Category Archives: Abruzzo

The Great Wines of Emidio Pepe

I met Emidio Pepe, one of my favorite wine producers, a few times both in NYC and at Vinitaly, the wine fair in Verona, but I never had the chance to visit his winery in Abruzzo, even though I have been to the region many times. I started drinking Montepulciano d’Abruzzo many years ago with vintages from the 1970’s and they quickly became one of my favorite wines.

In early June I was invited on a press trip by the Consorzio Vini d’Abruzzo called the Abruzzo Wine Experience. It included visits to a number of wineries and one of them was the Emidio Pepe Winery.  At last I would have my chance.

IMG_7596When we arrived at the winery we were met by Emidio and his granddaughter Chiara De Julis. I had known Chiara as the public relations person for the winery in NYC.

IMG_7599Chiara took the group to view the vineyards and spoke about the land. The soil is clay and limestone with the top 40 centimeters in clay on a solid layer of limestone. She said they use both the tendonne or pergola method for the Montepulciano and Trebbiano varieties and the cordon spur method for the Pecorino for training the vines. Chiara explained that “the pergola is like a solar panel to my grandfather: the greater sun exposure guarantees more photosynthesis so a ratio in favor of energy production and accumulation of reserves, keeping the evolution of the berries slow and gradual. The ripening of the Montepulciano under the shade of its leaves is the key to the elegance of its tannins; the pergola is the promise today, as an ancient visionary resolution facing today’s challenging climate.”

Chiara continued, “Our wines’ sense of place is strongly tied to the genetic complexity of the vegetal material which populates our vineyards. Emidio planted his first vineyards with the old method of field grafting. This practice – long lost – is to plant the rootstock, leaving its root system to dig deep in search of nourishments without worrying about the fruit. When ready, the plant is then grafted in the field, an operation that Emidio did himself after having selected and prepared every bud.”

“The buds came from an old plot that Emidio liked back then. The original bud heritage allowed it to multiply genetic richness, preserving ancestral clones of Trebbiano and Montepulciano unique and different between them. This method guarantees a unique population in our vineyards, rarely replicable and a distinctive characteristic to our wines. Those parcels are today more than 50 years old and for us they are the source of our massal selection every time we replant. In the vineyard only sulphur and copper water are used along with biodynamic farming methods.”

According to Chiara, 1 hectare of tendonne has 900 vines and produces 90 quintals of grapes.  That means that each vine produces from 6 to 9 kilos of grapes. In one hectare of cordon spur trained grapes, there are 3,300 vines and each vine produces 5 to 6 kilos of grapes.

After our tour, Chiara invited us to dinner.

67631915860__774D6023-026C-48A6-AFD0-912AC6FEBF40 2The dinner menu

IMG_7603Over dinner Chiara spoke about the wines.  She began by telling us that her grandfather’s first bottled vintage was in 1964 and at that time he had only one hectare of vines. Today there are 17 hectares of vines near the Adriatic Sea that stretch out over the Teramo hills at the foot of the Gran Sasso Mountain.  

The Emidio Pepe winery is Organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A”– Agriculturists Artisans Artists, an association of wine producers from around the world that believes in Organic and Bio-Dynamic production, terroir, and as little interference as possible by the winemaker in the winemaking process. Only natural yeasts are used.  This gives the wine more complexity because there are so many different strains of yeast on the grapes and in the air.

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The white grapes are pressed by feet in the wooden tub in the front  and the red grapes by hand in the one in the back.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo — the picking is exclusively by hand selecting only the perfect grapes. The white grapes are crushed by feet in a big wooden tub, 350kg at a time get crushed for 40-45 minutes, allowing a constant stimulation of skin with the juice, letting the skin release matter, flavors and aromas. 

This method allows them to press the grapes in a delicate and soft way, not letting the stems break and producing a rich must ready to ferment. Only the juice goes to ferment in small concrete tanks, where spontaneous fermentation will start and go on for 30-35 days. From the concrete tanks, the second spring following the harvest, the wine will go straight into bottle to start its long improvement.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo — the grapes are hand destemmed on a net on top of a wooden vat, two people push the grapes back and forth until the berries fall down and the stems remain on the net unbroken. This way only the elegant and juicy tannins of the skin will go into the must but not the bitter ones from the stems. The berries remain almost intact, important to keep the yeasts which are on the skins and really precious to the spontaneous fermentations.. No sulfites are added to the wine. The juice is placed in glass lined cement tanks of 20/25hl. The white remains here for one year and the red for two years. The wine is then transferred to bottles by hand.

The winery also produces a Cerasuolo (Rosé) which does not have any skin contact. It is made from the juice of the Montepulciano grapes which are pushed back and forth by hand.

IMG_7602 2The wines made from the younger vines are released early for the Italian market. The wines made from the older vines are left in the winery to age and and then released on the international market. Chiara said the young vines do not have the the body or complexity to make to overseas journey.

IMG_7723 Starting in 2018 with the 2010 vintage, the aged wines will have Selizione Vecchie Vigne on the label.  

