Paolo Bea, “Pagliaro” Montefalco Sagrantino docg 2012 (about $95)

Italian Wine for may, 2020

So, while we’re sheltering in place and hunkering down for a good long wait with wine bars and restaurants only pleasant memories, this may be a opportune time to consider uncorking that special bottle of wine you’ve been holding in reserve in the wine cellar. It would give new meaning to the term "special occasion wine" and provide a measure of comfort and pleasure in a difficult time like this. Living and drinking the best you can in a period of diminished expectations may be the best revenge against the covid-19 pandemic.

And this month’s wine, a full-bodied, rich and complex 2012 Montefalco Sagrantino from the Paolo Bea winery may just be the wine to lift you, at least temporarily, out of the covid-19 doldrums.

Antica Azienda Agricola Paolo Bea is a small estate located near the wine-centric town of Montefalco in central Umbria. The estate has approximately 12 acres allocated to vineyards, the vast majority of which is dedicated to growing Sagrantino, the celebrated variety of the local Montefalco area. 

The estate is a family-run operation. While Paolo Bea is the current manager and guiding force behind the production of the estate’s wines, he is assisted by various family members including his two sons who are both involved in the estate’s vineyard and cellaring operations.

Paolo Bea is known for producing full-bodied, rich, complex and long-lived wines as well as for his traditional, artisanal approach to wine making. All vineyards are organically farmed, manually harvested and the grapes undergo extended macerations. Bea is committed to a natural approach to wine making so all wines are fermented using only native yeasts, are bottled without fining or filtration and undergo lengthy ageing protocols.

His basic philosophy is a hands-off, natural approach to winemaking. His goal is to minimize intervention in the wine-making process so the wines can develop naturally and best express their innate personality.

Paolo Bea 2012 "Pagliaro" Montefalco Sagrantino DOCGMontefalco Sagrantino from the Pagliaro vineyard is Paolo Bea's flagship wine. It is made entirely of organically-grown Sagrantino. The grapes are harvested by hand in the latter half of October and undergo an extended (40-day) maceration on the grape skins using only natural yeasts for fermentation. Afterwards, the wine is aged in stainless steel followed by 2 years in large, used Slavonian oak casks. The wine is then bottled, unfined and unfiltered, where it rests for an additional year prior to release.

It’s about 4-1/2 years from grape harvest to release of the wine, an extended and expensive vinification and ageing regimen but one consistent with Bea’s philosophy of letting the wine speak for itself and not trying to rush the wine to market before its ready.

Even though the summer of 2012 was oppressively hot and dry, Bea’s 2012 Pagliaro exhibits terrific structure, balance and complexity. It opens with enticing aromas of ripe black cherries, balsamic and subtle cedar notes followed by a deep core of ripe blackberry and raisiny dried-fruit flavors supported by plush, layered tannins. Even though it has a weighty structure with an almost chewy texture and mouthfeel it still maintains a sense of style and structure. The wine checks in with 15 percent alcohol.

The 2012 Pagliaro will evolve and become more compelling over time as it has the structure and tannic backbone to go the distance for at least another decade or two.

The label on every Paolo Bea wine includes a folksy, hand-written description of how the wine is made along with a unique bottle number from the annual production run. This unadorned label is in the best Italian tradition of combining unpretentious, home-spun craftsmanship with marketing prowess.


©Richard Marcis
May 8, 2020

To see reviews of other selected wines of the month, see Wines of the Month.

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