VOLUME 20
Featured in this issue

Ovid’s Abruzzo: Beauty is a Fragile Gift

In the aftermath of the incredible devastation brought about by the recent earthquake in Italy, we thought it a fitting tribute to focus our attention on the country’s fifth largest wine producing region, Abruzzo, whose capital is the medieval city of L’Aquila, the epicenter of the deadliest quake to hit Italy in 30 years. Our hearts go out to the many people who have been affected by this tragedy and who are now faced with the daunting task of rebuilding their cities and their lives.

Only 50 miles due east of Rome, Abruzzo borders the regions of Marche to the north, Lazio to the west, Molise to the south, and the Adriatic Sea to the east. It is either considered part of Central Italy or part of Southern Italy, depending on whether the bureaucrats are speaking, or the geographers.

Abruzzo is like a microcosm of the whole Italian landscape, with nearly 100 miles of coastline dotted with pine trees, cliffs, dunes and long stretches of beach, a huge mountain range, the Gran Sasso massif (with the highest peaks in the Apennine mountains), and verdant slices of vineyards and olive trees interspersed with some of Italy's best-preserved medieval and Renaissance hill towns. One third of the region is designated as national or regional parkland, including the Abruzzo National Park, one of Italy’s biggest, and the only place in the country where bears still roam.

Winegrowing in Abruzzo dates back to around the sixth century BC. As far back as the first century AD, local drinker, and sometime poet Ovid sang the praises of the area’s wines, going through his own kind of metamorphosis from sober to drunk and back again.

The principle production of wine comes from two grape varieties: For reds and rosés, Montepulciano (the grape, not the Tuscan town), and for whites, Trebbiano.

The most complex Montepulciano is from the Teramo Hills in the north, where the soils are a mix of clay and limestone. Elevations and micro-climates are higher and cooler due to the proximity of the Apennines and the vineyards get just the right mix of mountain and sea air for optimal wine growing. Abruzzo’s first DOCG wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane, around the hills of Teramo, was only recently designated in 2003. Montepulciano can make wines that are intensely colored and soft, with sweet tannins, low acidity, mouthfilling fruit and full bodied character. A certain funky and earthy flair is also typical. Approachable young, Montepulciano wines can age nicely, though usually without much change in character. Montepulciano grown in the mountainous inland tends to have less color and tannin and is often used for the very quaffable rosés, called Cerasuolo.

Trebbiano tends to suffer from averageness, due to overproduction and, sadly, the grape itself, but can pair well with fish when it’s young and fresh. A few exceptions to quality exist and are thought to be from another grape called Bombino, most notably by the alchemical producer Edoardo Valentini, who seems to defy every preconceived opinion of this lowly grape.

Other top Abruzzo producers are Masciarelli, Dino Illuminati, Villa Medoro, and Emilio Pepe.

Many of Italy’s noble varietals are successfully cultivated in the Abruzzo’s sunny hills. Sangiovese is second to Montepulciano and is very often blended. Moscato was popular for sweet wines in earlier centuries (et tu, Ovid?) but is no longer approved in the region. New plantings are currently underway with Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Riesling.

Fish stew is a coastal classic, but Abruzzo is known more for its hearty and rustic fare that originates in the rugged mountains, and is often strongly flavored and spicy. Meat dishes include lamb, mutton and pork. Pecorino cheese is made from ewe’s milk. The traditional “la panarda,” a meal consisting of some 30 plus courses, was an icon of Abruzzian cuisine – the kind of dinner party that might even have defeated Martha Stewart. Perhaps that was what Ovid was referring to when he wrote “Endure and persist; this pain will turn to good by and by.”

The Blend’s Monthly Featured Producer: EMIDIO PEPE

Four generations of Pepes have kept this winery going in the Teramo province of Abruzzo by making complex, even exotic, handcrafted wines that have achieved a certain cult status among drinkers looking for excellent quality and natural diversity from vintage to vintage. In fact, Emidio Pepe prides themselves as being the only winery to offer a range of their Montepulciano wines dating back to the 1960s, and each year expresses something unique. Founding Pepe Emidio’s grandson Emidio, and the younger Emidio’s daughters Daniela and Sofia, have moved things in an organic and biodynamic direction and in recent years have expanded the vineyards and elevated the production in the cellar.

The grapes for their Trebbiano whites are hand harvested and pressed by foot (remember feet?). The Montepulciano grapes that go into their extraordinary reds are sorted and de-stemmed by hand and then vinified in large cement vats where they rest on their lees for two years. Once bottled, the wines are patiently stacked in the wine cellar one on top of the other, where they can age for 20 or more years in the underground cellar.

Each bottle is carefully hand-decanted by Emidio’s wife Rosa who literally pours wine from one bottle into another, eliminating the sediments and preserving its personality and balance, and is finally hand-labeled before entering the market.

Adhering to a manifesto of natural vine growing and wine making, which includes such guidelines as farming their vineyards without using chemicals, respecting the vine and its natural cycles, using only natural yeast, and vinifying without manual intervention, Emidio Pepe is a winery whose beautiful wines seem to embody their philosophy, reflect their rural traditions, and capture our imagination all at once.

