2017 Marjan Simčič, Ribolla (Gialla), Opoka, Medana Jama Cru, Brda, Slovenia.
The golden straw/yellow Ribolla from Marjan Simčič, a winegrower in the Goriška Brda wine region in Slovenia, is absolutely stunning, being both mineral driven and steely crisp, but also having depth and sublime textural beauty. The vineyards straddle the Slovenian/Italian border, with half of them on each side and this estate defies country classification, though for this wine we will call it from Slovenia. Josef Simcic started to make wine here in 1860. Five generations later, Marjan Simcic carries on the tradition, making some fabulous wines including his Pinot Noir that I reviewed most recently, plus a must try Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot and this thrilling Ribolla (Gialla). The Ribolla comes from old vines in the best sites with a minimum of 65 years of age at about 250 meters above sea level with a cooler north and western exposures on stony marl (opoka), limestone soil as well as ancient organic matter. Marjan employs natural spontaneous fermentation, with skin contact with berries in the maceration for about 16 days in large 1,000 Liter concrete eggs, for the Ribolla, before being gently (pneumatic) pressed off to a combination of cement and oak. This Opoka cru white saw 10 months in the concrete eggs and then an additional 12 months in 500L oak barrels locally known as tono. These Marjan Simčič Cru Selection wines have a very rich hue in the glass, in this case a glowing yellowish gold, with Marjan adding that they typically have an extraordinary beautiful body, as well as the classic characteristic mineral note. The low, vine covered, hills of Brda open towards the Italian Friulan lowland that supplies warm sea air. Goriška Brda district is only, it should be noted 20-odd kilometres away from the Adriatic not too far away from Trieste. On the north side there are the Julian Alps and the Trnovska Plateau which protects them, in a rain shadow, from the influence of the colder and more severe mountain climate and shorter seasons. This area has a dark war torn history, from both World Wars, and its remoteness makes it a path less traveled, but it intrigues me and I hope to someday visit this special place.
The 2017 Ribolla leads with white flowers, delicate tropical essences, lemon/lime and peach, it gains more and more complexity with air taking on brioche, phenolic savory notes, wet stones, orange, saline, verbena and clarified cream in a wine that feels medium bodied, but somehow weightless and vivid throughout. The fresh acidity is subtle in this wine and everything stays taut, while allowing an impressive layering to unfold in a generous and caressing fashion, this is sublime stuff. Marijan took over the management of the farm in 1988 and in 1997, in the village of Ceglo near Medana, he built a new and modern wine cellar was built, which Simčič believes created the perfect conditions for producing high quality wines, and he was proved right over the next two decades with his wines all being critically acclaimed, especially in recent years by the famous Gambero Rosso Slow wine guide, at which point I became where of them. These wines from picturesque hills that roll between Slovenian Brda region and on the Italian side that is in the Collio region. The Marjan Simčič winery has four wines labeled as “Opoka” (Ribolla, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot) which are his pride and joy, they represent, as he puts it, a completely new dimension of quality in the regions wines. Marjan’s vineyard sites are farmed with mostly organic and natural methods in this historic place with a long growing tradition made up of thick layers of marl and sandstone, these soils of Brda/Collio are ideal for growing vines, which were first planted here as early as Roman times and have long been regarded as Grand Cru quality, and this wine and Simčič’s Pinot very much prove this terroir’s greatness. For Ribolla, this one and the Damijan Podversic Ribolla Gialla from Friuli are my two favorites, though in the new world this grapes gaining popularity with Dan Petroski’s Massicin in Napa making a brilliant example. This vintage is supposed to be available soon, keep an eye out! Marjan Simčič is now directly imported by Wine Warehouse, so be sure to ask your favorite wine merchants about these gorgeous wines.
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive