MonteMoro – Wines That Nourish You
We were sitting in front of his vineyard overseeing the valley in Triban, sipping on his new rose’, when I decided to provoke him: “You’ll never become rich this way. What you actually should be making is a semi-sweet rose’. We were sold out of that stuff before August…”
Refusing to rise to the bait, he just laughed. Truly devoted to his lands, vineyards, and heritage, Matjaž Babič doesn’t grow vines organically so he could “correspond with a target market” or charge more for less. This was abundantly clear by just looking at the vineyard right next to us as we were sitting there, early last autumn, just before harvest. Some of the vintage was later lost to mildew and oidium. A lot more could have been saved by resorting to the use of fungicides.
Of course, Matjaž understands how important it is to keep his soil healthy, as inherited from his grandfather, in order to be able to make the wines that he makes. Nourishing wines, not ones that drain you.
I was drawn to his Malvasia and Refosco years ago, when I first chanced upon MonteMoro. From that day, his work has only improved.
One might wonder, though, with all the Malvasia Istriana floating about in Croatia, who needs another from Slovenia? Especially one that does not make an obvious splash and isn’t necessarily all that impactful at first taste?
It may be the same variety, but it’s a different type of wine. The intention here was never to make a fresh Malvasia. So, who cares if the market wants 2021 and wants it now: Matjaz’s currently available vintage of MonteMoro Malvasia is 2018. Also, it is a far cry from being just more of that macerated stuff. With no more than two days of skin contact, the wine is unobtrusive, yet its presence on the palate is substantial. It’s about quality not quantity of extract, which makes this Malvasia stand out in a line up of much more alcoholic or aged Malvasias. The only specific emphasis here is the wine’s own vinosity, elegant, gently handled, and with the kind of real mid-palate presence often lacking in Malvasias produced in what is today a more predominant idiom.
Yet, the wine I have been talking about is not the old-school, traditional Malvasia that Matjaž makes. That would be his aMorus, made from old vines and dedicated to the “ways of our ancestors”, undergoing thirty days of skin contact, fermenting spontaneously in open vats without temperature control, and left in large wood for at least 2 years.
The entry-level MonteMoro Malvasia also ferments spontaneously, as do, indeed, all of Matjaz’s wines, only with temperature control and followed by battonage for a full year, in order to achieve finesse, as opposed to just extracting primary fruit flavours.
Finesse is what makes MonteMoro unique. Balance and meaningfulness. Even the thirty-day macerated aMorus Malvasia defies simple categorisation as an amber/orange wine.
By the same token, MonteMoro Refosco is both typical and unique, a complex wine, the 2013 vintage just entering its drinking window . A very rich taste and body are lifted by the variety’s natural freshness. Fruit & minerality honed by time. Maturing and evolving, enhancing its fruity essence with more depth and clarity. A contradiction in terms? Perhaps…
This is what happens when you try to explain something that is self-explanatory the moment wines like these enter your stomach and bloodstream. Wines that are not superficial, wines that nourish you. What intoxicates here is not the alcohol, but the wines’ own transformational character.
More of this, please, I say. As much as can be had. And, on that note, I wish us all many happy moments in 2022!