“Many years back, I was running a wine shop in downtown Chicago. A pretty young woman walks straight up to me and asks, “Do you have any Paolo Bea?” So I responded, “Can I answer that question with a question? Will you marry me?”
It didn’t work out with the girl but me and Paolo are still going strong J He makes, to my mind, one of the most powerfully excellent red wines in Italy. He works from Umbria, the town of Montefalco to be specific, so he’s a long way from the spotlight, but what that man does with Sagrantino is a treasure. Sagrantino is a naturally tannic varietal which begs for time in barrel then bottle age on top, the reason Bea waits 5-7 years to release his top wines. I tend to think of Bea in the same way as the late Giusseppe Quintarelli or the thankfully still with us Henri Bonneau. Artisan farmers who possess a singular and irreplacable genius.
The Paolo Bea Montefalco de Sagrantino Pagliaro 2007 ($70.00) is the latest release. Pagliaro is his prime vineyard, limited to less than 1,200 cases a year.
The nose is a layer cake of sweet red fruit, cardamom, oiled leather, and dark chocolate but Sagrantino is not a particularly aromatic varietal so the palate is where it gets truly interesting. Rich, lush, and dense, seemingly hitting all the sweet and sour notes at the same time yet in absolute harmony. In the mouth, Bea’s Pagliaro is a swirl of opposites; fruity yet rustic, dense but lithe, tannic yet not bitter. Beyond all descriptors, there is a thrill of excellence married with depth I’ve only encountered in the best Bordeaux and Super-Tuscans, to which this should be compared.
I think this will go down as one of Bea’s great wines. If you haven’t been exposed to this amazing producer, please treat yourself. If I was building a dream cellar, one of the first wines inside it would be a dozen old vintages of Paolo Bea.