Movia Veliko Bianco 2002 (Collio, Friuli, Italy; Brda, Slovenia)
In a world of me-too wines that dull a poor palate to bored resignation, when you begin to yearn for something...anything...that's startling and different and quite deliciously unlike the thudding sameness, you do at times stumble upon brilliant surprises. For all the dominant sameness of market driven mediocrity and profit dominated similarity, there are dangerous people out there doing dangerous things to the status quo.
One of the most dangerous is Ales Kristancic, an Italo-Slovene winemaker from Brda whose family straddles the government-drawn border between Italy and Slovenia while paying very little attention to it. Kristancic is that most dangerous and disruptive of men---a reactionary, a rebel, a restless and never quite still force of nature who wants to make a very personal, distinctive, unique style of wine.
He succeeds magnificently. Kristancic farms his grapes with great rigor, insisting on being sustainable, organic, and biodynamic to naturally produce the most intense fruit possible. Then he takes these grapes--some familiar to us, many hopelessly obscure to all but the most devoted oenologues---and ferments and ages them in a decided nod to ancient techniques.
Veliko Bianco is perhaps the finest example of this. It is a blend of Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio, and a touch of Sauvignon Blanc, and the wine is fermented naturally and slowly, then aged in the full presence of oxygen in oak casks for up to three years. Under Kristancic's patient hand the wine matures in a manner much different from most. All the young, pretty, baby fat fruit is slowly burnished away, and the wine becomes more compact, more concentrated, more intense, more mineral and stony, almost tough and slow to yield itself up.
With this wine all the soft, pretty things have been stripped away, and what is left is firm and tight and powerful and essential. At first, it's like sucking on a hard candy, like trying to strip the flavor out of a lemon drop, jaw muscles tensing and bulging to force out that piercing, sharp stiletto of pure lemon intensity that suddenly and entirely fills your mouth and gently burns up to your nasal passages.
...So far this may not sound like a pleasant experience, eh? But it is, truly it is; and there's more reward on its way...
Once it opens up, the pale golden Veliko continues to power out incredibly concentrated and crystalline flavors that slowly, delectably yield interesting complexities---crystallized honey, preserved Meyer Lemon, tart quince, tangy apple with bitter skin, almond paste, even a wisp of pressed white flowers---without ever fading or waning in intensity. And you feel as if it could just go on forever.
There are no gobs of fruit here, no lush, perfume-scented pillows of hedonistic excess laced with soaring alcohols and raisiny richness. Rather than surrendering to the blandishments of this wine, you have to engage with it, be patient with it, and wait for it to show its stuff. And it does.
What more can I tell you about Veliko Bianco? Oh, yeah: it's always a bit of a surprise when I get to the bottom of the glass with this wine; I get so wrapped up in the enjoyment of it I tend to lose track of the little details, until suddenly I have to pry the bottle from someone else's hand to get a refill.
Now that is the sign of a damned good wine!
[Here's the website for Movia. http://www.movia.si/prva.html Unfortunately it is currently only in Slovenian, although they are working on an English version. Even so, it's interesting and entertaining to browse through, with videos and gorgeous pictures.]