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Orange anarchy

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Based in Šentjur, in eastern Slovenia, about 20 km northwest of Zagreb, Aci Urbajs became interested in wine-making in 1969 when, as a boy, he worked in a vineyard his parents had acquired. In 1987, he received, as a present for graduating from university, a small vineyard on the Rifnik hill, where unearthed Roman artifacts pointed to a long wine-making tradition on the site. A disciple of organic farming from early on, he was soon attracted to biodynamics and joined the Slovenian Demeter association in 1999. In the cellar, his approach is resolutely minimalist: spontaneous fermentation, no racking, no filtering, no fining. Two lines of wines are made: one with a small amount of added sulphur (20 to 30 g/l vs. the allowed 250 g/l), the other a “natural” line with no added sulphur. Chardonnay, Kerner, Pinot Gris, Welschriesling, Blaufränkisch and Pinot Noir are grown. Production is tiny, only a few thousand bottles a year.

Posavje 2012, Organic Anarchy, Aci Urbajs ($59.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Chardonnay, Kerner and Laški Rizling (“Italian Riesling” aka Welschriesling) from vines planted in 1988 and rooted in marble-rich soil. Two weeks’ maceration on the skins. Fermented in open barrels using indigenous yeasts. Matured one year. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. Vegan-friendly. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy orange. Surprising, evolving nose: spicy, “kind of soapy,” “lit cigar,” dried orange peel and a hint of honey, among other things. Medium-bodied. Surprisingly fresh and vibrant for a five-year-old orange wine. The mineral-dusted fruit (stone fruit mainly) is almost sweet and yet so savoury. A hint of botrytis only increases the already complex set of flavours and aromas. Bright tingly acidity and a tannic rasp turn the silky texture a little raw-silky. The long finish is marked by pepper and nut notes. The way the wine evolved in the glass suggests carafing an hour or two beforehand may be a good idea. Very impressive. I look forward to encounters with Urbajs’s other wines. (Buy again? The high price notwithstanding, yes, a bottle to savour at leisure.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 4 of 9

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