1997 Mastroberardino Taurasi Naturalis Historia


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Mastroberardino continues to be a source of magnificently cellared gems that show the class and age-ability of the Agilianico grape and an amazing terroir that evokes not only the profoundly varied geology of this part of southern Italy, but also an historical context that goes back millennia.  Located deep in the wild volcanic hills of Irpinia (in Campania- near Avellino) lay some of the Mastroberardino family’s oldest Taurasi vineyards that form the deepest core of this venerable estate.  Called Mirabella Eclano, these arid rolling hills consist of a collection of overlapping, very ancient sites that sit on a heterogeneous amalgamation of soils that range from pure volcanic tufa and basalt to limestone marls and clay.  These old vineyards (some very, very old, and others replanted around 40 years ago) are the source of one of the crown jewels in Mastroberardino’s vinous tiara- the legendary Taurasi Naturalis Historia. 

A wine meant to express the poet Virgil’s description of Irpinia as a land ‘jealous of its many mysteries,’ it’s made exclusively from low yielding Aglianico fruit that was macerated nearly a month before being pressed off into stainless steel for fermentation and then aged for over two years in new and used French oak barriques….a decidedly modern regimen for such an ancient wine.  But the result successfully melds the past and the present in a gorgeously seamless whole.  If Mastroberardino’s famous Taurasi and Taurasi Riserva show the kind of power for which Aglianico is legendary, Naturalis Historia expresses all its potential elegance and finesse.  The aromatics are very much of the earth- the fennel and herbs that grow so wild from every crack in these hills, the late summer flowers that bend in the sea breeze and the smell of the parched crevassed terraces on which these vines grow.   

On the palate, there’s Aglianico’s hallmark black cherries and sun-dried berries with a nice spicy mole chocolate element too.  Its lighter touch is reflected in its distinctive floral note and its fine, siphoned-through-mineral finish.  This is the quintessential lamb wine. Whether it’s roasted whole over Aglianico vine cuttings like you’d see in Taurasi, or studded with garlic and drenched in rosemary on your own backyard grill, Aglianico and lamb are a match made in heaven!  At 20+ years past the vintage, this rare collection of Naturalis Historia will provide several more decades of future enjoyment if you let them, but why wait?  Decanted now, they are sensational wines.