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Lunar under a Full Moon

July 13, 2009

This is a cross-post, and part of a 31-part-celebration of natural wines for saignée‘s anniversary.

Follow along at: http://saignee.wordpress.com/31-days-of-natural-wine/

Aleš Kristančič of Movia observed that if a ripe grape falls from vine to the earth, it becomes the ideal vessel for winemaking. Yeasts enter through the hole where the stem once attached, fermenting the sugars to create the most natural wine (ever). If left untouched, it would probably develop into vinegar, but Aleš saw the opportunity to step in before that happened, and thus conceived Lunar – an experimental Ribolla Gialla cuvee from a selection of the estate’s oldest vines.

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Aleš co-plants a few Pinot Gris vines (which bud earlier) in his Ribolla Gialla vineyards to encourage a longer flowering period.

Movia creates wines on the edge. Literally, the Brda vineyards are on the extreme western slopes of Slovenia, spilling over into Friuli in northeastern Italy. Aleš, the current steward of the estate, speeds through the 30 hectares on his dirt bike. He comes from generations of organic farmers, and personally pushes the envelope with biodynamics, terroir fanaticism and a track record for doing things the natural way as opposed to the easy way.

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Flying stones, Brda style

Aleš reconsidered the entire process of winemaking to facilitate this “fallen grape” notion for Lunar. This meant a little more planning and work on the front end to allow nature to do its thing. Movia’s oak barriques – used for its permeability, never for “seasoning” – were fitted with larger bungs, proportionate to the stem hole on the grape if the grape were a barrique. Manually selected whole clusters of Ribolla Gialla are then placed inside, filling the barriques. The bungs are closed, and in the deep Brda cellars, gravity and nature do their task — macerating and fermenting the juice, skins, stems and all. Winemaking. No sulfur is added, and Aleš accepts the result of whatever path the wine takes. If 1-in-50 barrels turn to vinegar, so be it— it’s part of living life with no risks, no rewards. What is left is Lunar.

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The Lunar cellar. No cover charge...

The wine is not racked or filtered; over time, nature clarifies the wine by itself. The tidal forces of a new moon naturally settle the musts and sediment. Inversely, the full moon causes the stones (minerals) to fly, which dictates the bottling time and inspired me to open my bottle of 2006 Lunar . . . because yeah, I want as many flying minerals as possible in my wine. . .

The wine poured a hazy amber-orange. It smelled fantastic, attractively sweaty (glowing?) with ruby grapefruit and fresh apricot. On the palate it was joyous and alive – sweet into savory with a tension between the ripeness of the fruit and the cut of acidity and tannin. Crystalline depth. There were dried herbs, orange and cherry blossoms and a liquid rock core that kept gaining strength and focus over time.

the bottom of the barrel...

The bottom of the barrel...

What struck me was how not how eccentric, extreme or gimmicky it tasted, but how accessible, pure and graceful it was. It wasn’t simple, but had an over-riding unity, an elemental quality – like it couldn’t possibly be broken down any further. I had a similar reaction to a Chateau Musar Rouge a few weeks ago – I called it one-thing-ness – and Lunar has it too, in spades. This wine is about process over product, not that the process defines the wine. It is the wine. No two bottles will ever be the same. When you enjoy one, you experience a glimpse of its total flow of interactions – the individual story that shapes it from vine to glass to palate or (if nature deems it so) vinegar.

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