Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2006
All serious lovers of Italian wine know Emidio Pepe. His wines are legendary because they achieved greatness without fanfare, but rather through the dedication Pepe showed to his craft since 1964. Nothing has changed at this winery since then, with winemaking always being by hand: hand picking, hand de-stemming, foot-trodding for crushing, and spontaneous fermentation in concrete. That’s it. There were no influences on Pepe from abroad, no consultants, just adherence to an approach he developed out of the traditional wine-making practices he learned from his grandfather, supplemented with a deep commitment to healthfulness in the vineyard. Biodynamic farming has always been in play here, and the vineyards have always been alive with life.
Importantly, the wines here are also aged before release, with about 50% of each vintage set aside for a later release. Emidio Pepe believes that Montepulciano and Trebbiano only express their true essence with bottle age. He likens drinking a young Montepulciano to having a conversation with a kid (i.e. uninteresting), drinking a Montepulciano with some years on it to speaking with an adult, and drinking a Montepulciano with 30 years of age like listen to an old person’s life story. It’s a simple but elegant expression of his understanding of wine.
Pepe’s estate in Montepulciano sits about 10km away from the see and 60km away from the peak of the Appennines. Given the increase from 0m above sea level to 2000m above sea level within 80km, unique micro-climatic conditions exist here. The sea breezes rising from the ocean and cold air descending from the mountain make for a windy area that keeps disease pressure low and supports the biodynamic and no intevention approach Pepe employs.
By Pepe’s standards the 2006 vintage is quite young. Nonetheless, it was highly expressive and elegant; surely one of the greatest wines from Abruzzo and one of the most exciting in Italy. Leather, cherries, herbs, and a touch of incense. Texturally very supple. Bright acidity, but not aggressive. A window into a timeless philosophy.
~$160 at private stores