2003 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

I had never heard of Emidio Pepe when I bought this bottle of wine. I was talking to a shop owner, asking questions and looking for something "interesting" and he pulled out this bottle.

I was confused. Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from 2003? My general rule was to drink Montepulciano nice and young, usually within 2 or 3 years. This wine had more than a decade on it.

He assured me it was special, and yet didn't seem eager to sell the bottle as much as show it off. He made a comment about it being the type of wine he buys for himself and if customers don't buy it, he happily will drink it.

By this point, I was intrigued. I looked up Emidio Pepe and found the producer had a cult following for creating very complex and age-worthy wines, both red and white, in the Abruzzi Region.

I took a gamble, bought this wine as well as a 2009 Emidio Pepe Trebbiano (which I haven't tried yet) and went about my business.

This Montepulciano was a game changer for me.

I drank this bottle over a period of several hours, watching it transform, slowly, from mushroomy, earthy, barnyard funk, to bright red fruit, cherries, cranberries, flowers, olives, spice, minerality, constantly evolving from sip to sip. It was amazingly fresh for its age, with medium body, integrated tannins and a silky, long finish. What really blew my mind though, was that in all this complexity, there was such focus and balance. While I discovered something new with every sniff or sip, the wine always seemed so perfectly harmonious, each element in perfect proportion to the whole. It's powerful and elegant, funky and fruity, old and young, all in the same wine. If I had had the willpower, I would've loved to see how it would have transformed in day 2, but I never got there. My husband and I fought over the last pour, sharing it, sip by sip and savoring the most "interesting" wine I've had, perhaps, ever.

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