Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Visiting Paolo Bea Winery

Among wine lovers, Paola Bea winery is talked about in hushed tones;  an all-natural, organic, biodynamic winery outside of Montefalco the heart of the Umbrian wine-growing region. Arriving in Montefalco in the 15th century, the Bea family has been farming organically and biodynamically since then.  
Bea is famous worldwide for its small production of indigenous Umbrian wines: Trebbiano Spoletino, Sagrantino and Grechetto. Each bottle is numbered, and the labels are handwritten to explain the processing of the vintage.  
Securing a tour is considered an honor (arranged by the Angelini family at Enoteca Properzio), and we definitely felt special getting a tour with Paolo's son Giampiero.  We arrived at the winery at 10 a.m. and were taken into the room where they were sorting and drying the grapes for the passito (or dessert wine) 100% Sagrantino, the indigenous grapes of Umbria. The smell is intoxicating.  The grapes are dried to a raisin-like state in this open air room, then hand pressed and allowed to ferment before they are aged in steel tanks.

                    Giampiero was joined by his mother and father (Paolo) in the drying room.  

All of the grapes are picked and sorted by hand.  Each day Giampiero goes to the vineyard and selects the grapes to be picked that day.  

After meeting his mother and father, Giampiero took us to the aging rooms.  The aromas here were remarkable; sweet, musty, and acidic, comingled in a beautiful room filled with Slovenian oak barrels. 
After a small taste, we were taken outside 

The red grapes are brought to the winery, crushed and then allowed to ferment covered for several days.  Then they are put into steel tanks.  

A short drive to the Pigliaro vineyard, and we are in the midst of the Sagrantino harvest.  All picked by hand, and then transported to the winery for production.  

The hills of Montefalco

Back at the winery, we tour the public tasting room, and then settle into the original tasting room below the family quarters to taste the wines.  

Giampiero Bea has been a founding member of the Vini Veri Consortium 

Capturing the essence, and color of the famous Arboreus 

Accompanied by local cured meats, and cheeses, our wine tasting was an education in the complexities, flavor and aromas of these beautiful, carefully crafted wines.  When describing the fermentation, and aging processes, again and again we heard the phrase, piano, piano, which I remember my Nonna saying to me, meaning easy, easy---or wait and see.  This type of wine making depends on the winemakers' philosophy and techniques, as well as their willingness to take risks and use grapes that we might not otherwise think about.  I cheer on these risk takers, since their livelihoods depend on their ability to blend and age the perfect pour.  Small vineyards like Bea dot the hillsides of every region in Italy, and are not to be missed.  
Giampiero Bea's Trebbiano Spoletino white wine is a new label for the Bea winery, the grapes stay on the skin for a month after the pressing.  

And, of course, no organic farm would be complete without an olive grove, and the oil here is spectacular.  Bright golden green, with hints of grass and mineral when poured over toasted bread or drizzled over fresh pasta with black truffles, Umbrian olive oil will brighten any dish.  .  
With Covid still an issue for travel, and visiting, it's always a good idea to make a reservation for a tasting wherever you go in Italy.  Wine tasting in Italy is a lovely day spent in the company of people who are passionate about what they do and their passion is shown in the products that they serve.  Grateful to have had this experience at Bea.  Ciao for now. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Falling in Love with Barolo and Barbera di Alba

 The north of Italy is filled with heart-stopping vistas, amazing foods, and spectacular wines.  Traveling north from Umbria, my friends and I settled in Canelli in the Asti region at an exceptional Airbnb property situated at the top of Moscato di Asti vineyards. 

We knew we wanted to sample Barolo, Barbera, Barbaresco, and Moscato, and arranged tastings/tours for just that.  Our first stop was at a large producer, Ceretto, to see their operation, but not to taste.  

This is kind of the back to the future wine making, aging it in amphora the way the Egyptians and Romans made their wines.  

From there, we headed to Sordo, a local producer near Alba.  Driving up the hill to the winery, we were again, stunned by the surrounding beauty on every hill covered with vineyards.  Italian wineries are quite different from any in the US: they are usually much older, passed from generation to generation, with the younger generation taking the helm and expanding production and marketing to all corners of the globe.  Proud histories fill the hallways, with photos of past generations, and the next generation.  
In Sordo we tasted, Barolo, Barbera,  and Sauvignon Blanc.  

As with any tour, lunchtime approached and we headed off to Castiglione Falletto and the amazing  Cantina della Cantina Comunale.    

This is the view from the terrace.  There are many places in this world where the view is better than the food, but here, the food was exceptional.  We tried the local specialty pasta, Plin, and a brassato of beef simmered for 36 hours in Barolo.  


Guinea fowl

When you are in the land of hazelnuts, you order a hazelnut panna cotta with chocolate sauce, and salted caramel hazelnuts, am I right?
After lunch, it's on to our last tasting at Massolino, another family-owned winery located here for over 100 years.  Again, Barolo and Barbera are the stars here.  The Nebbiolo grape grows well here, in this region and the Italian word for fog is nebbia...it is foggy here, and that helps the grapes as they mature.  

While we visited each winery, they were still busy crushing the red grapes.  The whites had been picked (all by hand) and processed in August.  Fall had come to the Langhe region and it was cooling off considerably.  Several mornings were in the 30's when we woke up and it was foggy.  Having explored the Alba region it was time to head back to Canelli and explore the Asti region.  Ciao for now.