When considering the most soulful and beautifully unique wines in Italy the name Paolo Bea always leads the discussion. The family roots in Umbria's Montefalco region stretch back to the 16th century on this property, now a diverse eco system of livestock, vegetables, and fruits, with only five of the fifteen hectares devoted to vines. The hearty Sagrantino variety is the focus throughout Montefalco and represents Bea's benchmark cuvées, but the Sangiovese-dominant San Valentino is in equal demand. Obviously, 2010 is a vintage I've anxiously awaited. The overt ripeness annually seen at this estate has that shimmering brightness of fruit and element of snappy tension that's so very rare.

San Valentino is an intriguing blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, and 15% Montepulciano from a clay-dominant single vineyard at 1,300 feet. With Umbria's fruit forward personality, the high elevation here adds a dimension of lift that makes this one of the world's most hedonistic, yet refreshing wines. In 2010 this fresh streak is taken to the max.

Harvest of these 50-year-old vines usually occurs at the conclusion of October where phenolic ripeness is perfectly achieved for all three varieties. The grapes are fermented in the traditional manner spending 30+ days macerating on the skins. The wine is then aged for three years in stainless steel, and then one year in bottle prior to release. 

The three varieties complement each other magically here. Sangiovese providing high toned red fruit notes with terrific acidity. The combination of Sagrantino and Montepulciano provide inky blue and black fruits with firm structure. Notes of sweet cherries, fig, tobacco, dried flowers, and hints of charcoal always stand out to me.

Pagliaro is a Sagrantino-planted site also perched at 1,300 feet. The grapes see harvest toward the end of October and spend up to 50 days on their skins for maceration. The fermented wine is aged for one year in stainless steel, then two years in large Slavonian botti, and finally one more year in bottle. Many of the notes from the San Valentino are found here, but there's a darker and more feral expression of fruit and earth. Sagrantino is notorious for its firm tannins, but Bea's examples always show softer and more approachable tones than is the Montefalco norm.

Cerrete is a newer cuvée from Bea, where the highest elevation site was isolated for this Sagrantino bottling. The vineyard is limestone and clay-dominant, littered with small pebbles from an ancient riverbed. 2007 was known for its even, warm growing season. The high altitude site brings much needed freshness, but make no mistake, this is a very powerful and full-throttle expression of Sagrantino in 2007.

Quantities and allocations have become smaller and smaller each vintage for the Paolo Bea wines. Orders will be fulfilled based upon time of request, and balanced requests that include the San Valentino cuvée.

2010 Paolo Bea San Valentino Rosso
$54 per bottle.

2010 Paolo Bea Pagliaro Sagrantino di Montefalco
$95 per bottle.

2007 Paolo Bea Cerrete Sagrantino di Montefalco 

$129 per bottle.