A while back I published some thoughts on Montefalco Sagrantino. “But what about Paolo Bea!?” cried many people in response to the conspicuous absence of those wines from my report. What about Paulo Bea, indeed.
Some people, we say, seem comfortable in their own skin. To me, this expression captures an interesting mix of characteristics: a modicum of confidence, a touch of easy grace, and a certain satisfied self-awareness.
Finding these qualities in wine always thrills me, and the wines of Paolo Bea have been thrilling me for decades.
With their quirky handwritten labels, wonderfully complex flavors, and a consistent commitment to tradition and quality, they have always had a sense of self that sets them apart from most other wines. Even in a country with more than its share of unvarnished, soulful wines.
Architecture of Tradition
The Bea family has been farming in the municipality of Montefalco, Italy for hundreds of years. The earliest written records in the area mentioning the family date to around 1500. But the family’s modern history begins with the man whose name is on the bottle.
Growing up on the family farm raising cattle, vegetables, olives, and more, Paolo Bea witnessed the changing economies of agriculture, and in 1980 decided that wine might represent something of a future for the family. Like most Umbrian families, the Beas had always made small quantities of wine for personal consumption, but Paolo decided to try his hand at commercial production.
His vision for winemaking was in keeping with the family’s deep commitment to the land they had always farmed. Back then, the type of wine Bea set out to make didn’t have a name. It was just good wine—the way Bea thought it should be made if he wanted it to be a true expression of place.
It was wine made without additions, interventions, or manipulation, from grapes grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. It was wine made according to ancient traditions, where white grapes and red grapes alike spent extended time in contact with their skins. It was wine that Paolo Bea wanted to drink.
Today, of course, we can recognize Bea as one of the progenitors of the natural wine movement, but that is a mantle more accepted than intended by the elder Bea. For Paolo, making wine has always simply been about integrity.
I don’t like to say that I make wine. I assist in the process but I don’t dominate.
His son Giampiero, who trained and worked as an architect before coming back to join the family business, plays a more active role in conversations about winemaking philosophy and is ultimately responsible for the family’s towering stature within the natural wine community.
It was Giampiero who launched the family’s true foray into commercial production, who used his architect’s sensibilities to design their iconic labels, and who co-founded the Vini Veri consortium along with Stanko Radikon and others more than 20 years ago.
Giampiero is the voice of the family’s philosophy about what real wine should be.
The Bea Method
“I don’t like to say that I make wine,” says Giampiero Bea. “I assist in the process, but I don’t dominate. I try to maintain an identity that is born in the soil, in the land. I don’t exclude anything and I don’t add anything. I just use the grape as it is born in the vineyard and want to maintain its identity.”
Bea’s brother Guiseppe handles the vineyards. He farms organically, has never used pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, and never tills the soil of his vineyards. He plants the vineyard rows with a mix of wild peas and six other different cover crops in February to ensure they don’t grow too high in the spring. He mows the cover crops in June and leaves the cut stalks on the ground to gather humidity and enrich the soil.
Source : https://www.vinography.com/2023/09/umbrian-grace-the-wines-of-paolo-bea