Movia ExTo Tocai Friulano Gredic 2006
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Movia ExTo Tocai Friulano Gredic 2006 Tasting Notes

In 1947, surveyors drew the border between Italy and Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia) right through the family vineyards winemaker Ales Kristancic would one day inherit. Slovenia, the first ex-Yugoslav republic to declare independence, is now a full-fledged member of the European community. The fact that Kristancic grows some of his grapes in Italy and vinifies them in Slovenia hence creates not even the slightest pinprick of administrative concern. The Italian region of Collio and the adjoining Slovenian region of Brda share a joint pride of place no line on the map could diminish.

If only they did not call their preeminent white grape Tocai-Friulano. Hungary, you see, is justly famous for its Tokaji wines, and it too is a full EU member. As such, the EU has moved in favor of the Hungarians to ban the use of two sound-alike wine names, even though none of the three “Tokays” is botanically or stylistically related to either of the others. After the 2007 vintage the French must call their “Tokay d'Alsace” Pinot Gris, a varietal name which, if anything, is rather easy for the rest of the world to comprehend.

The Italo-Slovenians had a real dilemma, however. Their Tocai Friulano is otherwise the Sauvignonasse grape, a relative of Sauvignon Blanc sometimes called Sauvignon Vert. Both these terms are, of course, French. Either term would in addition tend to cause market confusion with the more internationally known Sauvignon Blanc. The Chileans have been struggling for years with the suspicion that much of what they had been calling Sauvignon Blanc has been in fact Sauvignonasse. With much French help, they have been rooting out these vines. The grape and its wines can stand on their own, of course, but the name must be considered less than fortunate.

The jury is not out yet on what the Italians will call the old grape in its newly labeled bottles, but eighth generation winemaker Kristancic has his own solution for now; he calls the grape ExTo, meaning ex-Tocai. Kristancic is one of those lovers of the land, committed to biodynamic methods. Perhaps his evocative coinage will catch on among the Italians.

The $18 wine is non-lingual of course, caring nothing about legal machinations in Brussels, Budapest, Ljubljana or Rome, and you can be sure it will like you as much as you like it if you share it with someone special. In color it is a deep straw gold. The aroma is delicate, featuring white flowers first, almond, peach and apricot, and a touch of honey.

The wine is mainstream dry on the palate, with a rich note of almond, dried apricots, figs, and a lipid quality: fig oil, grape oil or perhaps a just-pressed olive oil. In acidity it is rather forceful, though the aromatics are never pushed too far to the back. The finish is persistent, with traces of the nuttiness and dried fruit, trail mix in essence.

If I have any concern with this wine, it will be finding it in future, and I mean Italian versions, since finding Slovenian wines in the United States is always a challenge. The natural tendency, widely encountered among Italian wines, will be to put a village name, the producer's name, or some evocative coinage most prominently on the label with the term Sauvignonasse either entirely absent or in type so small that an illuminated magnifying glass will be required. This would be a shame for a wine that greets the eye, the nose, and the palate with such clarity and grace.

Verdict: Wish I Could Find More
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This is a story involving international borders that are supposed to be transparent, and wine laws that have far-reaching effects.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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