Wine has a knack for making us remember. Most of the time, we just open a bottle of wine — it’s beautiful, uncomplicated pleasure. But sometimes, we open a bottle of memories. Wine is a clever catalyst — it whets the mind, and, if you’re patient, gives you the key to Pandora’s Box.
Recently, I had the opportunity to taste a bottle of 1980 Mastroberardino Taurasi Riserva. My father received the bottle as a gift — from the wine cellar of a dear friend who passed away a couple of years ago. His son works with my dad now, and from time to time, he shares a bottle that belonged to his father. I love the idea of drinking wine to remember — wine and remembrance aren’t accidental partners.
I recognized Mastroberardino as an Italian wine from the Taurisi DOCG, but after that . . . mental crickets. So off I went to the Big Board (the Internet) to learn more. Mastroberardino is located in the Campania region of sourthern Italy, about 45km east of Naples. In addition to the Anglianico wines of Taurisi, Mastroberardino has been a champion of underdog wines like Lacryma Christi, Greco di Tufo and Fiano de Avellino. Mastroberardino is also spearheading the Villa dei Misteri project in Pompeii — replanting the ancient vineyards destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. One of these years, I’m gonna make it to Pompeii.
And so we uncorked the 1980 Mastroberardino Taurasi Riserva . . . and we raised our glasses to the memory of our old friend, Horst. Prosit!
But now my mind was whet, and the key was already turning in Pandora’s Box . . . so I started thinking about some of the things that were going on in 1980, the year this wine was bottled.
I was a tween in 1980 — I was very busy wallpapering my room with posters of Shaun Cassidy. Also, I may or may not have had a Smurf collection.
I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still . . . da do ron-ron-ron, da do ron-ron. They don’t write deep lyrics like that anymore. Swoon!
It’s tough to follow Shaun Cassidy, but there were some other things going on in 1980 . . .
The Iranian Hostage Crisis: Fifty-two Americans were held hostage in Iran for 444 days. Those are 444 days I will never forget. A family friend of ours was one of the hostages. This is my hostage bracelet. I’m pretty sure it was the prototype for the rainbows of rubber “cause” bracelets that folks wear today. I wore it until we cut the yellow ribbon off the tree in our front yard.
And this a photo of our family friend, Lt. Col. David Roeder, returning to Rhein-Main US Air Force base in Frankfurt, Germany. Over three decades later, and I still can’t look at this photo without getting all lumpy-throated and verklempt.
John Lennon was assassinated — an event that didn’t even register on my tween radar in 1980. (I wasn’t hanging John Lennon posters in my room). Lennon’s song, Imagine, used to grate on my last good nerve. It’s about as lively as a funeral dirge. But I’m older now, I get it. And I think it’s brilliant. Because . . . just imagine.
Sidebar: Imagine is #3 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Songs of All Time. Da Doo Ron Ron comes in at #114 on that list. Just sayin’.
The US boycotted the Moscow Olympic Games. Sigh. For the record, Misha was one of the best Olympic mascots ever — before Olympic mascots got all esoteric and weird (I’m still bitter about the Atlanta Izzy debacle). The photo on the left is the Misha my dad brought home from the Moscow Olympics. I ❤ Misha. The photo on the right is . . . well, no one knows what Izzy is.
Mount St. Helens in Washington blew her top. Literally. Interesting geeky note: I’ve read a couple of reports that credit volcanic explosions in the Cascade Mountains with the success of Washington viticulture. Something about ash combining with sandy soils to form loess, which is something the vines love. Maybe one of you sciency people can investigate that claim further . . .
Pac-Man was released. I hate to think how many quarters and how many hours of my life I wasted trying to run away from Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.
Rubik’s Cube was Toy of the Year. I still haven’t been able to solve more than two sides of that damn cube. Maybe if I had spent less time playing Pac-Man with Shaun Cassidy . . .
And because this was an Italian wine we opened, here are a couple of Italian memories from 1980:
The Bologna Massacre — 85 people were killed in a terrorist bombing of the Central Station in Bologna. The attack was attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization, Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari. File that knowledge away — you might need it on Final Jeopardy one day.
Also, there was a massive earthquake in the Irpinia region of southern Italy, killing almost 3,000 people and injuring over 10,000. If you’re still reading this, I’m about to make one of those fun, full-circle connections. That 1980 earthquake destroyed much of the Mastroberardino winery, along with 45,000 bottles of wine, as well as the Mastroberardino family home. After the winery was rebuilt, Mastroberardino started using the name Radici (roots) on their Taurisi wine — a nod to the family’s unshakable connection to the land.
So how was the wine? Here’s what a 33-year old Italian wine cork looks like . . . beautiful, no?
Tasting Notes: 100% Aglianico. Visually, it’s a lovely garnet red in the glass. The nose is pure smoke — think bacon, cooking in a cast iron skillet, over an open campfire. I love that smell. Tastes like a Slim Jim rolled in tobacco leaves and sprinkled with black pepper — not necessarily a bad thing. Tannins to spare. This is a wine that’s screaming for food . . . game or lamb would be perfect. I tried to find some fruit left in the bottle, but the only thing I could come up with was a smoky raisin.
Somehow, it’s fitting that a 1980 wine tastes a little like a Slim Jim — I ate more than one Slim Jim as a tween. Who’s up for some mechanically separated chicken?
Like all good things, this bottle came to an end before we were ready . . . thanks for the memories!