Celebrating 50 years of Emidio Pepe

One of the highlights of this year’s Vinitaly — the annual Italian wine trade fair held in Verona in April — was a seminar and tasting celebrating 50 years of the Emidio Pepe winery in Abruzzo.

Legendary winemaker Emidio Pepe (above) was there of course, as were his daughters and one of his granddaughters.

And the standing-room-only event was attended by the best and brightest of Italian and English-language wine writers.

There was only limited seating for “official” guests, who got to taste a flight of Emidio Pepe’s wines back to the 1960s.

But that didn’t stop a crowd — three and four-persons thick — from gathering around the small tasting area that had been cordoned off especially for the event in the Vini d’Abruzzo pavilion of the fair.

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Emidio Pepe rarely speaks in public and it was a thrill for the attendees to get a chance to hear him talk.

He and his daughters talked about the fact that Emidio Pepe began making wines without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or cultured yeasts long before “natural wine” became a fashionable expression.

He also talked at length about his conviction that pergola-trained vines are ideal for the cultivation of long-lived Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

“‘Tendone’ training,” he said, using the Abruzzese term for pergola, “acts as a sort of solar panel.”

It gives the plant the sunlight it needs, he explained. But the canopy helps to shade the fruit and thus helps to protect the grape berries from over-ripening during the warm Abruzzese summer.

Emidio Pepe’s wines are renowned for their extraordinary longevity.

Even the 1967 tasted that day was bright and fresh, a vibrant wine that elicited ooos and aaas from the guests who were lucky enough to get to taste the flight.

But the most remarkable thing was the continuity in the vintages, which stretched form 2003 back to the 1967 harvest.

Vitis is the proud importer of Emidio Pepe in California. The label is one of Italy’s most iconic and the wines are among the best produced in Italy today.

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