Today is Day 5 of our 12 Days of Wine Celebration! This year, we are focusing on Discovering Wines for the Future. These are wineries and vineyards that are doing the work, in their own way, to be sure we have a long, healthy future on our planet in which to enjoy wine!
These vineyards are farming the soil, creating healthy environments with biodynamic and regenerative methods. This generates biodiversity, sequesters carbon, and, in turn, makes delicious wine.
Many of these vineyards and wineries will be on the West Coast of the US, but we’ve included a few from Italy and one from Argentina. There are many more out there, and we encourage you to seek them out! But we will get you started with a few of our favorites!
Grab a glass and celebrate with us!
(Scroll to the bottom for our video!)
Emidio Pepe & Chiara de Iulis Pepe
Emidio Pepe, the namesake of the winery, was born in 1932. He worked alongside his father and grandfather in the vineyard. While his family vineyard was established in 1889, most of the high-quality fruit of Casa Pepe was sold to a Co-op. It was not until 1964, convinced of the high quality of their fruit, that he bottled his first vintage.
He was also convinced that the wines of Abruzzo would age. Not just the rich red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, but the Trebbiano white wine. As he got older, his daughters Sofia and Daniela took over working the winery, and now his granddaughter Chiara is making the wine, with her sister Elisa helping.
Northern Teramo, Abruzzo, Italy
On Italy’s Adriatic Coast, about mid-calf on the boot, you find Abruzzo. The northern coastal part of Abruzzo is the sub-region of Teramo. You’ll find Emidio Pepe not far from the town of Torano Nuovo, just south of the border to Marche.
From the winery, you look out over the vineyards to rolling hills that end with the snow-capped peaks of Monti della Laga and Gran Sasso, the southernmost Glacier in Europe.
Why are the Emido Pepe wines, wines for the future?
In 2005, Sofia Pepe realized that much of the biodynamic farming techniques she was hearing about, were things they were already doing in the vineyards and fields. Working with the phases of the moon, and not using chemicals, were just natural to them.
Chiara remembers French Winemaker Nicolas Joly, a proponent of biodynamics, being around often as she was growing up. This idea of the farm as a biodiverse organism, teaming with local flora and fauna, diverse foods, indigenous yeast…it all adds up to a place that can sustain itself, and the people on it.
How? How are they making the future better?
Biodynamics is just the start. On the farm, they grow grains for flour and pasta, chickpeas, and olives that they sell. They also have gardens. When we visited, almost everything at dinner came from their property.
Elisa spoke about her grandfather farming the 8 hectares at the winery, Casa Pepe. Since then they have added vineyards and now have 17 hectares, which she says is already too much. Of course that is just the land under vine.
In total they have 34 hectares. Here in Abruzzo people still can afford to own a plot. The hillsides are dotted, not just with vineyards, but with olive trees, fields of grain, gardens and natural lands.
For them, the idea is to have all of their plots of vines surrounded by more of their property. In this way they can hold to their ideas of agriculture. There are not neighbors near-by spraying with chemicals that might drift into their vineyards. But even more importantly, they create biodiversity.
When her grandfather was working with his grandfather, they were very poor. They grew the vines on the Pergola Abruzzese, which keeps the vines high and creates an area below that is perfect for planting. For growers at this time, this maximize the crops they could grow on one plot.
They are looking to do hand work here to create artisinal wines. The vines are hand-harvested then they destem them by hand with a wooden vat topped with a mesh. Two people push the bunches back and forth and the grapes drop through leaving the stems.
The white wines are foot-stomped by the family. The wines ferment and age in concrete.
The wines of Emidio Pepe are not easy to get your hands on. They make a limited quantity of wine, and each year, half of each vintage is held back in the cellar as library wines. Each year, they taste through all of the library vintages to see which are ready to release, and small allocations are made available. The historic stroll through this cellar with stacks of bottles labeled by year going back to 1964, puts these wines into perspective.
Montepulciano is a variety that is prone to sediment and dropping color as it ages. To make sure that these wines are of the highest quality when they are released if the vintage is over 20 years old, they decant it carefully, by hand, into a new bottle, assuring that sediment is kept out. It is topped off with a sacrificial bottle from the same vintage and resealed with an additional label indicating the date of decanting.
Listening to Elisa describe this painstaking process, you see the extreme care that they put into each and every bottle.
At the winery over dinner, I was able to taste 5 of their wines, beginning with Trebbiano from 2007 & 2020, allowing us to see how beautifully this wine can age. Then, the 2021 Pecorino and finishing 2003 and 2009 Montepulciano d’Abruzzos side by side.
These wines highlighted different seasons, with 2009 being rainy and cool while 2003 was warmer. Side by side, The wines were paired with a zucchini and poultry soup, blistered beans in a fresh tomato sauce, broad beans with Pecorino and prosciutto in pasta, and chicken from the farm with mashed potatoes and Swiss chard.
We finished this extraordinary meal with chocolate crumble with fresh whipped cream and fresh peaches and honey from the farm.
The following day, I had their 2022 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo at a seminar on Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo led by Filippo Bartolotta.
For more information on their wines, visit the Emido Pepe Website
We include their Cerasuolo in our article Under the radar Italian rose to indulge in before summers end
Watch for a future article on this amazing iconic winery.
Many of our “Wines for the Future” will be featured in our documentary “Can Wine Save the Planet?” along with the additional videos and posts that we will share on biodynamic and regenerative vintners worldwide!
I look forward to speaking to Chiara again more in-depth about the biodynamic methods used on their property!
You can follow the project at CanWineSavethePlanet.com, where we will have plenty of extras with in-depth interviews and educational videos on these farming methods. You can only fit so much in a documentary; there is so much to tell! We don’t want you to miss anything! Head over there and follow us for great content as we are filming!
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
Check out our book series, “Tempting Spoonfuls” available through Amazon!
Inspired by the flavors and aromas in wines, these books create “tempting spoonfuls” of flavors to pair with wines.
“Tempting Spoonfuls – Pairing single bites with glorious wines” – Our first book paired wines from boutique wineries on the west coast, in California, Oregon, and Washington, with delicious spoonfuls.
This book is 60 pages, 18 recipes, lots of beautiful photos, and insights into some fantastic small wineries!
“Tempting Spoonfuls – small bites paired with wines from around the Globe” – This book takes us around the globe to explore 12 wine regions, a wine from the region, and then gives you a recipe for a pairing!
A slightly larger book at 104 pages, this time you learn about pairing with a type of wine from a region. Rather than a specific bottle, you can look for a style of wine from a region and feel confident that it will go well with the recipe pairing we provide. We give you 12 recipes, each to pair with a wine.
The goal is to make your mouth water and encourage you to create your own “Tempting Spoonfuls.”