Category Archives: Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo

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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Terresacre: Wine from Molise

Over the years, I have met Chef Marcello Russodivito at different wine and food events. He owns a restaurant called Marcello’s of Suffern, in Suffern NY http://www.marcellosgroup.com. We would talk about wine and food and told me about a winery in Molise that he really liked. In fact, he liked it so much that he considered himself the American ambassador for the wine.

I asked him who the importer was and he told me that it is Wine Emporium. I called Franco Bengazi, owner of the company, and asked him if I could have some samples to try. In return, Franco sent me 7 bottles of very interesting wine.

Terresacre winery was established in 2006 in the small South Central Italian region of Molise. There are 35 hectares of vineyards and they are at 270 meters located in the countryside of Monterero di Bisaccia. This is in the hills of the lower Molise where the grapes are influenced by the maritime climate.

The Wines

Falanghina 2018 DOC 100% Falanghina. Harvest is by hand the first week of September and the grapes are destemmed, immediately crushed, and softly pressed. The must is immediately cooled at 8 to 10 degrees C. After 18 hours the must begins the fermentation process. Alcoholic fermentation lasts for 10 days at a constant temperature 15C. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a fresh dry wine with hints of citrus fruit, apple, a touch of acacia flowers and good acidity. This is the first time I have tasted a Falanghina from Molise and I really enjoyed it. $21

Falanghina Oravera 2015 DOC 100% Falanghina. After pressing, the grapes are subjected to a pre-saturation and the juice is cooled at 8C and left to settle. After 24 hours the clear must is fermented. The juice is fermented in French oak barriques. To obtain aromatic complexity the wine remains in the barrels on the lees for 8 months. The wine then is aged in bottle until it is ready for release. This is a complex wine with hints of candied fruits, acacia flowers and vanilla. Even with the barrique aging the aromas and the flavors of the Falanghina come through. This is the first time I have had a Falanghina fermented and aged in barriques. $30

Rosato 2017 “Rosavite” Terre Degli Osci IGT 100% Montepulciano. The grapes are hand picked at the end of September. After the separation of the stalks there is a mild crushing of the grapes. Maceration is for 10 hours. Fermentation at a controlled temperature takes place at 16 to18 C for 10 days. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints a cherry, raspberry and strawberry. $17.50

Rosso Neravite Molise 2014 DOC made from 100% Montepulciano. The grapes are hand harvested on the last 10 days of October. The grapes are softly crushed and destemmed. Maceration is in small steel fermentation tanks for 15 to 20 days with continuous daily stirring. Temperature controlled fermentation at 28C. This is a wine with aromas and flavors of black fruit with hints of black cherry and blackberries. $17.50

Tintilia 2016 DOC made from 100% Tintilia. This wine is treated the same way as the Tintilia Riserva(see below) the only difference is the it is aged in neutral stainless steel containers only. This is an intense full bodied wine with hints of blueberries, dark cherry, spice and a touch of balsamic. $27

The Tintilia Grape Is a black-skinned grape grown in small quantities in Molise. The vines produce medium-sized, egg-shaped berries in lose winged bunches. During maturation, some berries will even detach themselves, thinning bunches even more and further lowinerg the yields. The history of the grape in Molise is open to interpretation. Because the name Tinta means red in Spanish some believe that the grape was introduced into Molise sometime during the 17th century from Spain. Others believe the grape goes all the way back to the Samnites who inhabited the region prior to Roman rule. All agree however it is the most interesting “indigenous” grape in Molise.

Because Tintilia is a very low yielding grape it was not very profitable to grow. The grape managed to survive in a few places here and there until it was “re-discovered” in the late 1990’s by producers such as Terresacre. This was helped in part by the creation of the DOC in 1998 which allowed wines made by at least 85% Tintilia to have the DOC.

I do not believe I have had a wine made from this grape before!

Tintilia Riserva Molise 2013 made from 100% Tintilia. The grapes are hand harvested at the end of September and the beginning of October. After the separation of the stalks there is a soft pressing of the grapes. Maceration takes place in steel vats for 20 to 30 days with pumping over of the must. Alcoholic fermentation is for 10 to 12 days in temperature controlled tanks and at a temperature that does not rise above 28C. The wine is aged in French barriques carefully selected by the enologist Goffredo Agostini to respect the character of the Tintilia grape. This is a complex full bodied wine with hints of plum, red fruits, a touch of black pepper and balsamic notes. $41.50

Rispetto Montepulciano “Experientia Manet” 2013 100% Montepulciano. The grapes are hand harvested in late October. Maceration takes place in small steel fermentation tanks for 20 to 25 days and strring takes place. Fermentation is from 10 to 12 days at 28C. The wine is aged in French oak barriques made from two different types of wood. The wine has hints of blueberries, jam, vanilla coconut and coffee. $ 33.50

Thanks to Chef Marcello Russodivito for introducing me to these wines and to Franco Bengazi of Wine Emporium for sending me the samples.

