A few years ago I was invited to Benevento to attend “Campania Stories,” an organized event to introduce and educate journalists about the wines of Campania. There I met Melina Pepe from Tenuta Cavalier Pepe and she invited me to visit the winery the next time I was in Campania. Since Michele and I were going to Naples in early February, I contacted Milena and asked her if we could visit the winery.
Milena said she was born in Belgium where she studied marketing and then viticulture and oenology in Bordeaux before returning home to Campania.
Milena’s father, Angelo Pepe, started the winery and in 1998 the President of Italy recognized his efforts and granted him the title “Cavaliere della Repubblica per meriti sul lavoro” (Knight of the Republic).
The winery is located on the slopes of three villages: Sant’Angel all’Esca, Taurasi and Luogosano. There are 60 hectares of vineyards and 7 hectares of olive trees producing the Ravece variety. Hazelnut trees are also cultivated on the property.
Irpinia Falanghina DOC “Lila” 2018. 100% Falanghina from estate vineyards in the hills of the municipality of Luogosano and Sant’Angelo all’Esca located within the Irpinia Falanghina DOC production zone. The soil is clay and sand with organic and volcanic elements. The grapes are hand picked and immediately taken to the cellar where a selection takes place and the grapes are pressed whole. There is a cold settling followed by alcoholic fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel. The wine is aged on the lees then in bottle before release. The wine has hints of apple and pear, a note of white flowers and good acidity. Their Falanghina is estate grown whereas many producers’ grapes for Falanghina come from Benevento and are labeled Benevento Falanghina.
Irpinia Coda di Volpe DOC “Bianco di Bellona” 2012 100% Code di Volpe (tail of the fox). Grapes are from estate vineyards in the hills around the towns of Carazita, Piesco and Pesano in Luogosano and Brussinera in Sant’Angelo all Esca. Soil is sand and clay and rich in volcanic matter and the vineyards are at 300 to 490 meters. The gapes are harvested in mid October. Selection takes place in the vineyard and in the cellar where the grapes are pressed whole. The must is cold clarified and then fermented at a low temperature. A short period of aging on the lees takes place and the wine remains in the bottle for a short time before release. Melina said that they opened this bottle by mistake, intending to open the 2018. I said this was a fortunate mistake, as I would really like to taste a Code di Volpe that was 8 years old. The wine has hints of peach, a touch of pineapple and a touch of yellow fruit. It has developed into a very impressive wine.
Fiano di Avellino DOCG “Refiano” 2018 made from 100% Fiano from vineyards located in Lapio, Montefredane and Candida at 400 to 500 meters. The soil is marl and limestone rich in volcanic material. The grapes are hand picked and hand selected in the cellar and whole bunches are pressed. Cold settling is followed by alcoholic fermentation at a low temperature. After fermentation the wine is aged on its lees and remains in the bottle until release. The wine has hints of apple, pear and almonds and a touch of chamomile and mineral notes.
Fiano di Avellino DOCG Reserve “Brancato” 2017 made from 100% Fiano from south facing vineyards in the municipality of Lapio. The grapes are hand harvested at full ripeness, undergo a strict selection and are pressed whole. Cold settling is followed by alcoholic fermentation in barriques and later in stainless steel at a low temperature. The wine is aged in wood and steel followed by a minimum of 6 months in bottle before release. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of mature tropical fruit, apple, hazelnuts with a hint of spice and a touch of toast.
Greco di Tufo DOCG Reserve “Nestor” 2018 made from 100% Greco from vineyards on the hills of S. Paolina, Montefusco and Prata in the heart of the Greco di Tufo zone at 400 to 700 meters. The soil is primarily tufaceous with clay, limestone and volcanic elements. Grapes are hand picked, there is a selection in the cellar and the grapes are pressed whole.
Greco di Tufo DOCG “Grancare” 2017 made from 100% Greco from vineyards located at the highest areas of Torrioni and Montefusco at 600 to 700 meters. The soil is primarily clay and silt with limestone and volcanic material. The grapes are harvested in October. Vinification is like the 2017 Fiano. This is an intense full-bodied wine with hints of peach, tropical and candied fruit and a touch of toast.
It was very informative to compare the Fiano and Greco in stainless steel and then to taste those in wood. The ones in steel were more aromatic and fresher while the ones in wood have deeper flavors and aromas.
Irpinia Aglianico IGT Terra Del Varo 2015, made from 85% Aglianico and 15% Merlot. The Aglianico ripens late and the harvest lasts from the middle of October to the middle of November. The estate vineyards are in Luogosano, Sant’Angelo all’Esca and Taurasi and are at 350 meters. The soil is clay and volcanic elements. Harvest is by hand and there is a selection in the vineyard and in the cellar. Destemming is followed by a cold pre-fermentation, maceration for about 10 days and alcoholic fermentation at a controlled temperature. Aging is for 24 months in cement tanks and 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of black cherry and blackberries with spice notes and a touch of black pepper.
Taurasi 2013 “Opera Mia” (my work) 2013 100% Aglianico from vineyards on the hills of Carazita and Pesano located in the munciipalites of Luogosano and Sant’Angelo all’Esca at 405 meters. The soil is clay and limestone with volcanic outcrops. The grapes are harvested when fully ripe. There is a careful selection before the grapes are destemmed and fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature. Maceration is on the skins for about 20 days. The wine is aged in French oak barriques for 12 months, in cement tanks for 24 months and finally in bottle for 12 months before release. The wine has hints of blueberries and blackberries with a touch of spice and coffee and a note of vanilla.
Milena said they were experimenting with aging some of the wine in amphora. I have seen the use of amphora in other wineries in Campania.
The Cavalier Pepe wines are represented in the U.S. by Romano Brands.