Peppa to the (Wine) Rescue!

February 19, 2016 / Food & Wine
Umbria, Italia

– Stories such as this are the heart and fun of Anne’s U.S. Cooking and Lecture Tour “Feast of Umbrian Rural Cuisine” home events this February and March! Not to be missed! And meet Peppa, taste her wine: join Anne’s “Inside” Umbria tour (for just 12) in May!


Until this past fall, the only time we’d turned our own grapes into wine was in 1975, our first year on the land in Umbria. The land and farmhouse had been abandoned ten years prior, detrimental to the vineyard. Phylloxera had invaded. As we picked our meagre yield with farm friends, Peppe and Mandina, they’d reminisced on the past beauty of the vineyard, its grape abundance under the able hands of “povero Giannetto” (in Umbria, “poor” – povero – precedes the name of a deceased), the farmer who had owned our house, worked the land.

house-old

Giannetto had died years prior; his wife and children had moved off the land. For about $25 per month (25, 000 lire – the right price!), we’d rented their crumbling farmhouse and the land in September, 1975, close to vendemmia (“grape harvest”) time. Our nearest neighbors, Peppe and Mandina, soon became our mentors and dear friends, teaching us everything about the land – and not only.

peppe-mandina

Since our dirt road was nearly impassable, on vendemmia morning, they rumbled up to our farmhouse on the wooden cart Peppe had made, pulled by their team of oxen, huge bigonze (wooden grape barrels) clattering in the back. We all picked our grapes and the pressing was done by Peppe in his wine cellar: a meagre yield, a demijohn full. But what a wine: Peppe had beamed, “buonissimo!” as he sipped the first taste.

PastedGraphic-1
PastedGraphic-2
PastedGraphic-4

This year, we joined with Peppa in wine-making – but the first sip did not enthuse. We’d planted a vineyard up on the hill just a few years ago and we have grapes from Giannetto’s vines twisting around the maple trees – called “la madre dell’uva” (“mother of the grapes”) as they guide the vines – in front of our house.

madre-uva

In late September, Pino took all the grapes (five crates, maybe 100 kilos?) to Peppa’s to unite with hers for a “joint venture” vino. She and her three sons had pressed their grapes and ours, transferring the juice to huge casks. Peppa, of course, headed into her wine cellar daily to taste test the wine-on-the-way.

Grapes picked by Pino, sept, 2015..for wine with Peppa

A week or two after pressing, a frantic Peppa called us, asking for the copper kettles and sieve hanging on our kitchen wall: all the wine (about 400 liters) had to be immediately transferred to new barrels, passing it through copper. The only way to save it, a “wine expert” (her nephew) had told her, warning that the wine ha preso di spunto (“was going sour”). Pino had had the same suspicion a few days earlier, puckering at a vinegar hint as he sipped. “Ma no!” exclaimed Peppa, negating.

Down came a couple of the copper pots and the battered sieve, a few of the pieces I’d bought at an old junk shop on Corfu the summer of 1974. I remember emptying my backpack of my clothes, stuffing in the copper and heading to the ferry back to Italy (I was teaching in Rome that year). And now the copper would be used once again (perhaps as an old Greek farmwoman had once used it?).

Copper pots on the wall
COPPER IN THE KITCHEN OVER MARBLE COUNTER

A few days after filtering all the wine through my battered Greek copper sieve, I asked Peppa about the wine progress. She sternly asked me, “why did you take the copper away? You know I would have taken care of it.”

copper-in-wine

Who knew she’d need it again? But she did: her nephew had recommended a second try at pouring the wine through copper. She and her sons once again used my old Greek copper in a final attempt to save this year’s harvest.

Passing the wine through copper sieves

It doesn’t taste as vinegary any longer: they added sugar, much to our chagrin. Peppa denies it. But this year’s vino with an acidic bite is now nearly a dessert wine. The Greek copper didn’t save the wine. Peppa and sons opted for their own remedy.

peppa-and-the-boys
COPPER THE TRICKE-

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

37 Responses to “Peppa to the (Wine) Rescue!”

  1. Valerie R.

    What a great story Anne. I always love to hear your stories of your farm friends and the early years on your farm. Keep them coming!!

    Reply
  2. Gian Banchero

    Ahh, the Italia I know most and love most! Wine from your own land, the only way to go: No chemicals, not blended and homogenized with others’ vineyards, in effect the vintners’ child.

    Reply
  3. This is one of my favorites, Anne, both the story and the photos. I love stories of your and Pino’s early years and your long-standing and affectionate relationship with Peppa and her family. And, the photos make me really homesick for Assisi!

