1997 Movia Pinot Nero, Brda, Slovenia

Anyone who has ever visited the far Northeast of Italy knows that things get a little wonky up there when it comes to languages, geography, and political affiliations. One town will speak perfect Italian, and you’ll find risotto on every table and then a few kilometers away, another town will speak German and serve you knockwurst. Such diversity is actually quite entertaining and makes for a really interesting variety of food and, as luck would have it, wine, too.

At the broadest level, the winemaking region of Northeast Italy is known as Friuli, which along with the Trentino Alto-Adige is the most well known and largest producing area for making white wines in Italy. Within the Friuli, the appellation which covers Italy’s border with Slovenia is known as Collio, or more properly, Collio Goriziano, after the Italian for hill (colli). This area of the country has really only been part of Italy proper since the end of the First World War, when maps of the region were redrawn. It should come as no surprise that when those maps were negotiated at Versailles, they didn’t exactly think about where the vineyards would end up.

Subsequently, it was a matter of luck, or fate, or just plain bureaucracy that the Kristancic family wine estate would end up pretty much straddling the border of Italy and Slovenia, with 20 acres on the Italian side and 18 acres on the Slovenian side. It’s only really due to the fact that the family mailbox is in Slovenia that the whole operation bears that country’s name. I’m sure for the Kristancics, who have owned their estate since 1820, this is just one more in a series of geopolitical identities, which shall too pass in time.

The Kristancics have better things to worry about than what flag flies over their vineyards. These are serious winemakers who have been doing their thing in the Collio, and now the Brda (the Slovenian name for the same region) since before any of them can remember (at least three centuries). The Movia estate is currently under the stewardship of Ales Kristancic, who grew up working alongside his father in the vineyards. It is largely under his father’s guidance that the winery moved first to organic production and then to full biodynamic production, which they have maintained for nearly the full 20 years that Ales has been working the estate.

The winery produces around 13,000 cases of wine each year, all using the extremely high effort biodynamic practices that were handed down to Ales from his father. This includes racking the wine by hand according to the phases of the moon so as to remove sediment without need for fining or filtering. The estate produces mostly white wines from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Tokaj, Pika, Glera, and Rebula. They also produce smaller quantities of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and this Pinot Nero (Pino Noir). The wines are aged in mostly Slovenian oak casks, with some French oak mixed in, and age on the lees (the sediment left over after fermentation) for many years before bottling.

My friends Jack and Joanne over at Fork & Bottle have been raving about Movia wines for as long as I have known him, and it was only a matter of time before I got to try a few as the result of his generosity. Jack has a predilection for aged wines, among other things, and the fact that Movia seems to hold onto their wines for a lot longer than most appeals to him. This 1997 is Movia’s current release, and if reports of the aging potential of their wine are to be believed, it is still a young, young wine. Jack’s enthusiasm for these wines is unflagging, and after tasting this particular wine, I’m on board as well. It is simply one of the more unique wines I have had in a long time, and definitely a special interpretation of what the Pinot Noir grape offers as raw material for the winemaker’s art.

Tasting Notes:
Bright blood red in the glass, and exceptionally clear for a wine with no fining or filtering, this wine has an intriguing nose of mulberries, cherries and other mixed berries over an underlying scent of minerality. In the mouth it is incredibly juicy — bursting with acidity (without being unbalanced) and lush with flavors of blueberries, rosehips, and redcurrant that carry into a long finish that has hints of exotic wood. It has a depth and a resonance surprising for a wine with such light tannic structure, and a complexity that might be easy to overlook with its medium body and lovely fruit character. Unlike any Pinot Noir I have ever had.

Food Pairing:
Because of its acidity, this is a fantastic food wine and would be a good match for most anything, including many fish dishes. If I could drink it with anything I might choose some red-cooked pork belly.

Overall Score: 9.5/10

How Much?: $26

This wine is available for purchase online. It is imported by Domaine Select in New York.