Chiara’s grandmother Rosa Pepe is in charge of the decanting process. Since this is a natural wine malolatic fermentation may take place in the tank or the bottle.  There is no filtration or fining. The corks are placed in the bottles by hand and only the best cork is used. Chiara said that they guarantee all of the bottles have been decanted at the cellar after 20 years, no matter if the vintage is 2003 or 1983. The wine has to be well balanced and decanted to manage the trip and only their best wines are sent to the USA and put on the market.

About 60,000 bottles a year are produced.  In an exceptional vintage they will hold back 70% of the production.

Chiara said that they have 600,000 bottles of wine from 1964 to the present vintage.

IMG_7608We tasted Trebbiano 2019, 2009, 2013, 2004 – While I like the older vintages I prefer the younger ones.

We tasted Montepulciano 1983, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007- Recently in Rome I had the 2016 vintage and it was wonderful. However these are wines that can really age and their true greatness is expressed in the older vintages. 

IMG_7622The last wine we tasted was the 1983 Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo.  Chiara said  at first her grandfather did not like the 1983 vintage so he kept it in his cellar and did not sell it.  A journalist came for a visit and asked why there was no 1983 on the market.  When Emidio explained, the journalist asked if he could try it.  Emidio agreed and they tasted it together.  The wine had developed in the bottle and the two decided that it was a great wine in a great vintage.  Emidio put 30% of the 1983 on the market.  I was very happy Chiara let us taste this wine. I have had the 1963 a few times over the years and all I can say is that it is in a league of its own.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to taste so many vintages of the great wines of Emidio Pepe all at one time. 

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The Abruzzo Wine Experience

The Abruzzo Region of Italy located to the east of Rome has everything going for it. There are beautiful national parks, a long coastline on the Adriatic, the rugged snowcapped Apennine Mountains, and little medieval towns perched precariously on hill tops. Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. Geographically, Abruzzo is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, it is considered part of the South.

IMG_7715 I have visited Abruzzo a number of times and have always enjoyed the wine and food. In fact some of my favorite wines are produced there.

It was with great pleasure therefore that I accepted an invitation from The Consorzio Vini D’Abruzzo to visit the Abruzzo Region in early June. The trip was organized by Mariana Nedic, Executive Director of I.E.E.M. (International Event and Exhibition Management). I have been to a number of events organized by this organization and they always do a wonderful job.

The VineyardsIMG_7587

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti. The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese.  The three most important wine designations are: Montepulciano di Abruzzo (red), Cerasuolo (rose), and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (white). Abruzzo is the number five wine producing region in Italy.

The grapes and the wine

The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid 17th Century.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a Rose’ made from the Montepulciano grape. It is made from the free run juice and/or juice with very little skin contact and the color can vary from light pink to dark red.

The Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds Is best expression in Abruzzo.

Of the local varieties, Pecorino, a white grape, is the most popular. Pecorino is an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines.

The other local varieties are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.

The trip — The Abruzzo Wine Experience

IMG_7536On the first night we visited had dinner in a trabocco. Fishermen traditionally built these wooden sheds onto piers that jut far out from the shore as a place to catch fish when the weather was bad.

IMG_7537The one we visited had been converted into a restaurant the, Trabocco Punta Cavalluccio. Davide Acerra, president of the Consortia Tutela d’Abruzzo, welcomed us and spoke about the Abruzzo Region.

Among the dishes were:

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Assorted cold appetizers including marinated anchovies, tuna with toasted almonds and saffron mayonnaise, swordfish carpaccio, raw Dublin Bay prawns with orange emulsion and a salad of octopus and cuttlefish

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Next came hot appetizers — Gratin of anchovies, Dublin Bay pawns and mussels

IMG_7549Sautèed Mussels

IMG_7554 Verrigni fusilli with cuttlefish, glasswort and turmeric scented bread crumbs

IMG_7659We also visited the town of Loreto Aprutino which was know for its olive oil production and there is a Olive Oil Museum there in a Gothic building dating from 1881. Unfortunately the museum was closed.

On the second day we visited 3 wineries: Abbazia di Propezzano, Strappelli and Emidio Pepe.

On the third day there was a Grand Wine Tasting of Abruzzo wines at Palazzo D’Avalos in Vasto. Here are some of the wines I tasted.

IMG_7630Stefania Pepe “Pepe Rosa” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC Biologico 2017. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast. The training system is the pergola abruzzese. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, without the skins, only the juice. This is a fresh fruity rose with red fruit aromas and flavors and hint of cherry. I have been a big fan of Stefania’s wines for many years.

IMG_7639Talamonti Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Riserva made from 100% Trebbiano di Abruzzo. The soil is stony, calcareous, structured and drained. The vineyard is at 300 meters. Harvest is by hand in mid September. Stalks are removed and the grapes undergo a cold maceration followed by a soft pressing. The clarified must is fermented on temperature controlled stainless steel vats for 12 days. The wine is aged for 7 months in 300 liter oak barrels (30%) and stainless steel (70%) with repeated badinage before bottling. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, apple, spiced good acidity. This is a white wine that will age. The president of the winery is Rodrigo Redmond. Before the tasting he recognized me from his time in NYC and we spoke. I did not know he had a winery and I was very impressed by the wines.

