Piero Mastroberardino's coffee table in his private office in Atripalda. A lone unopened bottle waiting alongside three place settings - three empty wine glasses. I was about to begin a wine tasting featuring some of Mastroberardino Winery's latest white wines in the company of Piero Mastroberadino and enologist Massimo Di Renzo. And I was ready.
The bottle sat there while we tasted and chatted about the latest crus, I took notes, in silent anticipation of the newest member of the Mastroberardino family; Neroameta' Campania Bianco IGT 2013. A wine presented at Vinitaly last week and tasted by few. (The winery only took 15 bottles to Verona, so you could imagine how quickly that went)
Neroameta' - a white wine made with Irpinia's most popular red grape - Aglianico. A white wine, made with red grapes, but not a rose'.
Maybe I should have known what that meant, surely I've read about that vinification process in my studies over the past years, maybe I had tasted a similar wine - but I decided to speak up and pose a question to Di Renzo.
How is this vinification process different than producing a rose', especially since the color - I noticed- is not, well for lack of better words...rose'.
Di Renzo told me that the grapes are placed in the press whole and gently pressed halfway in a manner that the must does not come in contact with the skins as it would with a rose'.
That being said, I was still curious about what would emerge from the bottle as it was poured first in my glass, then Mastroberardino's, then Di Renzo's. A very light straw color, and depending on the lighting, and how you examined the glass, what was that? Grey tones?
The tasting began, Once again, I was silent first enjoying/interpreting the bouquet in the glass while I listened to Mastroberardino and Di Renzo's converstaion. (I have always found it interesting to listen to wine makers discuss their wines)
Then I took a quick taste, not sure what to expect. What I found was pleasantly unexpected. Evident was the powerful arm of Aglianico lovingly embracing the freshness and acidity that one would find in a young yet elegant and distinguished Irpinia white.
I kept my thoughts to myself for the moment, instead wanting to discuss particulars like the wine label. Knowing that Mastroberardino is a talented artist, I was curious as to why he chose this particular design from his large inventory.
Mastroberardino arose, went to the back corner of his office/personal art gallery , and brought back a large framed version. He pointed out the strong feminine yet muscular arms, shoulders, and back. A play on contrasts.
And the name? Neroameta'?
One of several names that made the final cut. Nero - black - for the blackish color of the Aglianico grape, for example.
While listening, I brought my glass of Neroameta' to my nose several times, noticing how floral aromas were emerging and evolving. Young fresh white floral aromas. Aromas that reminded Di Renzo of flowers that grow in his mother's garden.
Mastroberardino then shared that the concept of producing a white wine with Aglianico was not new at all for Mastroberardino. His father, the late Dr. Antonio Mastroberardino produced a similar wine back in the mid 80s named Plinius. It was a popular wine that enjoyed 4 glorious vintages. It was then decided to stop production and focus the winery's energy into promoting Fiano, Greco and Lacryma Christi.
|photo courtesy of Mastroberardino Winery|
So a new wine that is not so new?
Yes and no. Learning from Dr Mastroberardino's notes from the 80s, the winery experimented new techniques. The 3000 bottles produced spent about 10 months sur lees, for example.
Our conversation then continued to possible pairings. I myself could picture myself on a terrace of one of the many Campania restaurants which have an amazing view of the sea. Enjoying the view and seafood that pair so well with Irpinia white wines.
It was time to move on to the next wine, but we decided to hang on to our glass of Neroameta'...as if waiting to see what this wine had to share with us as the tasting continued. As our conversations continued - from art, to literature (Mastroberardino's latest book), then back to wine.
That is the beauty of a degustazione.
Discovering what a wine has to say.
Neroameta' will be available later this month. It will be interesting to discover what Neroameta' will continue to share over the next few months...or years for that matter.