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Eating Moleche and Drinking Wine in Venice

Pensione, Restaurant Wildner  Last time I was in Venice, I posted some pictures on Facebook and a friend, Faith Willinger, who lives in Florence and is a noted cookbook and travel writer saw them. She wrote that I should go to this “fantastic restaurant” and added that “the wine list will blow you away.” She told me to ask for Luca Fullin, the son of the owner, who is responsible for the wine list. With a recommendation like this, we just had to go.

Luca

Luca

The restaurant is right on the Grand Canal and there is a covered patio for outdoor dining. We introduced ourselves to Luca and told him that Faith had highly recommended the restaurant. As Faith had promised, we had a great meal.

We liked the restaurant so much that we decided to return again this year. I had the mazzancolle, large grilled red shrimp. They were plump and juicy just as I remembered them from last time.IMG_0468

I followed this with the moleche, baby soft shell crabs. They were crisp and full of flavor. I order them whenever I can because their season is very short.IMG_0469

We drank the Soave Classico DOC “Calvarino 2014 Pieropan made from 70% Garganega and 30% Trebbiano di Soave from hillside vineyards in the Soave Classico zone. Volcanic soils situated at 200 to 300 meters facing northwest. Traditional pergola Veronese trained, 3,000 vines per hectare. The vines are 30 to 60 years, hand harvested, often in two harvests to select the ripest grapes. Trebbiano di Soave is picked in mid September and the Garganega in October. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed with the free run juice fermented separately in glass-lined cement tanks. The wine remains in the tanks on the fine lees for one year. It is aged in the bottle for a few months before release.IMG_0472

After dinner Luca suggested we visit his new wine bar called Local just around the corner, 3 minutes away. This being Venice it only took us 15 minutes to find it. But we liked its cozy appearance and contemporary style. Benedetta, Luca’s sister, welcomed us warmly.IMG_0473

They have a very extensive wine list and we ordered the Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo, which is a Rose from Emidio Pepe 2014 vintage made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo . The grapes are vinified as if it was a white wine and are pressed by foot. The must is fermented without the skins. We had the 2012 last time at Wildner and it was much lighter in color but with this very “natural” winemaker, one never knows.IMG_0476

We had this with a plate of assorted cheeses and condiments from the Veneto area.

For lunch the next day we went to the highly recommended Trattoria Antiche Carampane, not far from the outdoor fish market. This is a lovely restaurant and it is better to go for lunch because it is very crowded for dinner.IMG_0482

Michele and I had the same dishes pasta with baby sepia in an ink sauceIMG_6269 mol

and fried moleche with fried Jerusalem artichokes cooked to perfection. IMG_0484We also loved our desserts, which included a layered meringue, cream and berry parfait. I had something equally delicious, but ate it so fast that I can’t remember what it was.

We drank the Soave Classico ‘La Rocca’ 2014 Pieropan 100% Garganega.IMG_0483

Single vineyard with chalky, clay soil situated at 200 to 300 meters, facing southwest. Spur pruned cordon trained with 5,000 vines per hectare. The age of the vines is 10 to 50 years. Grapes are handpicked at the end of October, often in two harvests to select the ripest grapes. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed followed by a short maceration with skin contact in 2,500 liter barrels. After fermentation the wine is racked into 200 to 500 liter barrels and ages for 15 months on the fine lees and remains in bottle for a time before release. It was interesting to taste the two wines one day apart.  Both  Pieropan wines were excellent but the La Rocca is a bigger wine and needs more time.IMG_0487

We also drank the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2011 Eduardo Valentini 100% Trebbiano. The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonian oak for 24 months. This was a very complex full wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste with that extra something that is difficult to describe.

 

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Tasting the Wines of Abruzzo at Enoteca Di Palo

Rosanna di Michele cooking teacher, personal chef, and lover all things from Abruzzo invited me to a tasting of the wines of Collefrisio. Rosanna has long collaborated with this Abruzzese winery and is a promoter of the wines and food of the region.

The tasting was held at Enoteca Di Palo in NYC’s Little Italy. This is the wine store of the famous Di Palo food store, which is right next door.

