09 October 2009

1999 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici

Welcome readers of the Memphis Flyer! For those of you outside of the mid-south, my Q&A with Hungry Memphis has been posted on the Flyer website.

Lately there's been a lot of collaboration and shared bottles/posts between Fredric and me. It's not a planned media strategy, just a confluence of occasions when we were able to sit down and enjoy some wines together. Since Fredric's wife is not a fan of veal, and The Roommate forbids it in our house, we took an opportunity to hang out over at Paul's and, beyond scorn, tuck in to some thick, well-marbled veal chops. Sort of a secret dining club, as it were. I need to get my hands on a suckling pig for the next such meeting.

These were chops of beauty, much like ideal ribeyes but far more tender and mild. Paul made an excellent selection, and I slow roasted them for an hour before searing them off in a skillet. (Alas, a pan sauce was not in the cards, as the olive oil ignited and sent a thin gray cloud throughout the house. We all screw up sometimes.) I served the lovely chops with white hominy grits cooked in chicken broth and flavored with Vlaskaas, a Dutch cheese traditionally made for field workers during the flax harvest. I topped the grits with sautéed garlic and wilted watercress; a far cry from instant grits with butter.

For the wine, I uncorked and decanted a bottle of the 1999 Mastroberardino Radici. 13.5% abv, 100% Aglianico from the Taurasi region just north of Naples. This was a gift from a US Naval officer stationed in Naples for several years, and the wine aged well in a variety of storage environments over the past decade. How's that for disclosure? This guy risked his life defending American security interests on a nuclear sub, and was kind enough to give me a bottle. Sorry if that conflict of interest makes you cry in your Cheerios, Federal Trade Commission. We all know that the greatest threat to freedom comes in the form of undocumented wine reviews.

The Aglianico grape has been grown in southern Italy for over 2,500 years, when Greek settlers planted it. Of course, the Greeks got it from the Phoenicians a few centuries earlier. Finally it arrives in my glass... This is definitely an Old World wine, full of earth and aromas not common to our California-Australia trained palates. Aromas of licorice, plum, a touch of ash, and and underlying soil scent. Flavors are tart, with deeper black cherry flavors but more earth and ash on the finish. I had the opportunity to serve this to half a dozen people, and the reactions were all over the place; some like that rustic European style and some don't. But those that liked it really liked it. And it was an excellent match for the veal: not overpowering, but not too mild either. It could really shine with wild game, organ meats, or other curious flavors... Since I've got another Aglianico waiting in the rack, I'll have to see what interesting dish I can find to pair with it.


fredric koeppel said...

Thanks for the splendid veal chop and the Mastroberardino ... and the other wines we tasted.

Dan said...

Various aglianicos have been my recent go-to wines. Most are quite reasonably priced, show a lot of character and complexity, and work well with a number of foods. It is an under-appreciated varietal, that is for sure. My Wine Spectator reading friends have mostly never heard of it.

Benito said...


It's amazing at how many grapes are in Italy (and that no one knows the exact number). Most of us will never get to try them all, but it's fun trying some of the lesser-known ones.


Michael Hughes said...

I love aglianico. I've got to try this one.