In my quest to examine Slow Wines at Vino 2015 or wines that are known as Biodynamic, I came across an interesting winery that is in the province of Abruzzo, an unknown gem of Italy near to where some of my ancestors lived. Following the typical Slow Wine categorization, Biodynamic wines may not have an organic certification, but they follow the principles of adhering to rigorous agricultural standards. These wines are grown with no pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, and one can be assured that the only genetic modification was done over a period of time, similar to the practices of the Monk Gregor Mendel who adored nature, and not of the skewed, unexamined GMO results of anti-farmer Monsanto which adores profits.
A friend who knows my interests recommended that I try the wines of the Stefania Pepe winery. It was the last day of the walk around tasting. And in between master classes on the wines of Calabria and Puglia and stopping to visit tables at the Slow Wine presentation in the Empire room off the Waldorf lobby, I returned to the Grand Ballroom to check out this winery’s offerings during the remaining half hour of the Grand Tasting. There I met the charming and accomplished proprietor, Stefania Pepe, herself who is an ambassador of Abruzzo and of great Italian wines. Stefania speaks English, Italian, and French fluently and was gracious in hosting a mini tasting of her biodynamic wines which receive no intervention in the bottle and whose picking and processing of the grapes is largely done by hand.
Stefania’s Azienda Agricola Biologica Viniticola (vineyard and biodynamic farm), has a long history of ancestral winemaking. In her own words, Stefania describes on her site how in 1899, Emidio Pepe was renowned in the region as an excellent winemaker. Giuseppe a family member carried on the tradition through WWII and Italy’s starving time in the 1950s. The tradition continued because making wine was a passion and making good wine to enjoy with great cuisine was the lifestyle. In 1964, Emidio Pepe, the son, became the first wine grower in the area to take a risk on the Montepulciano d‘Abruzzo grape and began bottling his “so-called ‘black gold’”. In 1997 the daughters became involved and though they updated the the company’s winemaking techniques, they remained mindful of the family’s traditions by keeping biological dynamic farming methods.
As the passion was translated through the generations, by 2003 Stefania had developed and created her first three-level biodynamic vineyard and winery, “The Azienda Agricola Biologica Vitivinicola-Stefania Pepe.” The winery is built at a specific depth underground to promote the gravity flow of the wine at each stage of its development. The juice flows downward into different fermenters made of wood to obtain a biodynamic wine, cement for a conventional organic style and stainless steel for a modern organic wine. The wines are not tweaked. The labor is natural, destalking by hand and treading by foot; the fermentation is natural without adding yeast or sulphur dioxide; the hand bottling is of the unfiltered wine by gravity flow. Finally, the aging cellars store the bottles for up to 5, 10 and 20 years.
The winery is artisinal and what I truly appreciate is that women are at the helm and Stefania Pepe is traveling and representing her winery as she looks to increase her distribution. The winery has about 8 hectares and produces 30,000 bottles a year. The labels are interesting and take after the name Pepe, translated “pepper” in English. So wines are Pepe Nero ( Cuore di Vino (Heart of Wine), and Contro LaGuerra (Against the War). (It is possible this wine was inspired by an essayist/journalist, Tiziano Terzani, who compiled his articles into a book, Letters Against the War). Stefania Pepe did tell me that the branding of the wine represented being “against war.” The grape vines for the reds and whites are .
Stefania Pepe wines retain the history and passion of their former and present vintners in their delicious and interesting taste. I enjoyed the reds and was happy to understand how the wine is made without sulfates, which I have found I can be allergic to. I tried the Pepe Nero, which is 100% from the Montepulciano grape, the specification is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG. Pepe Nero is a deep purplish red that is clear and bright with an intense, complex, and fruity nose. The perfume has hints of red fruit, plums, cherries, and almonds with black pepper. The taste is fresh and young with acidity and the body is full, soft, persistent with strong tannins. It is fine to drink with savory red meats, game, and strong cheeses.
The second red I tried was Contro LaGuerra from 100% Montepulciano grapes, the specification is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC. The wine has deep ruby red color. The nose is very pleasant but intense. It is full of flowers and ripe red fruit. I enjoyed its full-bodied taste that is warm and inviting and has a sustained but soothing finish. I can really see this wine going well with pastas, spicy sauced dishes, meats, and game. It would also be great with a beautiful sharper cheese like Grana Padano or other hard, savory cheese.
The winery produces reds, whites, grappa, and rose and you are able to buy olive oil there. Additionally, there are workshops in winemaking and agricultural biodynamic farming techniques and of course tastings and tours of the winery and the vineyards. If you are touring Italy and end up in the beautifully diverse province of Abruzzo with its mountains and beaches on a fairly long coastline off the Adriatic, you will be able to locate this winery in Torano Nuovo, TE. However, if you are not going to Italy any time soon, even though the Euro to the dollar is reasonable at this writing, Stefania Pepe’s wines are found globally (France, U.K., Canada, Switzerland, Belgium etc.). The winery was represented most recently at Vinitaly in Verona. However, Stefania Pepe wines can be ordered online at related websites. Or you may SKYPE her telephone or email her. All the information is on the Stefania Pepe website or on their Facebook page.