As I mentioned in my mini-preview last weekend, expectations were high –mine and those of many others here in Ljubljana– for the inaugural edition of the TopVino International Wine Festival, a first in Slovenia whose aim was to introduce some of the world’s finest wines to a wider audience here. By any measure those expectations were met and exceeded.
It was advertised as the finest wine event ever in Slovenia –pre- or post-independence. I can’t speak entirely to that, but I won’t argue the point either, now, as I sit staring at my Chateau Pontet-Canet and Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte tasting notes (both 2012s, if you’re keeping track). These are wines that retail for €140 (US$152) and €120 (US$130) a bottle here, respectively.
I got all the encouragement I needed the night before, well before I began scribbling those notes, when I heard back from an old friend and wine mentor who’s worked in the wine trade in the US since the late 1980s, after I pointed him to the catalog and asked for a few suggestions.
His reply summed things up succinctly: “Lucky you!”
Those two offerings that helped keep the Bordeaux end of the TopVino festivities quite busy last Monday (17 Oct) weren’t the only wines with those kinds of high-end price tags. There was Chateau Calon Segur (both the 2011 and 2012), described as Johnny Depp’s favorite wines and ones I never even got around to. There was the 2013 Ornellaia, supreme among Super Tuscans, which I did get to and loved. At least another dozen listed at €80 or more.
Not that price is always the key indicator of quality. I was just as blissfully pleased with some that sell for a quarter of the price of the Haut Lafitte. After all there are many things that are considered before a wine is given its price tag.
But a high price does have one brutal component: for the majority of us, it severely limits access.
That’s where TopVino comes in and where co-organizers Gašper Čarman and Franci Kek succeeded so well; at €40 a ticket (€46 at the door), it was arguably the best deal in town –all year. Some one thousand others who attended obviously agreed, showing that Ljubljana’s wine enthusiasts can and will support a gathering of this type. I’m already looking forward to the announcement that next year’s will be the second annual. And in the meantime I’ll visit Evino, Gašper’s shop and wine bar, a little more often.
I have tasting notes and thoughts to share on 29 wines (and four Cognacs!) which I’ll break down and post over the next week or two. But in brief, a short list of highlights.
Besides France and Italy, Spain, California, Portugal, New Zealand, Hungary, Austria and Croatia were also represented. The line-up included the premiere of more than 30 wines, the majority from Slovenian winemakers, who were out in force. Many shouldn’t have felt out of place.
The key stars I mentioned above; the only shame is that I’ll likely never have the opportunity to taste most of them as they mature and improve.
My three favorites whose order changes each time I consider a top-three?
The 2012 Smith Haut Lafitte, the 2013 Ornellaia, and the 2012 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley’s Mt. Veeder. Among other things it reminded me of how much I miss meaty California reds. And my friends who would share them with me.
Among the next three would be the beautifully concentrated 2012 Grand Puy Lacoste and the blissful 2012 Biserno from Tenuta di Biserno which had me humming George Clinton tunes.
It was great to reacquaint myself with some Slovenian wines I hadn’t tried in a while, and be introduced to some that were new to me. Dolfo’s 2009 Gredic Red (Gredič rdeče) was luscious and a bargain at €18. Stemberger’s 2011 Merlot was a really pleasant surprise, a great example of the earthiness that the Kras/Karst region imparts in my second favorite varietal. And Movia‘s 2013 Lunar, with a bit of the full moon captured in each bottle, is truly out of this world.
Oh. And then there were Tesseron’s cognacs. Sampling 10, 25, 50 and 100-year-old cognac was the sublimely ethereal experience of the day.