It’s difficult to believe that we are preparing to receive our fourteenth vintage from the sisters of Monastero Suore Cistercensi. Led by Adriana and Fabiola (pictured left), this convent of 70 Cistercian nuns has been organically farming their five hectares of vines in Vitorchiano, Lazio, since the early nineties, but it wasn’t until the legendary Giampiero Bea began advising them in the early 2000s that their wines gained a larger audience.
Religious women at a monastery outside Rome produce serious wines.
Passing by the vineyards at Monastero Suore Cistercensi, you may see figures pruning the vineyards or checking out clusters of grapes. What’s unique about these figures, though, is they are each wearing a nun’s habit.
We’ve all heard of beers made by Trappist monks—Chimay—and liqueurs by Carthusians—Chartreuse—but there is wine made by religious women too. At this monastery in Vitorchiano, Italy, the Sisters of the Cistercian Order tend five hectares of vineyards to make two white wine blends, Coenobium and Ruscom, as well as a red wine blend called Benedic.
Giampiero Bea—both through his own deeply personal wines and his wide-ranging influence—has become a cornerstone of our family of growers. Building on the work of his father—a through-and-through farmer whose Umbrian dialect is so thick as to be nearly incomprehensible to outsiders—Giampiero realized what made Paolo’s wines so special and built a philosophy around it. In a series of decades that saw Italian winegrowers embracing modern technology whole-hog, Giampiero—as co-founder of the ViniVeri (“Real Wine”) group—advocated for respectful vineyard work, biodiversity, a de-emphasis on technology in the cellar, non-engagement with professional critics, and an overall trust in old agrarian wisdom.
Thirty years ago, a regular customer at the Rosenthal Wine Merchant retail shop presented Neal a bottle of 1985 Montefalco Rosso Riserva from Paolo Bea—a wine he had brought back in his luggage because he wanted so much to share it with him. Neal, no stranger to that sort of pitch, wasn’t expecting much, but the bottle so ignited his imagination that he built in a trip to Umbria a few weeks down the road to make the acquaintance of Giampiero, Paolo’s young son.
For Rosenthal Wine Merchant’s longtime clients, the wines of Azienda Agricola Paolo Bea likely need no introduction. Since the mid-1980s, the bold, unpolished, yet intellectually stimulating and singular wines from this beautiful family farm in Montefalco, Umbria, have delighted and challenged a steadily growing fan base in the United States. Now, each new series of […]
20 Wines for Under $20: The Spring Edition The Pour By ERIC ASIMOV APRIL 21, 2016 Monastero Suore Cistercensi Lazio Bianco Coenobium 2014, $19.99 This is a rare Lazio white with great character, a blend of trebbiano, malvasia and verdicchio. The grapes are grown by Cistercian nuns just north of Rome and made into […]