Blog » Trebbiano
Trebbiano on the Skins: Paolo Bea Arboreus Bianco
Paolo Bea is most famous for its wildly interesting take on Montefalco's Sagrantino red grape variety, but today, I’d like to pivot to their orange wines. Paolo's son, Giampiero, was one of the first naturalists in Italy to adopt the practices of Josko Gravner and Stanko Radikon (the Friulian winemakers who repopularized the ancient-old tradition of fermenting white grapes on their skins). Today, Bea’s Arboreus is considered a benchmark in the world of orange wine, and it has a fascinating backstory.
These Trebbiano Spoletino vines were planted below oak trees on the Paolo Bea estate over 120 years ago and have completely wrapped themselves around the trees (Hence the name Arboreus). Once harvested and de-stemmed, the grapes ferment on the skins for several weeks and spend a minimum of two years on the lees in stainless steel tanks. Gravner and Radikon produce the most concentrated, structured examples of orange wine you’ll come across and are undoubtedly the pinnacles in this category. I more often gravitate toward Paolo Bea's style, though. Arboreus has that same deep amber hue, golden stone fruit showing apricot and yellow plum, powerful tannins—but with an added streak of freshness that balances its other components. Note: This is a great food wine with the tannins to take one heavier foods than typical whites (Lamb kabobs and saffron rice were on my mind when we tasted this).
If you prefer your orange wines, well, less orange-y, consider Lapideus. The grape variety, soil type, and winemaking are the same as Arboreus (same skin-contact and élevage regimen). Except, these 80-year-old Trebbiano Spoletino vines, trained in the traditional cordon method, grow in a cooler microclimate, resulting in a leaner, more acid-driven orange wine. Paolo Bea provides a counterpoint to the argument that this style of wine can’t be terroir-driven! There are also Monastero Suore Cistercensi’s orange wines, Coenobium and Ruscum, as value-driven options. Based in Lazio, these wines are farmed and produced by the Sisters of the Cistercian order, with some guidance from Giampiero.
Lastly, I highly recommend reading Giampiero's interview with Sprudge Wine, which includes a photo of those stunning Arboreus vines. If you are a skin-contact fanatic, like me, Paolo Bea is a must-try, as these were the among the defining wines for what's now a booming category.
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Great Italian Discovery: Amorotti d'Abruzzo
My first reference to Abruzzo was the famous Valentini and Emidio Pepe, until 2020, when our team tasted Amorotti, a new project producing impressive wines at a fraction of the price. Valentini and Emidio Pepe still hold the highest regard in this region, but Amorotti offers a glimpse into the same greatness they glean. These are undoubtedly among the best-valued wines in our Italian collection.
The Carboni family farms 50 hectares of woodland, pastures, and farmland, where they grow olives, cereals, legumes, and other native crops. A mere five hectares of this polyculture farm are allotted to vineyards. When Gaetano Carboni took over in 2000, he completely revamped the estate and converted to certified organic farming. Valentini, who lives across the road, offered guidance on what clonal material to grow.
For years, Gaetano sold most of the fruit, only keeping enough to produce wine for his family and friends. 2016 was the first vintage that these wines became available in the market. Amorotti's wines are so individual yet distinct to their variety/style—the common thread being that each is seamless, focused, and full of energy.
O.G. Abruzzo: Valentini & Emidio Pepe
Edoardo Valentini and Emidio Pepe are kings of Abruzzo's Trebbiano, Pecorino, and Montepulciano. Valentini is famous for his disdain of paperwork and insistence on only bottling Montepulciano in select vintages when quality is sky-high. Emidio Pepe is known best for his late releases of aged Montepulciano (The wines below came directly to us from their cellar). Both producers generally eschew sulfur, making them true models of a hands-off regimen in the cellar.
Today's list also gives an honorable mention to Amorotti, started by Gaetano Carboni in 2000. He grows five hectares of vines on his family's polyculture farm and received guidance from Valentini on what clonal material to plant. They released their wines for the first time starting with the 2016 vintage. Though relatively new to the market, Amorotti offers a great introduction to Abruzzo before diving into the higher-priced cuvées by the region's legends.