Winery website: http://www.emidiopepe.com

Recommended Wine:

wine label The Pepes say that one can breathe their passion for wine in the 37 acres (15 hectares) of their family vineyards. Certainly, one can breathe the wonderful aromas in their complex and subtle Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1998, released a full ten years after being vinified. Handmade from grape to glass, using biodynamic and organic methods, with no fining or filtration, this extraordinary wine reflects an attention to detail and respect for tradition that exemplifies what a local wine, that is a wine that comes from a specific place, ought to taste like. At a recent Slow Food/Gambero Rosso tasting in Los Angeles this was our “wine of the day.” Offering impressive depth, complexity and balance, we like to think of it as a true “grandma’s attic” wine, with hauntingly beautiful floral, cocoa and caramel flavors and smells that conjure a kind of nostalgia for somewhere secret and fragrant. The Italian Wine Guide awarded this Montepulciano “three glasses,” noting the “elegantly persuasive palate.” It’s an age worthy wine as well that should continue to show well for another twenty years. And while it may be hard to come by, one shouldn’t hesitate to look for other vintages.

Pairs with roast veal, lamb stew, sausages, minestrone soup, prosciutto, gnocci, vegetable curry, or Idiazabal cheese. About $100.00 USD.

Catalog this wine in The Personal Wine Curator cellar software like this:

  • Producer: Emidio Pepe
  • Wine Name/Appellation: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
  • Vintage: 1998
  • Varietal: Montepulciano
  • Type: Red
  • Vineyard/Sub-sub:
  • Sub-region: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
  • Region: Abruzzo
  • Country: Italy
  • Body: Medium
  • Distinction: Montepulciano
  • Drink after: 2008
  • Drink by: 2028

Did You Know that Buying a Bottle of Wine at a Restaurant is a Better Deal than Buying a Glass?

Relatively speaking, of course. The typical restaurant that offers wines by the glass has to guarantee a profit on every bottle purchased from their supplier. That means if they pour that bottle “by the glass” to their customers, they assume a certain risk that if they open it for one customer who only wants one glass, after a day or so if no one else buys a glass of that wine, they will have to use it for cooking or to offer to their indiscriminating staff at the next employee meal, or to simply pour it down the drain. That’s actual profits being poured down the drain. To avoid that unfortunate outcome, a restaurateur will charge enough money for one glass to make up his wholesale purchase price of the bottle. That roughly translates to a 300% markup on the wine, or inversely, a 75% profit margin. When selling wine by the bottle, no such risk is involved, and while the costs of storing the bottle, paying for the wine cellar cooling system, stem ware, wine lists, etc. add up, the restaurant can afford to sell that bottle for cheaper than it could if it was to sell it by the bottle. That means a smaller markup for the consumer – usually 1.5 to 3 times, depending on myriad factors, including the “swank” factor and the “greed” factor. So if you’re looking for a good deal on wine on your night out, go ahead, splurge. Buy it by the bottle.

PWC Tips and Tricks

One of our favorite new features of PWC v3 is, appropriately, the "Favorites" function... CLICK HERE.

Are You Taking Advantage of the PWC Community Forum?

Communicate with other users of The Personal Wine Curator on our recently set up Community Forum! With our online forum you can communicate with other people who use The Personal Wine Curator and let them know all the ways in which you use the many features of PWC, as well as get answers to questions you may have about various functions of the software. This new discussion site is also a great place to share your thoughts on all things wine. Build bonds with your fellow cork dorks and share your enthusiasm for PWC. View the forum and set up a free membership to post your own threads: http://www.websitetoolbox.com/mb/winecurators

Look for us on Facebook, too!

PWC Mobile: It’s Not Just for Mobile Devices!

You don’t have to own a Treo, iPhone or Blackberry to take advantage of some very useful features of PWC Mobile. With The Personal Wine Curator version 3.0, you can subscribe to PWC Mobile to backup your valuable wine data on our online server and retrieve it anytime you want with the click of a button. Learn more and subscribe: http://thewinecurators.com/mobileinfo.shtml

Accessories to the Wine (Software)

Our online store now offers Dymo LabelWriter printers and Metrologic Barcode Readers for use with The Personal Wine Curator v3.0. Dymo has been our recommended single feed label printer since we first developed PWC. In fact, we test every label printing function in PWC on Dymo label printers as well as use them for our own wine cellar inventory work.

Additionally, we find that the Metrologic Voyager Barcode Reader works great with the new barcode features of PWC v3.0 and has a high quality-to-price ratio. The Metrologic Voyager is a laser scanner, and consequently reads barcodes quite easily on curved surfaces, such as on wine bottles. Most inexpensive barcode scanners are CCD scanners, which can be unreliable for detecting barcodes on anything other than a clean flat label. Not so with laser scanners. And luckily, this one won’t put a big dent in your wine budget either!

PLUS: Cool corkscrews and wine savers by Pulltex. Check ‘em out: http://www.thewinecurators.com/products_accessories.shtml

PWC Gift Certificates

The Personal Wine Curator can be purchased as a gift certificate and printed immediately right from your computer. Giving somebody the software as a gift has never been easier. It’s just the thing for last minute gifts. Once the recipient gets the certificate, all he or she has to do is go to our website, type in the certificate number and download the software! It’s that simple. No shipping costs or time constraints. Buy gift certificates HERE.

Do You Have Your Own Website? How About a Link?

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Heading: The Personal Wine Curator

URL: http://thewinecurators.com/PWCmain.shtml

Description: User friendly, versatile and comprehensive wine cellar software. Wine cataloguing. Wine and food pairing. For PC and Mac.

The Personal Wine Curator Wine Cellar Software