Antonio Mastroberardino, the visionary behind the successful wines from southern Italy’s Campania region, died on January 28 from natural causes. He was 86 years old.
For more than 130 years, the Mastroberardino family has made fine wines from native grapes grown in the celebrated Irpinia hills near Avellino, and for more than a century they were the only ray of light in a region once dominated by bulk-wine production. But after World War II, when the phylloxera pest ravaged vineyards and war laid waste to the countryside, Antonio Mastroberardino and his brothers took over the family winery with the hopes of reviving it.
Despite the challenges, Mastroberardino was determined to replant the vineyards with the area’s native grapes, focusing on Fiano and Greco di Tufo for the whites and the red Aglianico—the grape behind the region’s flagship wine Taurasi. He refused to make wines from more prolific Italian grapes, such as Trebbiano and Sangiovese from Central Italy, which local farming authorities encouraged plantings of in order to increase bulk production in Southern Italy in the 1950s and 1960s.
Again, in the 1990s, when growers all over Italy—including Campania—were pulling up indigenous grapes to plant international varieties like Chardonnay and Merlot, Mastroberardino remained faithful to his native grapes and wines, and he also planted ancient Campania varieties in the Pompeii archeological site.
Thanks to his role as defender of the area’s native grapes and wines, Campania is now one of the most exciting winemaking regions in Italy.
“Antonio Mastroberardino’s devotion to our native varieties and to our territory, his determination to demonstrate that Irpinia can produce extraordinary white and red wines and his committment to bringing these wines around the world, is a source of inspiration for the new wave of producers,” says Antonio Capaldo, president of the Feudi di San Gregorio. “All new ideas, all new projects were, directly or indirectly, made possible by his work.”