    Reply
  4. Jack Litewka

    What a great and crazy story. Makes me appreciate more the wine that comes out of the bottles I buy.

    Reply
  5. Anne Wright

    Wonderful tale of wine making, and beautiful old photos, too. Enjoyed this.

    Reply
  6. Rhonda Walker

    Love the story! Just makes me look forward so much more to meeting you and spending time in Umbria!!

    Reply
  7. Anne, that is such a great article, showcasing the history of your beautiful home! What a treat is was to visit your home couple times– such a gift in the hills of Umbria. Greetings to Peppa and Pino!!

    Reply
  8. WHAT a wonderful story! As Americans,it was like something from a history book or a great Italian novel…..only I know differently. Because I’ve stood in that kitchen of yours where those copper pots hang and tasted sweet peppas wine in person! Your pics from the first wine press are so precious and your words made my heart so warm!

    Reply
  9. Jenny Hannan

    Well, well, this does bring back both distant and recent memories: being with you and Pino at the original house, and being at Peppa’s with the whole ordeal of transferring the wine using your copper pots. What a life, eh, Annie!

    Reply
  10. Marianna Raccuglia

    Another wonderful anecdote and photos. So nice of you to share the trevails that you and Pino faced as a young couple and the neighbors who were so willing to take you under their wing. Wait in g for your book!? Marianna

    Reply
  11. karen kotoske

    I love your historic photos, Annie. It was wonderful the way you brought up up to today. I remember when Tom and I were in Peppa’s wine cellar (I think it’s the same room with Pino and Peppa.) We look back with enormous joy at our afternoon spent at their farm. Thanks so much for posting this fascinating piece of Umbrian farm history.

    Reply
  12. Annie, I just loved this! I think fondly and warmly about our visit to your great farmhouse and having dinner with peppa and her family…I just loved it and I look forward to our next Umbrian meal and celebration together !! Anellina

    Reply
  13. We are looking forward to coming back to your lovely farmhouse and celebrating with you again with peppa and her family !!

    Reply
  14. Stephanie W

    Oh, Anne, this gave me quite a chuckle! I could just picture Peppa in a flurry attempting to save your precious wine! I loved her from the momemt I met her. You have been blessed with the friendships of some truly wonderful rural Italians. I hope some day you will write a memoir of your life in Umbria. Thanks for sharing another beautiful memory.

    Reply
  15. What a wonderful 40 year friendship! Fortunata lei. Loved the story and agree with your friends who want you to compile these stories into a book. They are terrific! Look forward to seeing your farmhouse this fall.

    Reply
  16. What wonderful pictures and memories you shared. Can’t wait to visit later this year and hopefully meet Peppa.

    Reply
  17. Suzanne and Jack

    I love the way you weave the history of your farmhouse and your Italy into the modern time. And the way you describe the wonderful Relationship you have formed with neighbours and the land. It reminds me of the times we spent with you in Assisi. I can’t wait to visit again. Thank you Anne for your articles

    Reply
  18. Gull-Britt Lundsröm

    Thank you Anne! Fun reading as allways! love the fhotos, love Peppa!

    Reply
  19. Anna Retsker

    Annie, this is one of the most interesting stories. Wonderful people on the pictures, I love them.

    Reply
  20. Jean Scalessa

    I always feel transported to Italy whenever I read Anne’s articles. The descriptions and photos are marvelous.

    Reply
  21. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks to all…and Elizaeth, you had asked: Peppe or Peppa?
    Peppe (Giuseppe) is in the first photos with his wife Mandina (they helped us pick our grapes in 1975, first yr “on the land”) and Peppa (Giuseppa) is in the photos near end of article – our dear rural friend who joined us in wine-making this year. They are not related (Peppe and Mandina have both died….)

    Reply
  22. I feel so lucky to have had the gift to eat Peppas beautiful food! What an incredible story and journey, those photos from the 70’s are so special. Cant wait to see Annie this weekend in California for our Umbrian cooking extravaganza!

    Reply
  23. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks, Sadie, for your note and for participating so enthusiastically in our cooking event last night with all of your family and friends in Lagunitas. Come back soon to Umbria to cook with us and with Peppa!

    Reply
  24. Chris Bell

    Great story! I’m excited to drink some wine with you tonight at our cooking class!

    Reply
  25. Such a fun article to read! Will want to meet Peppa next time we are in Assisi

    Reply
  26. carol weed lundin

    Great photos and tales from the past and the here and now! Your writing makes for an always a fascinating way of “almost being there” to hold me over until I actually am.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to carol weed lundin

Click here to cancel reply.