvelous mold that would sweeten this grape to the right point at harvest time. A vineyard 600 mt above sea level. A vineyard that back in the beginning of December 2009 produced a fruit that I would now try in my glass. Di Renzo poured…I watched.


Fiano grapes.
Photo courtesy of Mastroberardino.
Fiano grapes.
 Photo courtesy of Mastroberardino

A wine tasting is divided into three parts…you look, you smell, you taste. So as Di Renzo poured, I noticed that same gorgeous golden color that I had seen in the previous glass. I brought my nose to the glass…here is where the differences began. Sweeter…più dolce. As I tasted, I was beginning to understand the diversity…here I discovered flavors that were more complex, more intense in respect to 2008. Candied citrus, exotic fruits, dried figs to name a few. This passito was more concentrated and had a longer aftertaste. I was wondering where the grapes were that I had seen on the vinel ast November. Dente smiled…resting in the vat…maybe next time. Because now it was time to try another wine.

Aglianico grapes in Mastroberardino's Montemarano Vineyard right before the harvest.
Anthères…Irpinia Aglianico Passito DOC 2009. Grapes from Montemarano. Grapes that were harvested a year before my last visit. Grapes picked to produce Mastroberardino’s first Aglianico passito using grapes that had developed muffa nobile on the vine. Dark ruby red color with light garnet reflections. A color that emphasized the point that what I had in my glass in front of me was a wine made with grapes whose skins were darker, browner than usual at harvest time. To the nose…concentrated red fruit aromas; figs, tobacco, and dates. A very smooth, balsamic, velvety taste.

As my mini lesson was coming to a close, I realized that what an opportunity I had to sit down with Mastrobeardino’s wine maker and agronomist. To open one of only 1,500 bottles of this particular passito. To taste along with them as they reflected on their hard labor in the vineyards and cantina….Then I asked about the grapes that I had seen that muddy afternoon in Montemarano last November…

Magari la prossima volta….next time

Ok…Ok…ho capito…I understand

another comment…another promise….another time…

Italian Version



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