IMG_7645Tenuta I Fauri Abruzzo Pecorino DOC 2017 made from 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay calcareous and the training and pruning methods are tendone, single curtain/rows (spur training). There are 1,600/3,000 vines per hectare. Static decanting of the must takes place, followed by a soft pressing. Fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature and the wine is aged in stainless steel. The wine is bottled at the end of February. The wine has hints of apple and honey and a touch of mint. I visited the winery a few years ago and really liked the wines.

IMG_7657Fattori Nicodemi “Notàri” Trebbiano d’Abruzzo made from 100% TrebbIano d,Abruzzo. The vineyard is at 300 meters and the exposure is north/east. The training system is pergola Abruzzo and there are 1,600 vines per hectares. The vines are 50 years old. Harvest takes place the second half of September. Vinification is for 15 days in stainless steel at a controlled temperature. The wine remains on the lees for 6 months with bàtonnage. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of apricot, and hazelnut with a note of green olives and touch of mint.  I visited the winery a number of years ago and am happy to say they were as good as I remember them. The winery is organic.

 On the last day we visited  2 wineries Bosco and Margiotta and that night left for Rome.

Next time the wines of Emidio Pepe at the winery

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Slow Wine US Tour 2022

Slow Wine presented its Slow Wine Guide 2022 at Eataly Downtown in NYC with a tasting of wines from over 100 producers that are included in the guide.

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The following is the Slow Wine statement of what they represent:

The Slow Wine Guide evaluates over 400 different wineries and treats each with the utmost respect and attention. The Slow Wine team prides itself on the human contact it has with all producers, which is essential to the guide’s evaluations. While other guides limit their relationship to a blind tasting and brief write up, Slow Wine takes the time to get personal with each winery in order to create a well-informed, detailed review of the wines themselves and the people behind the production. Slow Wine selects wineries that respect and reflect their local terroir and practice sustainable methods that benefit the environment. And for the first time ever, those wineries that receive the snail or the official Slow Wine seal are 100% free of chemical herbicides, a quality that the Slow Wine Guide continues to passionately support.

As I was walking around the tasting area, I was called over by Davide Acerra from the Consorzio Tutela Vini D’Abruzzo. I had met Davide on a press trip to Abruzzo 3 years ago. He invited me to taste some of the wine. We started with Trebbiano di Abruzzo.

The WineIMG_6683

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo “Costalupo” 2019 Illuminati made from 100% Trebbiano from vineyards at 270 meters. The training system is pergola trellis and rows. Harvest takes place by hand at the end of September. The grapes are destemmed and gently crushed. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.  This is a fruit forward wine with hints of citrus, stone fruit and a touch of white flowers and crisp acidity. The wine remains in bottle for a time before release. It is an easy drinking wine. $16

IMG_6682Trebbiano D’ Abruzzo  DOC 2019 “Anfora” Francesco Cirelli made from 100% Trebbiano from their own vineyards and some from rented vineyards. The soil is limestone and clay. Harvest is by hand. The grapes are destemmed and gently crushed and then transferred into clay amphoras for 24 hours maceration. The skins are separated from the juice and softly pressed before the indigenous yeasts take over and the fermentation process takes place for 20 days.The resulting wine then rest and refines in the amphoras for 12 months. There is no fining. There is filtration before bottling with 1 micron carbides. The wine has hints of stone fruit, citrus, hay, peach with a touch of honey and good acidity. $28  This is a bargain for the price.

IMG_6684Trebbiano D’Abruzzo  2019 Tiberio made from a massal selection of Trebbiano with average age of 60 years. The vineyard is 2.5 hectares and is at 380 meters. The soil is mainly limestone with a gravel sandy subsoil and the training system is tendone (canopy). There are 2,500 wines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested at the end of September. The grapes are not pressed and only the free run juice is used. Alcoholic fermentation is in stainless steel takes and malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine has hints of apricot, jasmine, anise and green apple with a note of almonds in the aftertaste. $20. I have had wines by this producer and have always been impressed.

IMG_6685Trebbiano D”Abruzzo 2019  Amorotti, Gaetano Caboni made from 100% Trebbiano. The soil is limestone clay and the vineyard is at 300 meters with a south east exposure. Spontaneous fermentation takes place with native yeasts. The wine is filtered but not fined.  Aging is in untoasted tonneaux for one year. The wine has hints of chamomile, yellow plums, lemon peel, white flowers and flinty minerality. This a a very impressive wine and well worth the money. $38

IMG_6491Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva 2015 “Casauria”  Podere Castorani made from 100% Montepulciano. The training system is the traditional overhead “pergola” trellis system of the Abruzzo region. The soil is deep clay with many underground rocks. Harvest is by hand the beginning of November with grape selection. Fermentation is in concrete tanks with manual pump over and delestages and extended maceration. Malolactic fermentation is completed during skin maceration. The wines ages on the lees in oak barrels and then for 6 months in concrete tanks. Finally the wine remains in bottle for 15 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, cranberries, licorice, a touch of spice and a note of tobacco. $31

Just before I left, I tasted a favorite Vernaccia di San Gimignano

IMG_6676Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2019 Campo della Pieve IL Colombaio di Santa Chiara made from 100% Vernaccia. The 1.5 hectare vineyard is at 360 to 400 meters and there are 5,500 vines per hectare. The soil is old Pilocene, which is sand and clay, and the training system is spurred cordon. Harvest by hand is the end of September and beginning of October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and fermentation takes place with indigenous yeasts at a controlled temperature. Maturation is on the lees in cement vats with periodic batonnage for 18/20 months. This is a complex and aromatic wine with hints of ripe yellow stone fruit, citrus, white flowers and toasted almonds and a very nice finish. $21

Another time, more about the Slow Wine event.

