Paolo Bea, Umbria Rosso "San Valentino"
Please Note: This is a pre-arrival offer! We expect the wines to arrive in our warehouse and ship in mid September.
For Italian wine devotées, there is almost nothing else that can compare to the wines of Paolo Bea. Even the geekiest of aficionados will have a hard time conjuring up Bea lookalikes. Yes, the wines of his neighbors in Montefalco can have a vague resemblance, and there’s a throughline to other esoteric masters like Emido Pepe or Lino Maga, but in truth the only Bea is Bea. The combination of raw, feral energy and sensual, silky texture is utterly distinct. Wine enthusiasts around the globe go gaga for these rare gems, and as such there are increasingly small amounts available each release. [Note* We do have extremely tiny allocations of Bea’s top Sagrantinos, “Pipparello” and “Pagliaro.” Click here now if you want to try and grab a few.] Just a few years ago, the estate's lovely, single-vineyard “San Valentino” could be found on restaurant lists and shop shelves year round. Not anymore! If you want to grab a few bottles of this paradigm-shifting Umbrian red, you have to be quick, as it will be gone in a flash.
The Bea farm is a place many wine pilgrims have gone out of their way to visit, only to be greeted and fêted by Paolo himself, who may have turned the day-to-day over to sons Giampiero and Giuseppe but is still an active participant in every facet of the operation. In addition to their five hectares of wine grapes, the Beas grow olives, vegetables, grains, and raise animals as well. It is effectively a self-sustaining organic farm, on which the wine is produced in the most traditional way possible. The “San Valentino” vineyard sits at about 1,300 feet in altitude, on clay-dominant soils, and has a larger component of Sangiovese, which is typically harvested a bit earlier than the commune's local speciality, Sagrantino. The 40- to 50+-year-old vines are farmed meticulously and organically, with biodynamic practices, and undergo a severe winter pruning in order to keep yields miniscule. Though the almost impossibly deep, shockingly powerful wines of Sagrantino di Montefalco have gained tremendous popularity over the past couple of decades, for most of this region’s history Sangiovese was the dominant player in winemaking. The Beas know this well, as their own history dates to at least the 1500s.
“San Valentino” is like a window into the past of Umbrian wine. The silky, cherry red Sangiovese plays perfectly against the deep, brooding Sagrantino and the plump, juicy Montepulciano. Of course, this is a Bea joint, so the maceration period is extended for as long as Giampiero deems necessary, which in 2018 was an astounding 52 days. The wine is then racked into stainless steel tanks, where it rests for as long as needed. Are you sensing a pattern? The key at Bea is patience, nothing is ever hurried and each individual cuvée and vat get whatever time deemed appropriate. After two years in tank and an additional two years in large Slavonian oak casks, the 2018 “San Valentino” was bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The additions of Sangiovese and Montepulciano help tame, just slightly, the rustic, feral tannins of Sagrantino and that allows “San Valentino” to be enjoyed on the younger side. Still, I would definitely recommend a decant of at least an hour if you want to open a bottle in the next year or two. Serve it cool in your best Bordeaux stems and you’ll be embraced by a bevy of red and black cherries, plum, crème de cassis, cinnamon, cocoa powder, wild herbs, coffee, and wet earth. The deep, silky texture is framed by robust tannins and savory minerals that combine into a long, lovely finish. You can serve this with any rich pasta dish, all’amatriciana would be sublime, stew or roast. Or go super-traditional with some Umbrian veal steaks. Whatever you choose you’ll be happy that you were able to snag a few bottles of this truly iconic wine.