The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Ales Kristancic Decoded

Posted on | November 18, 2011 | Written by Josh Rubenstein | No Comments

A Slovenian Hurricane swept through Hong Kong last week as we welcomed back our friend Ales Kristancic, the iconic winemaker of Movia. Much has been said of Ales’ high energy visits to Hong Kong and New York, but very little about the stories behind the stories. After all, what the heck are “happy chickens who smoke Marlboros and wear sunshine glasses?” And why is Ales so excited about a 2011 harvest that lasted 2.5 months longer than previous years?

Sure, last week’s visit featured its share of ballroom dancing in elevators, walking up down escalators, and some very suggestive commentary, but I’ve learned to notice the “off-moments” when Ales pulls Sommeliers to the side for private tutorials and explains the methods to the madness.

So why does Ales frequently reference chickens smoking Marlboros? As it turns out, he’s referring to billboards in Yugoslavia that featured Marlboros as a taste of freedom. While the familiar color of red worked, the message caused a particular problem and thus Marlboros were banned. As you can imagine, smoking Marlboros in public then became the ultimate expression of freedom and being beyond the law.  Happy chickens who “know the rooster” and smoke Marlboros are the most free and happy chickens. They transmit positive energy to us, as a biodynamic vineyard and wine can do. Or so I’ve gleaned from spending a lot of time with Ales.

As we learned when Ales arrived, we were lucky to have him. The visit was in doubt when it seemed the 2011 harvest would never end. In order to harvest in the meticulous grape-by-grape nature that Ales demands, he headed to Serbia to recruit a band of literal gypsy blueberry pickers to help ensure proper selection and adequate coverage for the difficult 2011 vintage. Admitting to great concern during the summer, Ales now considers this one of Movia’s greatest ever vintages and offers full credit to his longtime Movia team and their last-minute teammates.

It has taken quite a bit of time with Ales, but I’ve become a better listener. It’s easy to get caught up in moments Crocodile Dundee moments, like when Ales introduced himself as the President of Turbojet to everyone waiting in line to board the Macau ferry, but in learning to listen to his subtext, I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for how some of my favorite wines have become what they are.


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