When I first started to write about wine in the 1980s, I joined an elite assembly of trades people who tasted more than 100 Italian wines at a formal tasting in New York City. Leading the tasting was Carlos Mastroberardino, a young man who was the new generation of wine producers to make wine in Campania. At the time, this region wasn't as highly regarded as, say, the Piedmonte or even neighboring Tuscany. But the grape varieties that date back to Roman times were just as noble as nebbolio and sangiovese. Campania wines are more well regarded today.
I reunited with Carlos many years later while a cruise ship stopped near his Italian home. He met me in Amalfi where we dined on fish and sipped his new releases. I'm surprised I was able to get on the ship nearly 3 hours later.
So, I have an affection for these wines that perhaps is influenced by Carlos' hospitality, but also by the history behind the wines and the grape varieties that, thanks to Mastroberardino, are now grown outside of Pompeii.
The other day I was walked through a store and spotted a single bottle of a 1998 Mastroberardino Radici Riserva from Taurasi. It was $120, a retail price I've never paid for a wine. I lifted the bottle several times and put it back down. Then, with the encouragement of my wife ("just get it, for cryin' out loud!"), I bought it.
I have several younger vintages of this wine in my cellar but a 1998 still on the market was a rare find. We opened it that night and served it with rack of lamb. Wow, it was everything I imagined and still with tannin! Black cherries, cassis, rust color to show its age, incredible aromatics and long finish. It was worth every penny.
Alas, I looked on line and found that I could have ordered this wine for $70.