1998 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici Riserva 


I'm a seasonal wine drinker. In the spring, I find myself craving high-elevation Grenache, Barbera, Pinot Noir or a juicy Frappato. With summer comes the fresh whites of northern Italy and Loire Sauvignon Blanc. Once fall hits, it’s all about Sangiovese and the Rhône. However, as soon as it feels like winter, when sweaters start to be worn indoors and the meals turn meatier and richer, all I want to drink is mature Barolo and Taurasi. It’s at this time of year that I pull a mixed case of the two from my storage, and stand the wines up so that all I need to do is choose, pull, decant and indulge. 

On this evening, with goulash on the menu and good friends on their way, it had to be a Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici Riserva, a wine that I’ve come to depend on for its ability to mature for many decades. For anyone who hasn’t had their mature Taurasi “ah-ha” moment, I urge you to start exploring, especially for fans of Barolo. While Aglianico grown in volcanic soils can seem darker and more animalistic than Nebbiolo in its youth, maybe even coming across as rustic, light-bodied and musky at times, the wines it produces are in fact capable of and often in need of long cellaring to truly blossom. In most cases, elevated acidity carries them through the years, as they slowly flesh out, at times seeming immortal and etched in stone, up until the day that we’re greeted by an aromatic and often-floral menagerie, followed by depths of silk texture and ripe mature fruits. I find the moniker “Barolo of the south” quite fitting, even though many will say it’s just marketing. Either way, there’s nothing quite like a Taurasi in its prime. 

Going back to this night’s wine from the 1998 vintage - which isn’t considered to be a good year for Campania, having been rainy and warm - it’s still showing quite well. As many experienced wine lovers will tell you, buy the producer, not the vintage. This is a perfect example of a snapshot in the history of Mastroberardino, a winery that had enough faith in the fruit of the vintage to create a Riserva in the first place. That said, I don’t expect the 1998 to get any better than it is today, but it is also in no fear of fast decline, and it’s a perfect way to experience an “ah-ha” moment with mature Taurasi.

The 1998 Taurasi Radici Riserva is rich, dark, earthy and almost animalistic in nature. There’s an initial blast of dried black cherries and currants before an array of leather, sweet tobacco, animal musk, savory herbs and moist ashen-soil comes forward. While its textures are soft, there’s something decidedly feminine, showing wonderful purity and lift. With further time in the glass, the 1998 gains both in volume and depth, with a sweet and sour feel to the black fruits, savory herbs, hints of dried citrus and mineral tones. Residual tannins mount toward the finale; yet they never get in the way, as hints of olive and a twang of savory spice slowly tapers off. There's a gorgeous purity and inner sweetness to the 1998, which makes it so easy to like. This is a beautiful example of a Taurasi that’s sitting comfortably in its drinking window. 92/Drink 2020-2026.