Paolo Bea

Paolo Bea

Paolo Bea

Paolo Bea

Located in the heart of central Italy, in the hilltop village of Montefalco, Paolo Bea, is one of Umbria’s most celebrated winemakers. The Umbrian humility and tradition is emulated by Bea, whose family has been making wine in the region since the 1500s and is expressed in his small family run Italian fattoria. There, he produces wine in a non-interventionalist way, raises farm animals, and works the land to produce olives, fruits and vegetables. As the senior member of his family, Paolo Bea has become an icon, guiding his sons Guiseppe in the vineyard and Giampiero in the winery, to make wines of identity that encapsulate his distinct philosophy that a wine should reflect and honor where it comes from.

Paolo Bea began making wine in the seventies with his wife Marina, and adopted a philosophy that was radical at the time, “…to make wine with grapes…only grapes… and grapes grown with biodynamic agricultural methods at that.”

His tiny organic estate, located in Montefalco, Umbria, is only 15 hectares, 5 of which are dedicated to the vineyards, 2 to olives, and the remainder to fruits, vegetables and grains. Of the 5 hectares of vines, 60% are devoted to Sagrantino, and 40% to Sangiovese, Montepulciano and a small parcel of white varietals. Here, he makes one of the greatest expressions of the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG.

Montefalco, Umbria

Paolo Bea Grapes

Known for not merely wine, but decadent Umbrian truffles, as well, this region is Italy’s pastoral green paradise. The only landlocked region in Italy, lacking a coastline and international border, it is full of verdant rolling hills with ancient hill towns that are indelibly linked to their Etruscan and Roman pasts. Imagine a field of sunflowers and a picturesque monastery in the background. Similar to Tuscany’s climate, with rainy winters and sunny dry summers, Umbria lies in the shadow of the Apennines, its climate moderated by maritime winds funneling from the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Unlike the abundance of Tuscany’s classified growing areas, Umbria has only eleven DOCs, the majority are for white wines, and two DOCG’s, both of which are for dry red wines. Of these zones, the Orvieto DOC, Montefalco Rosso DOC and Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG are the most well known in the US market.

Paolo Bea’s Wines

Paolo Bea Sagrantino

Bea’s Estate is located in pictorial Montefalco, the balcony of Umbria and the center of Umbrian wine tradition with Pre-Roman origins. He makes wines under three classifications, Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG, Montefalco Rosso DOC and Umbria IGT.

Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG is the smallest DOCG area in Italy, with only 26 producers, Bea being at the forefront. This appellation produces wines made 100% Sagrantino. The Sagrantino grape is an Umbrian native, and has the power and structure of the biggest wines in Italy. Rescued from obscurity in the late 1980s by research done at the University of Milan, this wine has since been elevated to the top ranks of Italian grape varieties. Traditionally, the majority of wines from this region were made in the passito (raisinated) style, as Sagrantino is a thick skinned, late ripening varietal perfect for this process, but the secco (dry) style is a recent development that has been growing in popularity, and the DOCG allows for both expressions.

The expression of Bea’s Sagrantinos from this DOCG are off center, natural, earthy and terroir driven. Yet they still show opulent fruit of mixed wild berries, but follow with a brawny backbone of smoke and spice, granite-tinged mineral and a distinct earthiness that ties its complexities together with grace. The wines are naturally high in alcohol and tannin, and are made to age extensively, for a minimum of thirty seven months, including twelve months in wood.

Paolo Bea Montefalco Rosso

Paolo Bea’s wines from the Montefalco Rosso DOC, an area which allows winemakers to blend varieties and release younger wines, gives importance to Umbria’s other grape of importance: Sangiovese. His Montefalco Rossos tend to be softer than his Sagrantinos, and the blends are mostly Sangiovese with only a touch of Sagrantino, Cabernet, Merlot, or Montepulciano. Bea’s most food friendly and versatile wines, these wines brighten the native Sagrantino with the vibrant cherry fruit of Sangiovese, and the soft suppleness of Merlot.

 

Paolo Bea Santa ChiaraPaolo, though focused on red wine, does produce a small amount of white from several native Umbrian and French varieties, such as Garganega, Grechetto, Malvasia and Trebbiano. He produces two distinct white wines under the Umbria IGT designation and treats them like red wines, with extended maceration on the skins that leave a tannic quality and full bodied mouthfeel with a slightly orange tint. His Santa Chiara, with its smoky melon flavors, is made from Garganega, Grechetto and Malvasia, and his Arboreus is made exclusively from grapes from very old Trebbiano vines.

 

Paolo Bea’s Winemaking Philosophy

Paolo Bea PassitoThe Bea’s presence in the vineyard is constant and vibrant. Deeply rooted history and tradition are the source of his family’s knowledge and their commitment to making wines of terroir. Passed down to each generation is a fundamental respect for nature and the ambience of the vineyard. Paolo’s philosophy is that “…nature should be observed, listened to and integrated, not dominated. Wine is not made by man, but generated by nature!”  This is why the amount of production differs each year, depending on the natural conditions in the vineyard, and Paolo’s labels have a number on each bottle, corresponding to the total production of that year.

The amount of production is not the only thing of importance noted as Bea’s bottles are known for their intricate hand written labels with a full description of how each wine is made and with what ingredients. Each wine has a deep integrity, with an intention to produce wines with pure, unadulterated central Italian terroir. Paolo’s son, Giampiero Bea, is president of Vini Veri, an organization, including some of the top producers in Italy, which espouses the virtues of organic farming and traditional methods in the cellar.

With a conviction for gentleness, patience, and honesty, Paolo honors the uncertainty of each passing year, discovering new things about the land, learning how to better care for it and how to apply and evaluate the knowledge gained from previous vintages. There is a distinct commitment to maintain the best balance between the natural processes that happen in the vineyard and cellar that exclude the use of chemical synthesis to force stabilization or acceleration of the readiness of the wine for drinking. Bea’s wines are “natural” in the sense that they are made with a genuine attempt at maintaining the equilibrium between the flora and fauna of the original land and to protect the soil’s distinct expression of Montefalco.

 

 

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