The lush forests, charming towns, remote caves and mighty mountains of Slovenia are easy to conjure with each sip of wine from the country. Situated in the heart of Europe, where the Alps meet the Mediterranean and the Pannonian plains, Slovenians lovingly refer to their country as the “Green Treasure of Europe” because it is amazingly beautiful and green. Independent from the former Yugoslavia since 1991, and a member of the European Union since 2004, this resilient country is home to about two million inhabitants whose culture and common language have survived for centuries.
Winemaking in Slovenia existed long before the Romans introduced it to France, Germany and Spain. The oldest vine in the world grows in Slovenia with an age of over 400 years. It is the oldest living specimen on our planet of a noble grape vine that still bears grapes and is registered in the Guinness Book of Records. In Europe, less than 10% of vineyards are on steep sleeps. The term “heroic winemaking” has been coined for Slovenia because 50% of their vineyards are on very steep slopes. There is no possibility of irrigation or machine work so most activities in the vineyard are carried out manually. Luckily, the area’s signature grape (Rebula) is a golden-skinned white grape variety that thrives in the hot summer sun without irrigation. It loves to dig its roots deep into the layers of sandstone, marl and sedimentary rock called “opoka” locally. Viticulture is a way of life for Slovenians and winemaking techniques are passed down from generation to generation. Many families also grow fruit and olives on their vineyards. Organic farming is not a trendy label term here, it’s a lifestyle.
The three main wine regions in Slovenia are Primorska, Podravska and Posavska. I was first introduced to Slovenian wines about six years ago at an importer tasting featuring Krasno winery which is located in Goriška Brda, a sub-region or district of Primorska. Bordering Italy, Brda (pronounced ber-da) simply means “hills”. Brda is often referred to as the “Tuscany” of Slovenia due to its orchards, Cyprus trees and rolling hillside of vines that thrive in the sub-Mediterranean climate mixing warm sea air and cold Alpine winds. The wines are vibrant with acidity, bursting with floral and fruit aromas, and present a distinct minerality. I recently had the opportunity to learn more about the little village of Kranso and their outstanding wines from Darinko Ribolica, Krasno’s Chief Oenologist. The virtual tasting was hosted by Klet Brda, the leading producer and exporter of Slovenian bottled wine. These limited production, estate bottled wines are not widely available, but I hope you will seek them out and enjoy as much as I have over the years.
Krasno Sparkling Rebula
100% Rebula (Ribolla Gialla)
Soft and smooth with fine bubbles. Medium gold color with floral aromas and flavors of apple and citrus. Toast, white pepper and minerality shine on the palate. Initial and secondary fermentation in 100% stainless steel. Aged for three months sur lie in Charmat tanks. This is the perfect aperitif and pairs well with every course of the meal.
Medium yellow with a golden hue. Complex aromas of field flowers, citrus, melon, stone and pine. On the palate, full-bodied and creamy with notes of pear, green apple, gooseberry, grass, lime and flint. Good acidity and a long almond finish. Fermented in stainless steel and aged sur lie in stainless for six months.
*Sauvignonasse, called Fruilano (formerly Tocai Friulano) in Italy, is an indigenous variety most famous for its role in the white wines of Fruili.
Krasno Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir
Ruby color with brick red rim. Intense aromas of mature red fruit. On the palate ripe red cherry, plum and stewed berries with a nice minerality. Smooth tannins and a warm, lingering finish. Fermented and matured in 100% French barrique barrels. Pair with smoked salmon, duck breast, roasted chicken or mushroom risotto.
Krasno Rdece Red Blend
40% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot
Deep ruby color with a purple hue. Earthy aromas of bramble and grass and flavors of black cherry, blackberry, raspberry, olives, bell pepper, baking spice and cigar box. All 3 varieties are macerated separately. Malolactic fermentation in all varieties. Fermentation in stainless steel, and aged for 12 months in big wooden casks. Pair with grilled steak or lamb, roasts and stews.
Slovenia has no shortage of fun and adventure. You can swim in the sea in the morning, climb mountains in the afternoon, dine at a variety of newly minted Michelin starred restaurants and savor premium wines from one of the most interesting wine areas in the world. I’d say that’s the making of your next great wine country getaway. We might not be able to travel in the age of Corona, but we can certainly take a sip and savor!
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