Thursday, September 29, 2016

Being natural in Montefalco (Umbria): The Wines of Paolo Bea

Paolo Bea remains active in the direction of his namesake business with his son Giuseppe farming the vineyard and the other son -- Giampiero -- assisiting with vinification as well as being responsible for all commmercial aspects of the business. Giampiero is an architect by training and, in addition to his daily activities, is also responsible for the design of the esthetically pleasing structures that rim the courtyard that you enter from the road on your visit to the estate in Montefalco.

Fermentation building and offices, Paolo Bea

Sideways view of portion of fermentation building
The estate farms 13 ha in Montefalco which, given Paolo's aversion to monocultures, supports five vineyards, two olive groves, and plots for a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Of the 13 ha farmed, three are rented. The Montefalco property is planted to Sagrantino (60%) with the remainder supporting Sangiovese and Montepulciano vines. The estate's guiding principles are as follows:
  • Make note of the weather of the seasons to understand the territory and the cycles of nature and avoid every artificial acceleration
  • Limit to a minimum the treatment in the vineyard
  • Trust to nature the transformation of the grapes into wine
  • Avoid whenever possible that the actions of man dominate the will and effects of nature
  • Respect nature, contributing with our work to maintain the equilibrium between flora and faun of the original land
  • Safeguard the taste of the land, avoiding the use of chemicals in the vineyard and cantina
  • Produce sound products for our health.
View of the farm from the fermentation building

Another section of the farm
Harvesting is done by hand in multiple passes. The first pass yields the grapes for the "important" wines while subsequent passes capture the remaining grapes. The grapes are brought directly from the vineyard to the winery where they are destemmed and crushed. The juices, skins, and seeds are then pumped into tanks in the floor below the receiving level (The estate refers to this as gravity flow but the use of the pump is disqualifying as regards that particular nomenclature.). Vineyard blocks are managed separately throughout the vinification process.

Wines are fermented using natural yeasts and cap management is effected via punchdown. Red wines are fermented and macerated for approximately 50 days while whites are fermented on the skins for a total of 30 days. All fermentation and maceration occurs in stainless steel tanks.

Red wines are passed through a vertical press with the free-run and pressed juices blended immediately. The red wines are aged in stainless steel tanks for one year after which they are transferred for an additional two-years of aging in 30-, 25- and 20-hl oaken barrels. These wines are then bottled and aged for an additional two to four years.

The white and Passito wines are kept in stainless steel for 18 months and in bottle for 1 year.

The grapes for the Passito wine are selected from "less-tight" bunches and are the first grapes selected form the harvest. If there is rain, no Passito wine will be made because of the risk of mold. The skin of the Sagrantino grape is very thick and will succumb to slicing under normal conditions. When it can be cut like a Ricotta cheese, the Passito grape is ready to be crushed.

Tour of the Passito room
After our tour of the fermentation room we were headed to the tasting room when we ran into Paolo Bea himself.

Author, Parlo, and Paolo Bea
As we stepped into the tasting room, we saw an impressive array of bottles, each one containing a Paolo Bea signature wine. In the center of the room, places were set for the tasters along with extensive documentation covering the wines we were about to taste.

Giampiero leading us through the tasting
The first wine tasted was the 2011 Arboreus. The Trebbiano Spoletino vines are more than 100 years old and each plant can produce between 40 and 60 kilo of grapes. The vines are in excess of 3 m tall and grow around trees, eventually killing them. The wine spent 22 days on the skins during fermentation. The wine had an orange color and and orange peel on the nose along with a savory, nutty, asparagus character. Spicy and bright on the palate. A lovely wine.

The second wine was the 2009 Sanvalentino Umbria Rosso IGT and is made from second-passage grapes from all vineyards. In 2009 it was a blend of Sangiovese (60%), Sagrantino (30%), and Montepulciano (10%). This wine spent 32 months in oak. On the nose, sweet herbs, baking spices, and a savoriness. On the palate, sweet red fruit and power with biting acidity. Full-bodied. Mouth-coating tannins. Lengthy finish

The 2008 Pipparello Montefalco DOC Rosso Riserva is a blend of Sangiovese (60%), Montepulciano (25%), and Sagrantino (15%). This wine spent 10 months in stainless steel tanks and 33 months in 25 hl slavonian oak barrels. High-toned, focused, concentrated dark fruit with spice. Huge wine on the palate. Concentrated. Savory with tar and mint notes.

The 2008 Rosso de Vèo Umbria Rosso IGT exhibited red fruits, tar, and a little bit of stewed fruit on the nose. On the palate it showed as relatively simple and lacking in concentration. Giampiero was not satisfied with this wine and opened a second bottle. This second bottle was far more expressive on the nose and showed a lot more concentration. Anise, licorice, tar, and black fruits. Balanced.

We next tasted the 2008 Pagliaro. This is the estate's flagship wine, a 100% Sagrantino that was macerated for 38 days after which it spent 10 months in stainless steel and 33 months in large oak barrels. The vines from which the grapes for this wine are sourced are between 35 and 45 years old. Spice, anise, licorice, tar, and jammy sweet fruit on the nose. Dense and fleshy on the palate with expressive tannins.

The final wine tasted was a new entrant onto the market, the 2007 Cerrete Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. The vines for this wine are planted in a 3-ha vineyard at the highest point of the Sagrantino area. Total production is 4000 bottles. This wine was produced in 2007 for the first time and was not produced in 2008. Grapes from the vineyard that were not used in this wine in 2007 were used in the Rosso de Vèo wine. Sweet, concentrated, dark fruit along with licorice and tar.  Delivers fully on the palate. This is a beautiful wine. I was so impressed that I bought a six-pack on site.

I buy Pagliaro and Pipparello for my cellar every year. With my fuller understanding of the estate, and a better appreciation of the range of wines, I expect that my list of labels procured annually will expand going forward.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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