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Tasting the wines of Abruzzo

The Abruzzo region of Italy located to the east of Rome has everything going for it. There are beautiful national parks, a long coastline on the Adriatic, the rugged snowcapped Apennine Mountains, and little medieval towns perched precariously on hill tops. Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. Abruzzo geographically is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilies , it is considered part of the South.

I have visited Abruzzo a number of times and have always enjoyed the wine and food from that region. In fact some of my favorite wines are produced there.

It was with pleasure that I accepted an invitation to attend a tasting of the wines of Abruzzo from

IMG_6503The Charming Estates of Europe, a special project that links the flavors of wine from Italy and France and of fresh fruit from Greece and introduce them to the United States and Canada. The event was called The Charming Taste of Europe.

IMG_4649The organizer and speaker of the event was Susannah Gold and it was held at IL Gattopardo one of my favorite Italian restaurants.  Susannah is a true wine professional and it is always a pleasure to attend one of her events.  She went into great detail on the region of Abruzzo and the wines.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti. The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese.  The three most important wine designations are: Montepulciano di Abruzzo (red), Cerasuolo (rose), and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (white). Abruzzo is the number five wine producing region in Italy

The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid 17th Century.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a Rose’ made from the Montepulciano grape. It is made from the free run juice and/or juice with very little skin contact and it can be light pink to dark red.

The Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds Is best expression in Abruzzo.

Of the local varieties, Pecorino, a white grape, is the most popular. Pecorino is an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines. The others are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.

The Wines

IMG_6481Pecorino Superiore 2020 Abruzzo DOC Poderi  Antonio Costantini made from 100% Pecorino. The exposure is south/south east and the soil is clay. The training system is spalliera (vertical trellis trained with replacement cane pruning) and there is a manual selection of the grape bunches at full maturity. Grapes are soft pressed and then the juice is left to rest for a number of hours at a cold temperature. When the temperature is raised to 16/18C alcoholic fermentation takes place. The wine remains in stainless steel for a time and then is stabilized before bottling. This is a very pleasant wine with floral notes, hints of citrus fruit, apple, anise and field grasses.

IMG_6485Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragu di Maiale — We had homemade square spaghetti in a rich pork ragu, a local specialty.

IMG_6482Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2019 Riserva “Marina Cretic”   made from 100% Trebbiano  Tenuta Agricole Masciarelli The training system is the Abruzzo Pergola.  Harvest takes place the second week of October. Fermentation is in wood for 15/30 days. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. The wine has hints of ripe tropical fruit, caramel, honey and vanilla.

IMG_6489Cerasuolo  Abruzzo  DOC 2020 Valori (BIO) made from 100% Montepulciano The vineyards are at 300 meters and the training system is simple guyot, spurred cordon. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and harvest takes place between October 10th and 15th. The juice  is in contact with the skins for 24  hours. Racking and soft pressing takes place. Cold fermentation and aging is in stainless steel. This is a rose’ light pink in color with hints of cherries, strawberries and a touch of almonds.

IMG_6493Patate Maritate — Potatoes with cheese, sausage and herbs.

IMG_6484Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2019 Francesco Cirelli (BIO) made from 100% Montepulciano The soil is clay and limestone and the training system is guyot. Harvest is at the end of September and the beginning of October. Harvest is manual. The grapes are destemmed and gently crushed and there is a 12 day maceration, spontaneous fermentation in amphora with indigenous yeasts. The wine is aged for 12 months in amphora.  The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry and a touch of strawberry.

IMG_6494Brodetto alla Vastese — Our next course was a variety of seafood in a flavorful sauce.

IMG_6490Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva DOC 2017 “Ruberò”  Cantina Frentana made from 100% Montepulciano. The vineyards are in the municipality of Rocca San Giovanni, situated on hills overlooking the Costa del Trabocchi with a south/southeastern exposure. The soil is medium textured and calcareous. Harvest is manual the second week in October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes with maceration and fermentation with the skins for 10/15 days in small stainless steel fermenters at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in French tonneau oak barrels for  for about 14 months, then more aging in stainless steel and then in the bottle for a few months. The wine has hints of black cherry, blackberry, violets with a note of spice and leather.

