Wine Time

Wine of the Week: A White from Slovenia? Yes, Slovenia!

Anyone who's ever had a chance to taste with Slovenian rockstar winemaker Aleš Kristančič (pronounced ah-LESH krees-TAHN-cheech) knows that he is one larger-than-life dude. That's him in the photo above in the cellar of his family's estate, Movia, the only winery allowed to operate privately under Tito (because the Yugoslav dictator loved the wines so much).

From his flamboyant Gucci belt buckles and patent-leather pants to his radical approach to biodynamic farming, he is a portrait of extremes and his love of rock 'n' roll is matched only by his zeal for Natural winemaking. He makes wines as nature intended them (to borrow a phrase from one of the handful of Natural wine associations that have emerged in Europe over the last decade).

While wine lovers and industry observers continue to squabble over the definition of what Natural wine is and isn't (a top resource for info on Natural wine is Alice Feiring's excellent blog), they all agree that it's made from chemical-free farming (and that includes chemical residue from neighboring farms) and the exclusive use of native or ambient yeast.

Where the majority of winemakers add industrial yeast to their wines during fermentation, Natural winemakers use only yeast that occurs naturally in the vineyard, on the skins of the grapes, and in the winery itself. When native yeasts are used, Aleš will tell you, the wine is an expression of the place where it is made, in this case Slovenia, Italy's neighbor to the northeast.

Movia's 2007 Ribolla is bright and fresh, with balanced food-friendly alcohol and bright, bright acidity. Don't be turned off by the initial funk on the nose: Aleš adds only a minimal amount of sulfites to this wine at bottling, and the resulting funk (yes, owed to the low amount of sulfites in the wine) quickly blows off, giving way to white flowers and white stone fruit aromas.

A favorite pairing for this wine is the EU-prohibited date clams that you can find in Brda (pronounced BUHR-dah) not far from the Movia estate (if you know where to go and have the password). But if date clams are unavailable, I bet this less than $25 white would also pair well with mussels and fries at Jeannine's Bistro BYOB.

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Jeremy Parzen writes about wine and modern civilization for the Houston Press. A wine trade marketing consultant by day, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy. He spends his free time writing and recording music with his daughters and wife in Houston.
Contact: Jeremy Parzen