7 wines from Jeruzalem Ormož, Vinakoper and Vipava 1894

Here are a few scribblings about some wines tasted recently; most were public tastings in a few larger grocery stores.

The three wineries here —Jeruzalem Ormož, Vinakoper and Vipava— are all larger high volume (in Slovenian terms) co-ops whose wines you’ll find virtually anywhere in Slovenia. Without exception, they all retail between 4 and 7 euros (US$ 4.60 – 8.20) per bottle, averaging at about 5 euros (US$ 5.85). I’ve visited each of these wineries several times over the past decade (a decade?!), and each area is certainly worth a visit to get a feel for the vastly varying geography that this tiny country offers. And of course, because wine regions are an absolute blast to visit.

Jeruzalem-Ormož winery. (No, that’s not a typo; there is a village named Jeruzalem here.) Located on the easternmost edge of the country, near the Hungarian and Croatian borders, the picturesque rolling hills here are the last in the region before the topography gives way to the large, flat Panonian plain that stretches east into Hungary and south through Croatia and into Serbia. More than a millennium ago the area was noted as a viticultural gem by the rampaging Crusaders who decided they needed to go no further (at least for a little while); thus the vineyards in and around the village now known as Jeruzalem.

In terms of production, Jeruzalem-Ormož, in Slovenia’s podravje region, is the second largest winery in Slovenia, second only to Vinakoper (see below), with total production at roughly 4.5 million liters annually. It’s also the only co-op that uses only grapes produced in its own region.

– 2004 Sauvignon Blanc – Nice sauvignon blanc perfume aromas and a nice balance, but a little too sweet for me on the palate. Many of the whites from Podravje tend towards the sweeter side of dry, coming as somewhat of a shock to more tradition-bound palates.

– 2004 Pinot Blanc, or Beli Pinot. Semi dry, citrusy with some sweet aromas, not unattractive by any means. In my notes, I wrote “Gewurz xtra-lite.”

– 2004 Renski Riesling. Another semi dry offering, with apricots on the nose and palate. A tad light on the finish. A popular local variety.

– 2004 Gewurztraminer, or Traminec. I love gewurz from this area! Also semi dry. Aromas so wonderful that I left the store with four cans of lychee fruit. There was a little sulphur on the nose that threw me off initially, but the long finish made up for it. I think it’ll smooth out over the next year.

Vinakoper is in the primorje region, which means, in a literal translation, by the sea. And, with north and east-facing views of the Adriatic from virtually all of the co-ops vineyards, the description is an apt one.

– Vinakoper 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. Nice plummy & jammy on the nose, with wildberry and some sour cherry notes on the palate. For the price, quite nice. I’ve tasted quite of bit of this Cab, every vintage since 1995 or so, and can report that it does improve in the bottle for at least a year. Note: in the U.S. it’s labeled as Cabernet Sauvignon reserve, and was one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s “best value brands” for 2001.

The Vipava 19894 winery is also in the Primorje region, but slightly more inland, nestled in the beautiful Vipava valley, more or less directly east from Gorizia, Italy.

– 2001 Pinot Noir, or modri pinot. One day, I’ll find a good cheap bottle made from this notoriously fickle grape; that time has yet to come. Deep down, this one’s trying hard, and the good news is that it’s much better that it was just three years ago, and light years ahead of what it was about seven years ago, when Vipava first started bottling it.

– 2003 Barbera. Vipava’s always done a nice job with barbera, and this is no exception. Blood ruby red in color, with plenty of plummy fruit on the palate. A perfectly good spaghetti red.

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