2016 Paolo Bea Santa Chiara
The first time I met Giampiero Bea was over lunch in Chicago. By the time the espresso arrived — three-and-a-half hours after we were served a bottle of Bea Santa Chiara Umbria Bianco — I was ready to pack my bags and pick grapes for him in Umbria.
Is Giampiero Bea charismatic? Yes. Is his Santa Chiara Umbria Bianco incomparably delicious? Affirmative. Did I have a man crush on him? Absolutely.
The namesake of the Bea estate belongs Giampero’s father, Paolo, but its reins belong to Giampiero. Paolo devoted his life to the family farm, and the farm didn’t give him problems. Except for one. Year after year, the farm’s fortunes were declining. Because of the jeopardy to the estate, Giampiero gave up his career as an architect to take up the family business.
The primary business of the estate was raising cattle, but the Bea family had always made small quantities of quality wines. Giampiero saw the possibility of making more of the family’s wines and marketing them to the public. Right from the start, the Bea wines were a big success — first in Italy, then in the United States. Wine lovers embraced the natural style of the wines, as well as their qualities expressive of Umbrian terroir. As for the Bea family, they were simply making wines the way they’d always made them.
The 2016 Paolo Bea Santa Chiara Umbria Bianco is made from Grechetto, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Garganega from a limestone, clay, and gravel vineyard. It ferments spontaneously, ages on its fine lees in stainless steel for 12 months, and isn’t fined or filtered. The wine swaggers out of the bottle with ripe apricots and peaches, aromatic summer spices, and juicy candied citrus. It’s a wine as welcoming and charismatic as Giampiero. After all these years of drinking this wine, I’m still awed by how delicious it is.
Giampiero is the co-founder and president of Vini Veri, the Italian natural wine consortium, which is approaching its 20th anniversary. Vini Veri is the heart and soul of the Italian natural wine movement, and Giampiero is the heart and soul of Vini Veri. Ever since my lunch with Giampiero, I think of Bea Santa Chiara Umbria Bianco the heart and soul of today’s Italian wine.