Traditionally Unconventional

Today’s Story: Paolo Bea

Paolo Bea is a beautiful, working farm winery located in the hilltop commune of Montefalco in the region of Umbria. Records indicate that the Bea family lived in Montefalco as early as the 16th century and to this day produce fruits, vegetables, olives, and livestock to both sustain themselves and sell in the marketplace. While Paolo Bea, the senior member of the family today, spearheads the practices of the winery, his two sons Giuseppe and Giampiero farm the vineyards and assist in the vinification process, respectively.

A traditionalist through and through, Paolo Bea creates his wines in an effort to showcase the rustic character of grapes native to Montefalco, especially with his red made of Sagrantino. All care for the vineyards is organic, harvesting is done by hand, only native yeasts are present during fermentation, and the wines are bottled without fining or filtration. Many wine producers around the world create wines for the international stage (higher alcohol, bigger fruit, more forward) yet vintners like Paolo Bea remain my favorites because they want to share what their land produces in an open and honest representation.

While the Sagrantino is one of the greatest value wines I’ve been able to find from Italy, the white wines produced by the winery are some of the most interesting you can find. For example, Bea leaves his whites in contact with the grape skins for a time which adds tannin and body to the wines. The Arboreus, made from Trebbiano grapes, for instance shows a gold/amber color and medium tannins thanks to this process. My wine today, the Santa Chiara, shares similar tannin and body characteristics but is a true orange wine.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Santa Chiara

20% Grechetto, 20% Malvasia, 20% Garganega, 20% Sauvignon, 20% Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV

“Interesting” is the word uttered profusely by my tasting companions when we drank this bottle. I speculate that is because this was the first orange wine for many of them and only my second. Our wine today is amber orange in appearance, captivating for many of us in the room. On the nose are aromas of sweet (almost candied) cherry, apricot, melon, caramel, white wildflower, crushed stone, and mineral. The nose evolved dramatically over the time we drank this bottle, which made for a very unique experience. On the palate are notes of peach, apricot, honey, assorted nuts, vanilla, and mineral. Very complex and fun to drink, this is medium-bodied with moderate acidity, medium (-) yet grippy tannins, and a long finish characterized by notes of citrus and herbs. Another excellent and intriguing wine from Paolo Bea.

Price: $50. Well worth a try if you stumble across this in a store. Paolo Bea wines are full of character and produced using traditional methods in relatively small quantities, justifying the price. This would pair well with Korean dishes like Bibimbap.

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