Monday, April 12, 2010

The Great House of Emidio Pepe

Say you were offered a vertical tasting of a wine house of your choice. Where would your imagination range first? Bordeaux? Burgundy? Barolo?

What about Montepulciano d'Abruzzo? Not exactly what you think of first when you think of age-worthy wine, is it? Well, I changed my mind on that count recently when I had the opportunity to try multiple vintages of the wines of Emilio Pepe. Pepe took over this estate in 1964, and, since then, his grapes have been biodynamically grown, hand-harvested, hand-destemmed, naturally fermented and aged 18 to 24 months in glass-lined tanks. No yeasts or sulfites are added during fermentation. They are not fined or filtered before bottling. Before the wine is commercially released, it is decanted into new bottles.

At a recent tasting, vintages from 2003 '02, '00, 1985, and 1983 were on hand. The Italian man in the sharp suit who poured was imperious and said nothing. I doubt he felt he had to. The wine spoke for itself.

The 2003 was great enough. Plum and cherry, dusty and deep, wonderful texture. I needed no more convincing. But it only got better from there. The 2001 was as good as the 2003, even if the finish was shorter. The 2000 was softer, more elegant and more redolent of the dusty terroir. The 1985 still retained great fruit flavors. It was more tannic and the structure was peerless. And then came the 1983. It had a heady perfume and was the color of magenta. Sediment could be seen mingling in the glass. It tasted of sour cherry, currents and soil. It was elegant and amazing. Next chance I get, I'm buying some Pepe and laying it down. The reward will be great.

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