Antonio Mastroberardino, considered by many to be the patriarch of wine from southern Italy’s Campania region, died Jan. 28 of natural causes. He was 86.
“I met Antonio Mastroberardino at the beginning of my wine career in the early eighties as an enthusiastic spokesman for the wines of Campania and Taurasi, in particular,” said Leonardo LoCascio, a founder and chairman of Winebow, Mastroberardino’s U.S. importer. “He communicated a sense of legacy and tradition that came from the long history that the Mastroberardino family has had in producing and tirelessly promoting the wines of their region. The wine world will miss him.”
After World War II, Mastroberardino brought his family's historic property, founded in 1878, back from the brink of devastation due to the combined effects of economic depression, phylloxera and war. Faced with replanting the vineyards, Antonio made a critical decision at that time to eschew popular international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, and stick with Campania’s native Aglianico, Greco and Fiano grapes.
Under the guidance of Antonio and his brother Walter, the estate thrived in the second half of the 20th century. For most of that time it was the only name known for quality wine from the region, producing more than half of Campania’s Denominazione di Origine Controllata-designated bottlings. The estate’s 1968 Taurasi Riserva received worldwide acclaim and recognition, and helped coin Taurasi’s nickname, “the Barolo of the south.” Based largely on the family's lobbying and the reputation of Mastroberardino’s Taurasis, the appellation was awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita (DOCG) status in 1992, one of only three DOCGs in the region.
In the mid-1990s, Walter left Mastroberardino to establish his own Terredora di Paolo estate, and Antonio passed the torch to his son, Piero, who took over winery operations in 1997. But Antonio was still an important presence at the winery and in their Villa dei Misteri project, which began in 1996. For Villa dei Misteri, the Italian government selected Mastroberardino to plant vineyards at Pompeii and to produce wine, based on ancient viticulture and winemaking techniques.
Antonio is survived by his sons Carlo and Piero.