The Pepe family has been making wine in Abruzzo since 1899. Emidio Pepe took over the winery in 1964 and has been promoting Montepulciano d’Abruzzzo ever since. His wines are made near the city of Teramo in a place called Torano Nuovo, very close to the border of the Marche region and not too distant from the shores of the Adriatic sea. The soils in that area are full of minerals and some lime which produces wines that have lively acidity and mineral notes. Acidity is crucial for the longevity of a wine and many of Pepe’s wines can age for years despite the fact that the wines are made organically and have been for decades. Organic wine making doesn’t allow the use of pesticides or substances that serve to conserve the wine and therefore it is somewhat rare to see older vintages.
The white grapes are actually still pressed by hand while the red grapes are de-stemmed by hand, a long and laborious process. No cultured yeast or sulfites are added to the wines and no filtration is used before bottling. Rosa Pepe, the family matriach, decants and rebottles every single bottle in their cellars to take out the deposits which have formed naturally during the aging process. The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo spends two years in cement tanks before being bottled. Emidio Pepe has three daughters and at least two grand daughters so it is safe to say that women will be very important in the Pepe winery for generations to come. One of his daughters, Sofia Pepe, is an enologist with her own winery.
I had the pleasure of tasting numerous wines from the Pepe family’s cellar on two occasions during Vinitaly. I passed by the stand late in the day on the penultimate day of the fair and some older vintages were open. I tried the 1977 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which was still filled with spice and fruit aromas despite it’s 32 years. The 1982 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was interesting and thanks to its acidity, it was still somewhat refreshing and fruity. The1983 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo still had a deep ruby color with the same fruit, pepper and spice notes that I had tasted in the younger wines. The 1985 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was very similar to the 1983 but I preferred the 1983.
While it was fun to try these very old vintages, I like this wine a bit fresher and fruitier. I also tried the 2001, 2003 and 2005 vintages. The 2001 and 2000 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, this last is one of Emidio Pepe’s personal favorites according to his granddaughter, were delicious with beautiful red cherry fruit, liquorice and spice. These two were definitely my favorites.
Chatting with his daughter about her experiences as a woman in the wine business in Abruzzo she said that many more women are now working in the industry, be it in the fields during the harvest, in the offices doing administrative tasks, leading wine tastings for clients, sales and marketing abroad and a host of other duties. “My father brought us on trips to Europe when we were 15 and 16 once a year to show us the business,” she said, “he is just amazing and has taken at least 80 trips to the United States and managed very well despite not perfect English.” The family has 15 hectares of vines from which they produce 60,000 bottles of white and red wines made from indigenous grapes – Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes as well as an organic farm guesthouse and a wine and oil museum. Extremely lovely and welcoming, the Pepe family’s philosophy of nature leading the way was very appealing. I hope to visit them at the winery soon., perhaps this summer. The wines are imported by Polaner Selections.