IMG_6491Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva 2015 “Casauria”  Podere Castorani made from 100% Montepulciano. The training system is the traditional overhead “pergola” trellis system of the Abruzzo region. The soil is deep clay with many underground rocks. Harvest is by hand the beginning of November with grape selection. Fermentation is in concrete tanks with manual pump over and delestages and extended maceration. Malolactic fermentation is completed during skin maceration. The wines ages on the lees in oak barrels and then for 6 months in concrete tanks. Finally the wine remains in bottle for 15 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, cranberries, licorice, a touch of spice and a note of tobacco.

In a future blog, I will report on the sweet wines of Bordeaux which were served at the end of the meal with dessert.

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Celebrating a Special Friends Birthday

To celebrate a friend’s birthday, and aware that he had been as diligent in social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing as we have been, Michele and I decided to prepare a special lunch for him.  The wine was provided by our friend

We started  with  a glass  of  Champagne  on  our  terrace,  which  is  currently under  construction  but  accessible.  

Champagne 2013 Pinot Meunier Grand Cru La Grande Vigne Vielles Vignes Extra Brut Suenen made from 100% Pinot Meunier from 50 year old ungrafted vines in Montigny-sur-Vesle The exposure is north west and the soil is sand and limestone. Oak barrels and turns are used for the wine making process. Also the use of an ovoid (egg shaped) concrete tun. There is spontaneous fermentation and natural malolactic fermentation and no filtration. The wine remains on the lees from 6 to 8 months. This is a very impressive bold Champagne, with hints of red fruit, brioche and honey.

Then we had pasta with lamb ragu. Michele  made  the  ragu  with  trimmings  from  a leg  of  lamb,  red  wine,  rosemary  and  the  usual  seasoning  vegetables.  The  pasta  was  mezze  maniche  by  Campofilone.

To follow we had butterflied leg of lamb seasoned with garlic and rosemary.  It was perfectly cooked, rare and juicy.

Leg of lamb with fresh  spinach  from  the  Greenmarket  and  alubia  blanca  beans from  Rancho  Gordo.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1982 Emidio Pepe 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A” Agriculture Artisans Artists. Both the tendonne method and the cordon spur method are used for training the vines. In vintages when the weather is very hot the tendone method is better because the leaves form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun.  When the weather is not too hot, the cordon spur is better because it allows more sun and air to reach the grapes. 1 hectare of tendone has 900 vines and produces 90 quintals of grapes.  That means that each vine produces from 6 to 9 kilos of grapes. In one hectare of cordon spur trained grapes, there are 3,300 vines and each vine produces 5 to 6 kilos of grapes. The grapes are crushed by hand and the juice placed in glass lined cement tanks of 20/25 liters. Only natural yeasts are used, there is no filtration or fining. The wine is transferred to the bottle by hand and the corks are placed in the bottles by hand. The wine has deep red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry, spice and leather. It is one of my favorite red wines and was just wonderful. It was the perfect wine  to go with the pasta and the lamb.

Dessert was a Ricotta Raspberry Cake with fresh berries and creme fraiche whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

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Pecorino, Cerasuolo & Montepulciano at Tenuta I Fauri

On our recent press trip to the Abruzzo Region of Italy, we visited a number of wineries that produced excellent wines.

At Tenuta I Fauri, we were greeted by Valentina Di Camillo, a member of the family that owns the winery, and the Managing Director.

Valentina at the Grand Tasting Dei Vini D’Abruzzo

The winery is located in the small town of Ari in the center of the province of Chieri, among the hills that drop down from the Maiella Mountains to the Adriatic Sea.

The vineyards are at 250 meters and the vine training system  is tendone

Valentina said she and her brother Luigi, the winemaker, inherited their passion for making wine from their father Domenico. Tenuta I Fauri is not just a brand name but represents a family dedicated to wine production for many years.

Valentina said the cellar in not very photogenic because of the old cement tanks, used by her grandfather Luigi, which have been carefully restored and preserved so they can be used once again.  There are also new stainless steel fermenters and a few wooden barrels.

Valentina had prepared a selection of foods to taste with the wine,

among them fresh fruits and vegetables.

Abruzzo Pecorino DOC 2017 made from 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay calcareous and the training and pruning methods are tendone, single curtain/rows (spur training). There are 1,600/3,000 vines per hectare. Static decanting of the must takes place, followed by a soft pressing. Fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature and the wine is aged in stainless steel. The wine is bottled at the end of February. The wine has hints of apple and honey and a touch of mint.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC “Baldovino (Rosato) 2018 made from 100% Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo. The soil is clay calcareous and the training system is tendone, single curtain. There are 1,600 vines per hectare. Maceration takes place inside the press and static decanting of the must and a soft pressing. Fermentation at a controlled temperature is in stainless steel vats. The wine is bottled at the end of February. This is a fruity wine with hints of cherries, strawberries and a touch of almonds in the aftertaste.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Ottobre Rosso” 2017 DOC. The training system is single curtain tendone and there are 3,000 vines per hectare. Fermentation and maceration is in concrete vats for 10/12 days followed by 9 months aging in concrete vats. The wine is bottled in June. This is a red wine with intense red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of wild cherry and a touch of raspberry.

