“I was raised in a winemaking family, where most of the time wine and life were one and the same, you simply couldn’t separate them. In a winemaking family, the grapes, the vines, the flavors, the questions, the laughs and the arguments all flow around you with the same energy. It all just revolves around wine. I sat many times around a table at lunch and heard incomprehensible things that I couldn’t wait to learn and be part of those discussions. So here I am, raised on a winery, having spent quite a long time with my grandfather working the wines and my aunt making the wine. Today I study oenology in Burgundy, counting the hours to be back in my vines and training them to the sky.”
What is the philosophy behind Emidio Pepe wines?
My grandfather started making wine when he was 30, he started from scratch. He had very precise ideas in mind though: he wanted to make wine in the most artisanal way possible, he always considered himself a farmer, not an oenologist or a winemaker because he always thought that the wine is made in the vineyards and the quality of it can be told on how good your vines look. He developed a very special sensibility towards those plants, by the way he manages the branches, the way he observes them you can quite immediately understand that there is something very special going on. His way of winemaking has always been the same, as we clearly haven’t changed a thing: we still crushes the white grapes, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, by feet and hand destem the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; everything ferments in concrete tanks, lined with glass (to be as neutral as possible so that the characteristics of the season and the grape varietals can be evident). A philosophy of accompanying the wines better than interfering or changing or adjusting has always been the major attitude towards our wines, we are only there to raise them and guide them trying to let their personality come out gently and precisely. Long bottle aging has always also been a big part of grandfather’s attitude towards his wines, that was his way of showing them respect and trust, he would believe in them so much that the long aging wouldn’t be a fear of disappointment but an occasion of reward and a chance to let them reach their level of complexity, which to him, was much more interesting and fascinating than drinking them young.
What do you love most about your region, Abruzzo?
The diversity. Definitely.
But the diversity in the deep sense of it: wide cultivations, respect of ancient seeds, the sea breezes and cold mountains winds, the old varieties of plants, and all this together with landscape features that shape our territory. Ruins, old villages left untouched and preserved in their out-of-time allure, wild beaches, old traditional festivals, and Christian rituals.
A lot of people would blame the ‘abruzzesi’ for not having been able to live with our times, not getting enough modernization to keep up. I think this is the best luck we have ever received, the unconscious ability of ‘preserving’.
I travel a lot and I am totally aware and (deeply and silently) proud of how in Abruzzo you can still find the ‘truth’ – in the flavors, in the smiles, the gestures. I mean, how rare is that nowadays?
I feel the ‘forti & gentili‘ really part of me and most of the Abruzzesi. The aptitude of working hard, enjoying the good meals, solid values and the appreciation of little things.
Name 3 of your favorite restaurants in the area?
La Nonna, every Italian’s top of the restaurant list has to be la nonna. Always… also because what if she would have known you said otherwise! I mean, I’m in love with grandma’s food, I crave it when I come back from long trips and also she spoils the guests at our Agriturismo, so… what could I ask more?
next, Niko Romito’s Casadonna Reale
and then, a great osteria in my village, woodfire oven and the best porchetta on the planet called Osteria dei Maltagliati
Your favorite weekend getaway?
Rocca Calascio, Santo Stefano di Sessanio and Campo Imperatore…for some long hikes and the best arrosticini at the Rifugio Mucciante.
Who’s your inspiration?
My grandfather, surely. For his perseverance, his forward-thinking, for being a dreamer and having realized all his dreams, one after the other.
What Italian object or characteristic can you not live without?
Pasta, oh lord, and pomodoro.
At Pepe we grow around 500 tomato plants and in summer, the month of August is consecrated for ‘fare la passata’, so think of 6 or 7 ladies in their 80’s, led by nonna, peeling and squeezing and bottling this super flavoured red juice, its quite a sight. And for Pasta and how deep our love, we grow wheat all around our vineyards and we stone mill it and then we make pasta with long drying times. Then add one thing to the other and understand why i can’t live without…
How would you describe Italy in one sentence?
The utmost mesmerising landscapes, the loudest people and the most traditional food and (i’m partial but…) the most authentic wines: all this mixed in a perfect chaos, add gestures, enlighten with warm sun and long hours, add savoir faire, elegance, laughs and maybe some bad words… and that’s about it, no?!