Day 25: Lunar Cycle

Johnathon Seeds had an interesting idea for an interesting 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.

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.

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.

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…

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.

Follow day by day here:

Up next: Day one of the ambient yeast experiment; or: Jon Bonné vs. Wolfgang Weber

~ by Cory Cartwright on July 15, 2009.

8 Responses to “Day 25: Lunar Cycle”

  1. Thanks for an enjoyable read. Zak zak zak, paf!

  2. Aleš is a great guy, even if a bit of a showman, and Lunar is a great wine. Thanks for writing about him here!

  3. I have 4 bottles left and want to see what this wines evolves into over time. Nice write-up!

  4. I really like Aleš Kristančič’s style: long skin contact, no racking, fining nor filtering, no sulfur and letting the wine take whatever path it takes. His attempt to mimic nature and the fallen grape is exciting and interesting.
    I also understand that he uses barriques for their permeability, never for “seasoning”. But, never the less, barriques “season” and it’s a shame that barriques are being used for these almost completely natural wines.
    I wonder if he also makes other cuvée’s where he ferments/stores the wine in alternate containers? 5000 liter Slovenian Botti might cost less than barriques (this I am not sure about), and perhaps even travel a shorter distance to his winery.
    This is not to say that the wine he is making isn’t good. I have not had the opportunity to taste his wine and would be very excited to do so!

  5. Indeed – a barrique is a barrique. But I think the effect comes down to intent in execution. I think Movia’s intent is to slowly stabilize the wine via oxygen exchange, so that sulfuring is unnecessary. Some winemakers use it to mature and soften “edges”, tannin, etc. Other use it overtly (gasp) in “seasoning” – with wood having deeper toast, one that brings vanillin. butter and caramel flavors. I believe Movia uses a very light toast – just enough to form the barrels – minimizing detrimental, additional flavors.

  6. Jonathan!
    I like your response. I think we are on the same page on this matter!
    I loved your tasting notes on this wine. One of the common aromas I find in the orange wines from Italy/Slovenia (one of the only things separating these two areas are a political border), is this apricot-like aroma. In the mouth it’s like eating a dried apricot, minus the sugar. The mouth feel can play tricks on the mind. On the nose, the aromas can suggest a wine with some residual sugar, but these wines are usually bone-dry. I am really loving these wines! Have you tried the wines of Vodopivec (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) or Simčič (Goriska Brda)?
    Really nice.

  7. Aleš Kristančič has his own theory about the use of barriques. He says that most of the winemakers use the new oak not long enough! In this way they are getting the taste of oak, which disappears if one keeps wine in the barrique long enough (I do not remember exactly, but his Veliko Rdeče stays in oak for 5-6 years, his white Veliko Belo a bit shorter, maybe 4 years, and they are beautiful!). For Aleš barriques should be used only to stabilise the wine, and for this he needs much longer time in oak, new oak! I remember buying his 1995 Pinot Noir in 2006, in Alba, where it has been in a shop window for at least a year (the first time I saw it there was in 2005). The wine was in perfect shape, and for me it was a strong argument in favor of his theory.

  8. what’s ales theory of the use of perfume when he shows his wines?
    except for the puro, i really don’t get his style. too much oak for me….

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