Spumante Brut NV made from Chardonnay and Pecorino. The soil is sandy and the training system is tendone, single curtain. There are 1,600 plants per hectare. Static decanting of the must followed by a soft pressing and fermentation at a controlled temperature. There is a second fermentation in an autoclave for 3 months and it is bottled in January. The wine has hints of peach and apricot with a touch of pineapple.

Both Michele and I were very impressed by the wines. We tasted the wines again at the Grand Tasting at the end of the trip and I enjoyed them again at an event in NYC.

 

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Pizze Fritte and Pasta alla Chitarra — Eating in Abruzzo

by Michele Scicolone

The Abruzzo region of Italy located to the east of Rome has everything going for it. There are beautiful national parks, a long coastline on the Adriatic, rugged snowcapped Apennine Mountains, and little medieval towns perched precariously on hill tops. But on this visit, Charles and I were invited to Abruzzo to experience great wine and cuisine. These are some of the highlights of the food.

When we arrived at Cataldi Madonna Winery in Ofena, we were greeted by the owner’s daughter Giulia, and welcomed with an array of their wines to taste. For Charles’ report on the wines, go to http://www.charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2019/06/10/return-to-the-cataldi-madonna-winery/ Two cooks were frying small disks of dough dusted with sea salt for pizze fritte, meant to be eaten hot with the hand sliced local prosciutto.

The warmth of the bread brought out the earthy flavors of the prosciutto and an assortment of other salumi. There were also several cheeses made from sheep’s milk.

After our snack, the next stop was a walk up to the Rocca Calascio, an 11th Century fort, one of the oldest in Italy, located within the Gran Sasso National Park. Lunch followed at a rustic restaurant.

We began with a hearty bean soup topped with crisp croutons,

followed by polenta with pork ribs in a tomato sauce. The Abruzzese love spicy food and a bowl of ground dried chilies, peperoncino, was passed with each dish. We drank the wines of Cataldi Mandonna that we had tasted at the winery.

Later we visited the spectacular Zacagnini Winery. Mr. Enzo Vogliolo, the marketing director accompanied us to dinner where we began with delicate crepes, crespelle, to eat with culatello, a type of ham similar to prosciutto, made from the choicest part of the pig.

There were more delicious cheeses, accompanied by local honey and preserves.

Next came arrosticini, an icon of Abruzzese cooking, small pieces of precisely cut cubes of lamb grilled on bamboo skewers. Mr. Vogliolo  said  the meat was agnellone, from mature lambs. Though we had arrosticini on several occasions on this trip, this version was by far the best. The lamb was tender and juicy and infused with the smoky flavors of the grill. A few members of our group competed to see who could devour the most skewers.

We drank  the  Zaccagnini  Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo  and  the  Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with our meal.

The next day we visited the medieval town of Pretoro and had lunch at La Torre Restaurant. There, Concetta, the owner and chef, gave us a lesson in how to make pasta alla chitarra, the classic square shaped spaghetti of Abruzzo. She is a master of the art and her tips and tricks were invaluable. “Farina, farina, farina,” she would say, tossing clouds of flour at our pasta to be sure it would not stick.

Michele getting ready to make pasta alla chitarra

To make it, you will need to have a chitarra to cut the pasta. It is a wooden frame strung with wires that resembles a guitar and you can purchase one on the web.

Concetta cooked and sauced our pasta with a classic lamb ragu.

We also had time to try our hands at making potato gnocchi which we ate with a green vegetable sauce. Afterward we had lamb two ways, one rolled and stuffed with spinach and cheese, and the other roasted.

We drank the Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo and the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the co-op Lunaria.

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That night we had dinner on a trabocco. Fishermen traditionally used these wooden piers topped with a shed that jut far out from the shore to catch fish from. The one we visited had been converted to a restaurant.

We began with hot, crispy fritto misto wrapped in a paper cone.

Then there was a plate of cold seafood. Baked scallops came next,

followed by heaping platters of small sea snails cooked in a tomato sauce.

While some of our group were not interested in eating the snails, others couldn’t seem to get enough.

The snails were followed by rigatoni in a mixed seafood sauce, then fish fillets baked in paper thin potato slices.

We drank the Cuvé Prestige 830 and the Riseis from Agriverde.

Possibly my favorite meal of the whole trip was the one we enjoyed at Agriturismo Grappolo D’Oro.

A group of local musicians singing folk music and playing traditional instruments greeted us.

The antipasto consisted of an assortment of Abruzzese bread and focaccia, frittatas, vegetables and cheeses.

We all loved the bread “meatballs,” just like meatballs but made without meat and shaped like sausages simmered in a tomato sauce. As we watched, our hosts prepared pasta alla chitarra, but this version was made with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine, and took on a purplish color. It was topped simply with cheese and good olive oil.

Grilled plump, juicy sausages followed, some sweet and some spicy hot. We ended with bocconoti, tender individual pies filled with pastry cream accompanied by fresh cherries. There was more music and lots of wine throughout the meal.

We drank the Fenaroli Brut 36 Metodo Classico and the Ferzo Pecorino and Montepuliciano d’Abruzzo from Citra a large co-op.

