Sunday, December 20, 2009

Difficult, But Surprising

2002 Bea Rosso de VeoI hit Avec with a few friends last Friday night and spotted a wine from Bea I'd never heard of before: the 2002 Rosso de Véo. I immediately made a few assumptions. First, I assumed that the 2002 vintage in Umbria was less than optimal, as I knew was the case in the Piedmont, the Southern Rhône, and in many other European regions south of the 47th parallel. Next, I assumed that as it was bottled as a rosso, it would be a sangiovese-driven wine. Third, I assumed that since this was a Bea, it would be well worth drinking no matter the vintage or the exact composition.

Well, two out of three ain't bad. As it turns out, the vintage was indeed terrible, plagued with rain and hail, which the Beas dealt with by salvaging the grapes they could salvage and bottling the entire output as a declassified vino da tavola rather than producing their typical range of DOCG and DOC wines. So sagrantino is in the driver's seat here, augmented by montepulciano and sangiovese. But I didn't guess that on Friday, as it lacked the muscular tannins and assertive black pepper character typical of sagrantino.

Which is not to say the wine itself was lacking. The Beas themselves describe the vintage as "difficile, ma sorprendente," and had I known beforehand all they had to go through to produce this wine, I would have said the same thing, because I thought this wine was glorious, with a depth you don't expect from rain-diluted grapes. The structure here comes more from acidity than tannins, but what lovely acidity to frame the cherry fruit and slightly meaty notes. With its generosity and its silky, lithe body, the wine was effortless with our food, from the house-made sausages to the pan-roasted salmon to the snail polenta. The entire experience seemed effortless and generous, thanks to the hard work in both the kitchen and in the winery.

The Beas' achievement here is all the more remarkable as they did not (and never do) add sulfur, yeast, stabilizers, or external enhancers of any kind. They work hard and do not believe in shortcuts. The results speak for themselves. I am normally loathe to purchase $50+ wine at retail, let alone stock up on several bottles for the long-term, but with the Beas making a deeper and deeper impression upon me, I now know what I need to do.

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