For many, imagining that a Trebbiano d’Abruzzo could be the table wine of choice at a G8 Summit would be inconceivable. However, this summer’s Tokyo G8 saw bottles of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from the vineyard of Emidio Pepe, Abruzzo’s quirkiest but finest organic producer of Trebbiano & Montepulciano d’Abruzzo since 1964, sitting proudly waiting to be enjoyed by the world’s top politicians.
We met Emidio Pepe at his Vineyard in Torano Nuovo near Teramo, Abruzzo, in early September ‘08. With his cheeky grin, firm handshake and jaunty straw trilby he looked like he should be playing with the Buena Vista Social Club rather than developing fine organic Abruzzo wines, but I am sure this twinkle combined with the vineyard’s beautiful organic wines are what enabled Signor Pepe to travel to wine fairs as far afield as the US & Japan, driving the sales of his ‘wines of life’, despite having little English!
We were shown around by Daniela, his daughter and wine mistress (vigneron) extraordinaire, who along with her sisters has taken over the reins of the Emidio Pepe Vineyard – highly unusual in the male-dominated world of winemakers, especially in Italy! But hey with breathtaking views out over olive studded rolling hills to Civitella del Tronto & the Gran Sasso, right down to the Adriatic, it wouldn’t be difficult to turn down a job in accountancy to move back into the family business.
The Pepe motto re Abruzzo winemaking is not just simple but logical and something more businesses should adopt – if something is so good (i.e. it grows so well and tastes so good) why change anything about it! By keeping to this ethos and the belief that less is more, the vineyard keeps alive the romance that so many modern vineyards have lost. The vineyard is 100% organic, ladybirds and other beetles keep down bugs – both eating them and laying their eggs inside them to in affect eat them inside out. Yes horrible on the insects but good for future drinkers knowing that what they are drinking hasn’t been sprayed by a load of nasty pesticides. The normal vine diseases are kept at bay by spraying copper and sulphur, substances that originate from the land itself.
The grapes are harvested by hand by a team of 15 over a 10-day period; like so much of Italy, this harvest period is getting earlier & earlier each year. During this period the Trebbiano is pressed by foot in traditional wooden troughs and the Montepulciano is crushed by hand. At no point does the 60k litres of the two wines ‘must’ come into contact with any metal that could alter the organic balance. Fermentation takes place naturally in glass-lined cement tanks naturally, without yeast – rather the wines relying on what has settled naturally on the grapes outside on the vineyard and kept cool by the temperature of the cellar itself rather than air conditioning etc.
After fermentation, the Trebbiano rests for 6 months, and the Montepulciano for 2 years where upon the wine is then bottled without any sort of filtering occurring. The sediment is what the family believes keeps the wine alive and is essential to its development and, unlike other Abruzzo wines, makes their wines ones that last. After occasional tasting, the wine is filtered by hand-pouring one bottle into another and then sent to the importer who has requested it.
We sampled a Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2006 and a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2000. Now we are no professional wine tasters so you will have to excuse our descriptions but here’s a bash at describing wines that you can buy from Emidio Pepe direct, but which retail at restaurants in New York for over US$275 a bottle!
Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Emidio Pepe, 2006
When opened this has the most incredible bouquet, sitting across the table to Daniela it just transported me to lazy picnic days with friends, having a siesta and waking up to a meadow of flowers. It was an incredibly vibrant experience from a dry white wine, its lush, ripe flavour seemed to convey everything that the vines had experienced over a long hot summer captured in a bottle and just the tonic for a cold winter’s day in London. Oh this is so recommended and to date the best Trebbiano d’Abruzzo that I have tasted with character and honey depth.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Emidio Pepe, 2000
Oh wow this was like drinking velvet and nothing like any of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines I had previously experienced! This Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has the terrain & tastes of Abruzzo encapsulated in one bottle – it evokes the heady Gran Sasso Mountains, its beech & walnut woods, the Adriatic coast & Sea Grass, and a hint of peperoncino. Dark in colour, but balanced with full length, low tannins this left no bitterness or film just a wish that all Montepulciano available in the UK could be this good. Or indeed any…
Azienda Agricola Emidio Pepe
Via Chiesa, 10, 64010
Tel: +0039 0861 85 64 93