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October 2006


WINE & SPIRITS

Old-School Italian
By Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

ITALY'S EMIDIO PEPE WINERY USES OLD-FASHIONED METHODS FOR A NEW GENERATION OF WINES

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Emidio Pepe in Teramo, located in Italy's hilly province of Abruzzo, is the winemaking equivalent of a Civil War reenactor—purist to historical extremes. The Pepe family still stomps its grapes by foot and generally runs its winery much as it has since the 19th century. Fifth-generation daughters Sofia, Daniela and Stefania work alongside their father to keep intact traditions that were first laid out by the original Emidio Pepe a hundred years ago.

The great-grandson and current family patriarch, also named Emidio Pepe, has carved out a cult niche with his focus on ancient winemaking methods. Not a single piece of modern equipment is used in the process. Everything is done by hand (and foot). And great lengths are taken to insure the wine remains as "alive" as possible. There is no aging in oak, only in glass-lined vats. Oak barrels, Pepe believes, are too permeable, allowing air to disturb the natural aging process. Pepe is so fanatical that he refuses to drink wine that's been aged in wood and will only drink wine that he's produced.

The Pepe process goes something like this: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (red) and Trebbiano d'Abruzzo (white) grapes are organically grown, hand-harvested, hand-selected and finally de-stemmed. The grapes are then stomped not by nubile barefooted nymphs, but by burly men in thigh-high rubber boots. The crushed juice is fermented in the aforementioned glass-lined vats without any addition of yeast.

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