With its rich history and stunning landscapes, Italy is one of the most distinguished winemaking countries. I had the opportunity to taste and chat with three renowned Italian tastemakers. They are powerhouse trailblazers in the world of wine. Each adheres to winemaking practices that are firmly rooted in the traditions of their respective regions while simultaneously embracing progressive techniques and research to make the most iconic wines of Italy.
Follow along for an exciting journey through Italy, led by three distinguished Italian tastemakers: Fabrizio Marinconz, Winemaker for Infiné 1939 in Trentino; Andrea Lonardi, Technical Director for Bertani in Veneto; and Piero Mastroberardino, Owner of the eponymous winery Mastroberardino in Campania. Each respective winery has a rich history of producing some of Italy’s most celebrated wines.
The late David Taub was widely known as the “Father of Pinot Grigio”. He played a pivotal role in the 1970s in bringing Pinot Grigio to the United States when he imported Cavit Wines from Trentino. Today Cavit is the number selling Pinot Grigio in the United States. Cavit produces great quality wines thanks to the incredible terroir of Trentino. When David Taub passed away in 2012, his son Marc Taub asked the Cavit team to identify the highest quality terroir to produce Pinot Grigio as a tribute to David and his legacy. That is where the Infiné story begins.
Fabrizio Marinconz is born and raised in Trentino and is a winemaker at Cavit for the last 15 years. Infiné is a project that started seven years ago. Fabrizio says, “They looked outside the box for this project, and searched out interesting terroir at high altitudes.” They identified two plots near Lake Garda at 1900 feet altitude, these plots are unique and rare, set amongst an Alpine setting. They brought on renowned enologist Carlo Ferrini and bottled the first Infiné 1939 Pinot Grigio in 2015.
Infiné 1939 Pinot Grigio DOC 2017 (SRP $29.99)
The Infiné vineyards are located in an area close to the Dolomites. At 1300 ft asl, this is considered extreme altitudes for Pinot Grigio. This results in a pure expression of Pinot Grigio from the most unique Trentino vineyards. The wine is aged 10 months in the cellar and one year in the bottle which is quite unusual for Pinot Grigio. Making this a rare and unique wine.
On the palate, the wine has substantial structure and complexity with particularly high acidity. There is beautiful minerality along with nice salinity on the finish. Infiné is a full-bodied Pinot Grigio that is very special in its ability to age. Rare in style and rare in quantities, Infiné Pinot Grigio is produced in limited quantity with only 10,000 bottles.
Infiné 1939 At Last 2017 (SRP $50.99)
Trentino is not only about Pinot Grigio, they also cultivate 20 other varieties. Fabrizio says that they wanted to create a winemakers blend where they combine their most interesting vineyards of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Riesling Renano, the result is At Last. There is a nice richness to the wine as it spends one year on lees and additional time in bottle.
At Last, is a good example of what Trentino can offer in terms of quality and longevity. Grapes are from the IGT Vigneti Delle Dolomiti Valle dei Laghi, nestled between the mountains at the feet of the Dolomites. This is a wine with great aromatics, concentration, depth and texture. A very special wine, with the potential to age up to 10 years. It is still relatively young and will see wonderful evolution in the bottle. A rare wine with only 4000 bottles produced.
For ten generations Piero Mastroberardino’s family has been producing wines in Campania. Their vineyards cover 14 estates with 785 acres that are mostly inland in the mountains at high altitudes. It is a great environment for producing the most prestigious grapes of the regions.
The Mastroberardino family are leaders in Italian viticulture. They are largely responsible for the revival and elevation of Irpinian and Campanian winemaking post-WWII. The grapes of the region are all ancient grapes, no international varietal. The family has always focused on giving value to these ancient grapes. Mastroberardino is revered throughout Italy for resuscitating would-be extinct grapes into world-class varieties.
Piero Mastroberardino says, “The main characteristics of the area are its high altitude with soils that have a high content of minerals from volcanic ashes. Due to the high elevation, the grapes ripen slowly and thus they are harvest very late. All factors contribute greatly to producing exceptional wines.” Both the reds and whites age beautifully. The wines of Mastroberardino are interesting when they are fresh and young but you experience great evolution with time. These are gastronomic wines that you want to pair with food.
Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo DOCG 2019 (SRP $23.99)
Greco di Tufo is named after the town of Tufo in Avellino, where the grape thrives. Tufo refers to the soft, volcanic rock that makes up the subsoil of the region, which imparts minerality to the wine’s profile. Typically Greco di Tufo is often made as single vineyards designate wine, but here with this wine, the Mastroberardino family goes back to the tradition of the ’70s where they used to blend a variety of their vineyard estates to get the complexity of the appellation.
In the glass, you will find a great link to the terroir with its salinity and minerality. You have the sensation of white rocks on the nose, which is unusual and distinctive. This is a very versatile wine that goes great with a variety of food courses. You can pair it with white meats, fried fish and grilled veggies. The wine is beautifully textured and generous on the palate.
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi DOCG 2016 (SRP $59.99)
Radici Taurasi is Maastroberardino’s flagship wine that was first produced in 1928. It is a very special expression of Taurasi. Made from Aglianico, which is the King of Campania. Radici translates to mean “roots,”. It is a brilliant example of a powerful yet elegant wine.
2016 is the current vintage and is still quite young. It has beautiful aromatic nuances of violet, cherries, chocolate and white pepper. On the palate, it has a long and persistent finish with savory qualities. Pair with mature cheeses, truffles, porcini mushrooms, and roasted red meats.
Bertani’s impact on Veneto winemaking, particularly in Amarone production, is so considerable that ‘Bertani’ and ‘Amarone’ are nearly synonymous. Two noble brothers from Verona, Giovan Battista and Gaetano Bertani went to Burgundy France. They attended the school of viticulture and enology with renowned Professor Jules Guyot(known for the Guyot trellising system). They came back to Italy and became negociants, and that was the beginning of Bertani.
Soon the brothers started to plant grapes. With their French influence, they decided to plant international grape varieties like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, alongside Sangiovese and Corvina. Being from a rich noble family, their palates had a preference for Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone wines. In a region that was producing mostly sweet wines, the brothers made a bold and historic move. They produced the first dry wine of the region with the 1860 Secco-Bertani, paving the path for other producers of Valpolicella to do the same.
Many Amarones are produced in a commercial way, not at Bertani. Bertani is always looking to maintain their identity. Andrea Lonardi, the Technical Director for Bertani says, “Identity means a connection through all the lines of their wines; Amarone, Ripasso, Recioto, and Valpolicella. There must be a connection in order to say that this wine is made in Valpolicella. This is the contemporary approach.” Being consistent with the most authentic identity is fundamental for Bertani.
Bertani Secco Original Vintage Edition, Appellation Veneto 2015 ($30.99)
Secco-Bertani represents the soul of the winery, which was founded in 1857. The wine represents the historic dry red wine that was unique and special for its time. A dry wine was made by Bertani, at a time when most of the wines of Verona were sweet wines. Secco was the first dry Veronese wine that was aged in local chestnut and cherry wood and then bottled. Secco-Bertani has been in continuous production for 150 vintages.
Andrea Lonardi wanted to reintroduce the wine in its original style. The Orignal Vintage edition was a project to represent the history of Bertani from 150 years ago. The wine is made in the original blend of 85% Corvina and the rest is Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon that is aged in chestnut and cherry wood. This wine represents the essence of Bertani, a contemporary approach that signifies the Bertani brand. Plush and smooth on the palate with notes of blackberries, sour cherries and cocoa. A complex wine that is illustrative of time and history in the glass.
Bertani Amarone Classico DOC 2009 (SRP $137.49)
This is the flagship wine of Valpolicella, which represents the methodology of the region. It is a wine that combines methodology, process and terroir. After 120 days of appassimento process, grapes are vinified and aged in Slavonian oak casks. The process is long aging for up to 9 years.
The resulting wine is bone dry, yet there is an incredible sweetness coming from the fruit. There is also a slight smokiness on the nose with hints of red currants, blackberries, cloves, nutmeg and cocoa powder. On the palate, there are flavors of red fruit, sour cherries and black tea, followed by soft powdery tannins. It is a plush wine with good weight and a long salty finish. 2009 is one of two recent vintages on the market. The wine has incredible age-worthiness and will stand the test of time over decades.