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A Great Grechetto

He is a fortunate man upon whom destiny choses to smile. However, the man who understands and cherishes his good fortune, he is truly blessed. Such a man is Filippo Peppucci. He produces his wine in the timeless landscapes around the mediaeval town of Todi in Umbria in central Italy. In other parts of the peninsula, like southern Tuscany and the Po valley, man has come to dominate the topography subjugating nature to the needs of modern agriculture. Not so here where the balance between man and his environment has remained harmonious over the millenia.

Just down the hill from the winery building lies the restored 1000-year-old Bendictine monastery that first attracted Filippo’s parents to the area. It is not a great imposing building but rather one that sits comfortably in its surroundings. It was once the modest home of a small group of monks following St. Benedict's rule of eight hours of work, eight of prayer and eight of sleep. The monks had long gone and it had been completely abandoned for more than 30 years when, towards the end of the 1980s, his parents fell in love with it and so commenced long years of careful restoration. With the passing of time the project grew so that in 2000 they purchased the surrounding 45 hectares of land. But there was no urge to exploit the land but rather to enjoy it. However, looking at the sun shining on the south-west-facing slopes, it was only a matter of time before the idea of planting vines took root. Thus was born Cantina Peppucci and with the addition of a new winery in 2010 the enterprise could flourish.


Today, the vineyards extend to 12.5 hectares of grapes from which they produce around 60,000 bottles of wine per year. The land is mainly planted to native varieties of Grechetto di Todi, Sagrantino, and Sangiovese together with small quantities of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot that are used for blending purposes.


It was in the tasting room overlooking the vineyards and the monastery that Filippo and I sat down while he explained his wines and expounded the philosophy behind them. On the wall behind him were the awards his wines have won and you will find the cantina in prestigious guides such as the Gambero Rosso and Slow Wine. But ultimately, for Filippo, a wine is a personal thing; just because a famous sommelier recommends it does not mean it has to be to your taste. His concern is making his wines just the best they can be - others can then pass their opinion. As long as he knows he has done the best he can, he is content. Each year produces different difficulties, and whilst much can be managed in the winery, outside in the vineyard the vicissitudes of the climate cannot be controlled, but Filippo accepts these challenges willingly.


He produces two Todi DOC wines that he calls his benchmarks, the first being a red called Petroro 4. The blend for this wine starts with the central Italian staple, Sangiovese, at around 65%. The balancing components are Merlot at around 25% and the rest is the famously tannin-rich Sagrantino, although with care and management these fearsome tannins can be caged. Fermentation and ageing is all in steel for Filippo is aiming for a wine that can be enjoyed every day with pasta for lunch or red meat in the evening but even this he leaves to mature for six to eight months before releasing it.


The second of these two wines is called Montorsolo after the surrounding countryside and is white, having been made from 100% Grechetto di Todi. This is a grape variety that in the past was neglected due to its relatively low yield and was used mainly for blending but with the surge of interest in native varieties winemakers are now experimenting with its potential. Filippo has spent years developing his own techniques for extracting the best from this grape and after cold pressing in an oxygen-free press the must is fermented in stainless steel, initially at a very cool seven degrees. After fermentation, the lees are stored in a separate oak barrique before being reunited with the wine where it matures for four to five months with a batonnage three times per week. Bottling is normally in April.


Filippo produces another DOC wine from the cantina’s Grechetto grapes and this is called I Rovi after the brambles that are in all the local hedgerows. The attention to detail that is lavished over every stage of wine production in this small family-run business means that they have been able to identify a parcel of land in the vineyard where the grapes have a particularly high acidity and it is these alone that are used for this wine. 25% of the wine finishes its fermentation in 225-litre barriques before all the wine rests on the lees with regular batonnage until the moment, some time between June and October, when it is adjudged to be ready for bottling. It then remains in the bottle for a year before release.

I sampled the 2018 and it had a beautiful rich straw colour with hints of green. As you would expect with Grechetto, the bouquet is delicate and on the nose there are hints of pineapple amongst the white flowers of the meadow. On the palate the acidity is good and it is clean and fresh. Lemon predominates but with fascinating undertones of honey and the finish is long with almond notes. The strong flavour of this wine means that it will balance well with roast pork or chicken. It is also a wine that will age well, Filippo thinks that the 2018 will be at its best for at least another five years.

I left Cantina Peppucci, if I am honest, a little jealous, not of the success that has been achieved by copious amounts of hard work and dedication, but of the sense of inner peace that Filippo exudes. He is a man who understands his good fortune to be in the right place at the right time.

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