Later that day we attended the grand tasting of wines from Abruzzo at Villa Estea, a beautiful palazzo overlooking the ocean. Dozens of winemakers attended and we were able to taste a variety of wines from all over the region.

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Stefania Pepe Wines: Natural Wines at their Best

I first met Stefania Pepe many years ago at the Vinitaly wine fair in Verona at the wine stand of her father Emidio Pepe. At the time I was the wine director and sommelier for i-Trulli restaurant in NYC.  The owner of I-Trulli and I liked the Pepe wines and we carried them in the restaurant.  Over the years, I would occasionally see Stefania in NYC. When I saw her 3 years ago at Vinitaly, Stefania had her own wine stand with the wines she produced. I was very impressed with her wines.

Last month Michele and I were invited on a press trip to Abruzzo.  We did not visit Stefania’s winery but I was delighted to see her at the Grand Tasting on the last day.

Stefania greeted us like old friends, and reminded us that we know each other for over 20 years.

Michele, Stefania and me

Last week Stefania was in NYC for the Wines of Abruzzo tasting.  I tasted her wines again and they were just as good as they were in Abruzzo.

The Wines of Stefania Pepe

L’Azienda Agricola Biologica Stefania Pepe is located in the commune of Torano Nuovo, Abruzzo.  There are 8 hectares of which 5.5 are covered with vines. The white grapes are crushed and pressed by feet and the red grapes are crushed and pressed by hand. The transfer of the wine is all done by gravity.

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC Biologica “Cuore di Vino” 2006 made from Trebbiano, Pecorino and Passerina. The vineyard is in Torano Nuovo at 240 meters, the exposure is west and the soil is clay calcareous. The training system is pergola abruzzese. The grapes are hand picked, crushed and pressed by feet and put into small concrete vats for 8 to 13 days without adding any yeast or sulphites. The wine remains in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats for 5 years.  The wine is unfiltered and placed in bottles until it is ready to be released. This is an intense wine with hints of grapefruit, yellow apple, floral notes and a touch of honey.

Stefania said she follows the phases of the moon in her wine making. Her method changes according to the seasons.  For example the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation on its own during the hot weather and during the cold weather she decants the wine.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC Biodiamico “Pepe Bianco” 2013 made from Trebbiano vines which are more then 30 years old. The exposure is south/east and the vineyards are at 240 meters and the training system is spalliera. The grapes are crushed by feet and fermentation takes place in cement vats for 10/18 days. The wine is decanted two times into another botte of cement and remains here until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has hints of apple, pineapple and a touch of banana.

Stefania said using cement botti was a Pepe tradition going back four generations. Many producers in Abruzzo said they were now going back to using cement tanks for their wines.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC Biologico 2007. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast. The training system is the pergola abruzzese. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, without the skins, only the juice. This is a fresh fruity rose with red fruit aromas and flavors and hint of cherry

Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo DOC Controguerra 2009 made from 70% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Organic cultivated grapes selected and destemmed by hand. The wine ferments in stainless steel vats for 5 to 6 days without the addition of yeast or sulfites. There is one delastage and 2 pump overs of the juice a day. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of cherry, prunes, toasted nuts and a touch of black pepper.

Montepulciano D,Abruzzo” Colline Teramane” DOCG “Pepe Nero” Biodinamico 2006 made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast, the vines are at 240 meters and the vineyards are 15km from the sea. The training system is pergola abuzzese. The grapes are biodynamically grown, selected and destemmed by hand. Fermentation is in botti (large wooden barrels) only with the skins without any additives including sulfites. The wine remains in the bottle for six months before release. This is a complex wine with hints of blackberry, prune, cherry and a touch of almond and black pepper. I was very impressed by this wine.

This is how Stefania Pepe sums up her winemaking:  “I’m the woman in love with natural wines, I create wine only with biodynamic and organic certified grapes without using any chemicals or additives! I love to communicate and to give benefit…joy…healthier life to my customers.”

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Return to the Cataldi Madonna Winery

 

Michele and I first visited the Cataldi Madonna Winery in Abruzzo about 15 years ago. I recall that it was the first time I had tasted wine made from the Pecorino grape. There was some confusion and a lot of discussion over how the Cerasuolo D’ Abruzzo, a Rosato that looked like a red wine, was produced. We looked forward to our return visit and seeing Luigi Cataldi Madonna again.

Luigi Cataldi Mondanna

Luigi Cataldi Madonna

The winery, which is about 65 acres, is located in the town of Ofena. There are 30.5 hectares of vines planted exclusively with local and traditional vines like Montepulcino, Pecprino and Trebbiano at 320 to 440 meters. The plain of Ofena is at the foothills of the only Appenine glacier on Calderone in the Gran Sasso Mountain range. This makes for a great difference between night and day temperatures. The area has been called the oven of Abruzzo.

Our host then and now was the owner of the winery Luigi Cataldi Madonna. This time his daughter Giulia assisted him. Giulia said the picture on the labels is of the statue of the Warrior of Capestrano, a symbol of ancient Abruzzo.

