Paolo Bea Montefalco Riserva Pipparello 2016


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“Dark, inward and balsamic, the 2016 Montefalco Rosso Riserva Pipparello lifts from the glass with masses of smoky crushed stone, ash, wild herbs and dried black cherries. This is a vertical yet also racier than the 2017, with herbal-tinged red berries and minerals that penetrate deeply; all is nicely energized by brisk acidity. A staining of primary concentration lingers incredibly long, and yet the mouth is still left watering for more, as the 2016 finishes structured yet incredibly fresh. This is possibly the best and most complete rendition of Pipparello that I have ever tasted, and a total standout from this classic vintage in Montefalco. Drinking window: 2026-2036. 96+ points

Paolo Bea doesn’t necessarily follow organic or biodynamic principles, although you’d be hard-pressed to find a more natural approach. The family farms five hectares of vineyards that are primarily located near the estate, some (as in the Cerrette vineyard) reaching up to 500 meters above sea level. Whether discussing natural wine or listening to the fermenting Sagrantino bubbling in the cellar, Giampiero Bea’s passion is enlightening. Bea takes great pride in the old-vine Trebbiano Spoletino he cares for throughout the entire region. These vines are truly married (“vite maritata”), with the trees planted in between them, circling up their trunks and along their limbs. There are 15 different parcels like this throughout Montefalco that are used to create the Arboreus, each one only a small row or two, and tended for with exceptional attention, as one needs to climb up to the limbs of the tree to trim, maintain and harvest. A tour of the vineyards includes ancient grains and fauna used to promote biodiversity. Watching Giampiero Bea prepare and pour each bottle felt like being in a church rather than a winery, as each wine was handled like an icon or relic in preparation. In the past, I’ve spoken about the variation that can sometimes be found in these wines due to their low sulfur levels and occasional volatility. Still, from the 18 bottles that were opened and tasted, not a single one showed any sign of flaws. This alone reaffirms the importance of trusting the source of your bottle. The vintages in front of me were 2015 (hot and dry), 2016 (warm yet fresh, especially around harvest) and 2017 (torrid with reduced quantities), which reflect the continuing warming trend in the region. Unlike many other producers, Bea has managed to cull magnificently balanced wines from each year, especially 2016, where the house style and the vintage characteristics have come together to create some exceptional wines. The wines of Paolo Bea are rare, sometimes quirky, not cheap and prone to damage from storage conditions, but they are also among the absolute top wines being made in Italy today.”

Eric Guido, Vinous (11/22)