Paolo Bea Rosso de Veo IGT 2005

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Paolo Bea is one of my all-time favourite producers – a ‘naturalist’ for whom that label is irrelevant both from a dogmatic perspective and also from the perspective of the wine itself. Many of the so-called ‘naturalist’ wines suffer from a number of flaws, or when not flawed, can have a similar flavour profile. However, the greatest producers transcend these issues and the label, which makes me question the efficacy of using the ‘natural wine’ label to begin with.

Bea: Winemaking and Terroir

“Nature should be observed, heard, understood, not dominated.” These words commence the “philosophy” section of Bea’s typo-filled website. They highlight the fundamental belief system that underlies the Bea estate and better express Bea’s approach than any ‘naturalist’ label can. As testament to the reality that the best winemakers don’t do and learn everything on their own, Bea is a member of Consorzio VinVeri along with like-minded wineries, including Radikon, Maule, and Niccolaini. Each of these wineries makes distinctive, terroir driven wines, and shares certain philosophical beliefs all without placing dogma over the flavours and textures provided by the grapes themselves.

The practicality of Bea’s approach is best expressed by some excerpts from his website, such as (with a few translation typos):

“Day after day we seek to distinguish the best partnership between modern methods and nature”

“We are aware we must live with globalisation, but want to avoid homologation that represents the alienation of man himself. If humanity doesn’t want to make an irreparable error of stripping the real identify it must learn to respect and maintain the diversity.”

“We are convinced that technology and science can help man but this does not mean having to substitute essential processes and properties of nature, properties that are irreplaceable are essential to maintain the equilibrium formed over millions of years.”

To me these sentiments reflect a considered but principled approach to wine making. It is a difficult path to stride confidently between principles and practicalities, and those who wander too far in one direction generally make far less interesting wines.

Paolo Bea is based in Umbria Italy and is also known for vinifying the famed ‘nun’ wines Rusticum and Coenobium, both of which are skin contact whites approaching ‘orange wines’. While these two wines are delicious, it is Bea’s estate wines that, for me, are the most exciting. Bea makes 9 estate wines and an estate olive oil. Some of these wines can and need to age for many years before fully opening, mostly because of the intense tannin of the Sagrantino grape. However, Bea’s methods seem to coax this grape out of its dormancy far quicker and with far more grace than most of his peers. In fact, I think it is fair to call Bea the greatest winemaker in Umbria.

The Wine

Made with 100% Sagrantino, the Rosso de Veo IGT is grown in Montefalco. Hand harvested in October and destemmed before fermentation, the wine also sees 12 months in steel and 24 in wood.

This wine is clasically Italian in its acidity and perfume, but filled with unique wild berry flavours and an intense dose of minerality. The style of the perfume is unique to Bea’s wines, and the very fine tannin is an astonishing accomplishment for Sagrantino. This medium bodied wine is thus fascinatingly unique, but also delicious. An ideal pairing with tomatoes, pork, and game. I thought it was delicious with Italian sausage stuffed pasta with mildly spicy tomato sauce topped with duck prosciutto.

~$50 at Arlequin in San Francisco


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