Paolo Bea Arboreus 2009
Orange wine is an important category. It is also one of the most abused styles of wine, with many terrible examples being thrust onto the marketplace, hoping to capitalize on the trend. Many orange wines are harsh, unbalanced, oxidized, and devoid of fruit. This sort of orange wine has sullied the reputation of the proper examples and should not be used as a baseline to understand the style.
Paolo Bea generally makes orange wines that taste and drink line wine. Occasionally a vintage or bottle can be off or overly aggressive, but his best bottles are outstanding examples of the style. Bea also offers a range from a more lightly-macerated style (the Santa Chiara or the Coenobium nun wine) to the heavier style (the Arboreus). As a rule, Bea’s orange wines benefit from cellar time, especially the more intense examples. Do not open them immediately.
A Question of Human Intent
There is no mistaking the dominant profile of Trebbiano in the 2009 Arboreus, even though the wine is macerated for 21 days. The quality and expressiveness of the fruit makes this wine. It is precisely what orange wine needs to excel at to be interesting. With 6 years in the bottle, the tannins in the ‘09 have also softened sufficiently to provide superior balance to young bottles of this wine. Most orange wines do not have this level of sensitivity to the underlying material. The Trebbiano vines that feed these bottles are 80-100 years old. In lesser hands, making an orange wine from these grapes would shatter the character within. Not here.
One of owner Giampiero Bea’s most well known statements of intention is his view that “Nature should be observed, heard, and understood, not dominated”. This has stuck with me more than any other ‘natural wine’ manifesto. I think it captures one of the central questions in fine wine today: what is the appropriate relationship between the vintner and the natural world such that her or his interaction and manipulation of it does not become domination?
This question properly sidesteps the meaninglessness of ‘non-intervention’ and ‘terroir’. Instead, the production of the luxury of fine wine is an emblem and perhaps a metaphor for how we choose to interact with and care for the natural world. It is not a question of dogma, but a question of how to sustain agricultural production over generations, how to ensure healthy produce, and how to prevent harmful impacts. These are questions about human intent, not about ‘letting the land speak’ or ‘doing as little as possible’. Bea has one approach – it produces good wine and a healthy eco-system in his vineyards.
The wine fits well with a table of healthy foods – pink or white fish, tomatoes, lean sausages, nuts, herbs and olive oil.
$67.50 list from importer Sedimentary Wine; around $75+ at Kits Wine