Amadeo, Rosanna, Lou Di Palo

Amedeo, Rosanna, Lou Di Palo

Amedeo de Luca one of the owners of Collefrisio was there to present the wines. He said that his family has been involved in wine for 3 generations. The winery is located in the hills of Frisa in the Chieti province of Abruzzo. The winery has 35 hectare of vineyards on 3 estates: Tenuta Valle del Moro – 12 hectares where they grow Montepulciano and Trebbiano; Tenuta Morrecine – 12 hectares where they grow Montepulciano and Trebbiano; and Tenuta Giuliano – 11 hectares where they grow Montepulciano and Pecorino.

Amadeo presented 4 wines.e9a736be-df96-4f73-914c-50f3982e53d6

Pecorino IGT Terre di Chieti 100% Pecorino Harvest takes place the last 10 days of September.Maceration is at a low temperature after removal of the grapes from the stalks and the alcohol fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a wine with citrus fruit flavors and hints of green tea and peach with nice acidity.deee3c39-1b2e-4609-ab99-56d1ad519bf7

Trebbiano  D’Abruzzo “Vignaquadra”  DOC 100% Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. Harvest is the first week of September. Harvest is the first ten days in October. Aromatic wine with hints of apple, chamomile and mulberry.1b350bf1-9852-4c90-b515-3f73c014532c

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 100% Montepulciano. Traditional vinification in stainless steel, the grape skins are in contact with the juice for 12 to 20 days. The wine remains in stainless steel tanks until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has hints of cherry, plum and a touch of spice.70892e81-fac3-4048-a23d-3a89dd66c35f

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Vignaquadra” Vinification same as above. This is a single vineyard wine that is aged for a number of months in new barriques. The wine has hints of cherry plum, fruit jam with a hint of spice and vanilla. Amedeo said that the wine needed more time to come together and be at its best.

The wines are a very good value for the money at around $20 or less.

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By Hand and By Feet

When I was in Rome in May I saw the Emidio Pepe 2005 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo on a restaurant wine list for 38 Euros. This was a real bargain as this wine would be twice the price if I could find it at a retail store in NYC.  I knew that the wine could use another 10 to 15 years before it would be ready to drink, but since it is one of my favorite wines and I never had the opportunity to drink one so young, I ordered a bottle. It had full aromas and flavors of red and black fruit and the roast lamb that I ordered for my main course softened the tannins. It was a great combination.

I always look forward to tasting Emidio Pepe wines but drinking them is always better!  Over the years I have been fortunate to drink the 1975, 1977,1979,1983,1985 and 1993 vintages of the Montepulciano and have tasted other vintages both in NYC and in Italy.  I have only had the 1995 Trebbiano.

Chiara and Grandfather Emidio Pepe

I met Emidio Pepe a number of times both in NYC and at Vinitaly, the wine fair in Verona, but could never get the answers to all of my questions about his wines until recently when Chiara De Julis invited me to taste the 1983 and 1984 vintages of the Montepulciano.  I know Chiara as   the public relations person for the winery, but I had not realized that she was Emidio Pepe’s granddaughter.  

Chiara began by telling me that her grandfather’s first bottled vintage was in 1964 and at that time he had only one hectare of vines. Today there are 12 hectares of vines near the Adriatic Sea that stretch out over the Teramo hills at the foot of the Gran Sasso Mountain.  The winery produces only two wines — the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and the Montpulciano d’Abruzzo.  Chiara said that they have just one clone for the white and one for the red.

In the early days, friends told Emidio that he was building castles in the sand but he replied that he was building wine castles. He had faith in the Montepulciano grape and as it turned out, he was right.

Chiara said they use both the tendonne method and the cordon spur method for training the vines. In vintages when the weather is very hot the tendonne 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.

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.

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.

In their vineyard only sulphur and copper water are used along with biodynamic preparations. Only natural yeast is used and Chiara said that this gives the wine more complexity because there are so many different strains of yeast on the grapes and in the air. The white grapes for the Trebbiano are crushed by feet and the red grapes for the Montepulciano by hand. 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.

In Italy the current vintage is 2009 but in the USA it is 2003.  Chiara told me that only older vintages are sent to the USA because the younger wines are not ready for the long trip. 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.

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. She said that they guarantee all of the bottles that have been decanted at the cellar for 20 years, no matter if the vintage is 2003 or 1983.

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

Chiara told me that 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  am glad it is for sale, it is a great wine make.

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

This is a family winery where everything is done by hand (and in one case feet) from the time the grapes are picked until the labels are placed on the bottles.  Now I understand why these wines age so well and why I enjoy them so much.

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Filed under Bio-Dynamic, Emidio Pepe, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Triple "A"