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Visit to Emile Pepe Winery, Abruzzo

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Chiara Pepe and her grandfather Emile Pepe

Extremely exciting visit to this family-run winery, which ‘officially’ had its debut in 1964, when Emile Pepe (son of a longtime winemaking family, who primarily grew grapes) went off on his own and began to bottle wine.

Yet bottling wine also implies one has to sell the wine, so very early on Emile made great success in the American market, and to this day America and Japan are top markets for them.

Of course, wine is just a beverage … Emile had a vision early on, with quality of top importance. Beyond that, the family has always tried to make wine as naturally as possible.

Perhaps the most unique takeaway from this visit is that the family uses the very old, traditional style to vinify white wine. By that I mean they actually crush the grapes by foot,  Four people stand in the wooden platform you see below (there is an opening so the juice can run out).

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They do not do this with bare feet – instead, they use special boots. The reason for this is because Emile Pepe feels that the weight of a human being is the correct way to crush the grapes, and that boots provide more even distribution than bare feet.

Now the red wine vinification is different – two people face each other on a table with high walls, and a screen between the bottom of the table and the top.  Red grapes are piled up and the two people roll the grapes back and forth, with the screen keeping the skins back.

The cellar now holds 33 vintages in various types of wood. You will also see some very old bottles. The family prides itself on guaranteeing each bottle for 20 years, and to make sure they keep the promise, they re-cork the older vintages before bringing them on the market, careful to put the new year (in addition to the original year) on the new cork.

The family does not belive in filtration.  “When you filter a wine, you kill it,” Pepe is known to say. The reality that wine is alive is a constant theme here.  Chiara explained that her grandfather feels that deposits belong in a wine, as the wine is free to “decide” if and what itwants to deposit.  Mr. Pepe also feels that wine ages better without filtration – a statement a few other winemakers have said on the visits.

Leading the tour was attractive blonde Chiara De Julius, the granddaughter of Mr. Pepe, who seems to share his various beliefs and enthusiasm.

We taste many of the vintage wines, including an interesting comparison between the 2009 and 2002 Tribbiano, both aged in oak and curiously both from rather rainy vintages. Surprised they shared such remarkable flavors despite the eight years between them.

The wines during the tasting are all very elegant and restrained, and the whites are particularly impressive.

Chiara is the oldest of all the grandchildren with the youngest just starting elementary school. She speaks English fluently and is becoming increasingly active in the international market. The family is very close and have Sunday lunch together each week.

A really interesting to a very forward looking family who uses hand crafted, old world ways of making very delicious long lived wine.

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  1. This winery sounds really amazing, hope I can get a visit down there:)

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