The Wines

Trebbiano d”Abruzzo made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from vineyards located in Mandrella and Frontone, Ofena. Mandrella is at 1,300 feet. The vines were planted in 2003 and the training system is espalier. Frontone is at 1,215 ft, the vines were planted in 1990 and the training system is pergola. The soil is clay loam rich in calcareous skeleton. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks and spends 3 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of lemon, apple, pear and almond. They called this their every day wine.

Pecorino “Giulia” Terre Aquilane IGT 100% Pecorino from vineyards in Cona, Fontone and Macerone at 380 meters. The vines were planted in 2001 and the training system is spallier. Vinifiction takes place in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature. At the end of fermentation the juice is in contact with lees and is aged in stainless steel tanks for 3 months. The wine has hints of grapefruit, lime and a touch of fresh herbs.

Luigi was one of the first to “rediscover“ the Pecorino grape and began replanting in 1990 and produced the first vintage in 1996. Pecorino means little sheep in Italian because the sheep liked to eat these grapes off the vine.

Pecorino “Super Giulia” 100% Pecorino. The difference between the two is Super Giulia is made from the best selection of the grapes. This is a more flavorful version than the regular Giulia with a note of passion fruit.Giulia

Both wines are named for Luigi Cataldi Madonna’s daughter, Giulia.

 Cerasuolo d’ Abuzzo Rosato made from 100% Monepulciano D’Abruzzo from vines planted in 1970 and the vineyard is at 1,250ft. The training system is pergola. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for 30 days at a controlled temperature and is aged for 3 months in stainless steel. The wine has a bright rose color. This is a fruity wine with hints cherry, strawberry and a touch of almond.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo “Pie delle Vigna” Rosato this is the wine that caused all the confusion because it is a Rose but looks like a red wine. We did not get to taste this wine on this visit because it was all sold out. I saw it in a store on one of our stops. This wine is made by white wine vinification 85%. The problem is that the juice from the Montepulciano grape is pink. The other 15% from red vinification, the juice is in contact with the skins for about 8 hours, so the wine looks like a red wine!

They also now make another Rosato from Montepulciano grapes called “Cataldino” which is an IGT wine and is a very fruity easy drinking wine.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Malandrino” made from 100% Montepulciano d”Abruzzo the vineyards are at 1,375 ft and the vines were planted 1970-2004. The soil is clay and limestone with medium texture and rich in skeleton. Vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in stainless tanks and concrete vats for 12 months. The wine is in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of blueberry and plum with a touch of violets.

We enjoyed visiting the winery once again and meeting the third generation of wine producers at Cataldi Madonna.

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Touring Abruzzo

After a short stay in Rome, Michele and I were headed to Abruzzo for a press trip to explore the food and wine of this beautiful region.

We arrived at the hotel, La Chiave dei Trabocchi in San Vito Chietino after a 3-hour bus ride from Rome. The coastline here is called the Costa dei Trabocchi.

Trabocco

Trabocchi are dwellings used by fishermen so they could fish in bad weather.  Made of wood, they stand in the water on long wooden legs with long poles and nets reaching out into the water.

Some of them have been turned into restaurants.

On our first night, dinner at the hotel included a very informative presentation on Abruzzo given by Davide Acerra, president of the Consorzio Tutela Vini D’Abruzzo.

Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. Abruzzo geographically is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilys, it is considered part of the South.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti. The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese. The vines are grown along vertical posts and wires to a height of about 6 feet. The vines are planted 2 meters apart in parallel rows 2 meters apart. The leaves grow over the top to form a canopy (pergola) to protect the grapes from the hot Abruzzo sun. The Tendone has always been the way to grow table grapes in the area and it is easier to pick the grapes without having to bend down.

The Grapes and the Wines

The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid 17th Century.

This red grape has a medium compact cluster and a conical – pyramidal shape, often winged, with an elongated grape. It ripens late which gives the wine its ruby rich color, with hints of violets, cherries, berries and liquorice.

Both and Cerasoolo but notice the difference in color

Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo is a ‘Rose” made from the Montepulciano grape. This is a rose made from the free run juice and or juice with very little skin contact and it is bright red in color. If the producer adds 15% or more of the juice that has had skin contact for a number of hours, it almost has the color of a red wine.

Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds Is best expression in Abruzzo. The vines have large leaves and long bunches. The grapes never get darker than a deep straw color because of the long leaves and the Tendone training system. Trebbiano Tuscano is also used in combination with Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, but the best wines come from those made from 100% Trebbiano d”Abruzzo

Of the local varieties Pecorino, a white grape is the most popular. Pecorino an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines. The others are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.

Sparkling wines, both Metodo Classico and Charmat, are produced from the different varieties.

Almost 80% of the wine made in Abruzzo is produced by co-ops.

Michele getting ready to make pasta alla chitarra

It was a three day tour and in that time we visited a number of producers, a few hill towns,  made the local specialty pasta alla chitarra, had dinner in a Trabocco

and ended with the Grand Tasting Dei Vini D’Abruzzo at the Villa Estea Torino Di Sangero where there were over 50 producers presenting their wines.

The experience was made more enjoyable because of the other members of our group who were so congenial.

I will write more about our experiences in a future report.

 

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