Paolo Bea Montefalco Riserva Pipparello 2015


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“Leave it to Bea to create a perfectly poised, structured and classic wine in such a warm vintage. The 2015 Pipparello Montefalco Rosso Riserva takes time to blossom in the glass, showing little more than dusty roses, hints of white smoke and cranberry at first. However, with coaxing, it grows in richness and volume, displaying crushed black cherry giving way to clove, lavender, sage, mint leaf and air-dried meats. All the while, there’s a fresh and feminine character, following through to the silky, almost creamy textures, which never feel weighty or cloying. Ripe red fruits and inner florals cascade across a core of spice and minerals as a layer of fine tannin begins to penetrate deeply, drying the senses and creating a sour twang. The palate aches under the Pipparello’s massive structure, and notes of tart citrus and concentrated wild berry fruit linger long. It’s going to take some time for the 2015 to mature into a more pleasurable expression, but it will be worth the wait. This is composed of 60% Sangiovese, 25% Montepulciano and 15% Sagrantino, all matured in large neutral barrels and released significantly later than most other producers’ wines. Drinking window: 2024-2034. 94 points

Giampiero and Giuseppe Bea continue to work their five hectares of vineyards by hand, choosing to use only one-third of their 15-hectare property for grape production even though they could easily continue planting to expand. Their vineyards occupy the higher elevations of Montefalco terroir, reaching up to 500 meters above sea level. The Beas don’t label themselves organic or biodynamic; they simply farm the way their family did long before herbicides and pesticides were developed, depending on biodiversity and Mother Nature’s fertilizers to deliver a transparent representation of each vintage. In the winery, gentle macerations and slow fermentations can last from three weeks to as many as seven before the wine is placed into steel tanks for a year to rest. For the bigger reds, this is followed by refinement in large Slavonian oak for up to three years. At this point, the wines are bottled without filtration and little, if any, added sulfur, and then left to rest for another year or more. Giampiero Bea will tell you that he sells his wines when they are “ready,” but when dealing with a grape as naturally high in tannin as Sagrantino, you have to take that with a grain of salt. The most recent releases include the long-awaited 2015 Riserva Pipparello, a wine that is typically released before the Sagrantino Pagliaro (which came out in early 2020) but was held back until now. This blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Sagrantino has become a perennial favorite of mine. It’s typically a wine of power yet also grace, with the potential to mature for well over a decade, and the 2015 is no different. Another recent release is the 2012 Sagrantino Cerrete, which hails from poor mineral-rich soils in the highest elevation-vineyard planted to Sagrantino in Montefalco, at up to 500 meters. This is a wine that trades power for grace yet will last for ages. It will also take many years to come fully into form. But that’s okay, because you can always occupy yourself with the more lightly structured, young-vines Sagrantinos, the 2015 Rosso de Veo or the 2015 San Valentino, which is a sexy blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Sagrantino intended for early consumption. Keep in mind with the wines of Paolo Bea that there is the risk of bottle variation and volatile acidity, which I’ve encountered on more than one occasion. For me, each great experience with these wines outweighs the letdowns.”

Eric Guido, Vinous (08/21)