Slovenia’s Posavje Wine-Growing Region: an Introduction
The smallest of Slovenia’s three wine producing regions, Posavje spans an area of 4,328 hectares in the southeastern corner of the country bordering Croatia to the south and east.
About 10 million liters of wine is produced annually in Posavje, which roughly translates to “Lower Sava”, a geographic reference to its location near the lower end of the Sava River.
Reds dominate, mainly the local variety Žametna črnina aka Žametovka and Modra Frankinja (Blaufrankisch). Among whites Laški Rizling (Welschriesling) and the reddish-skinned Kraljevina are among the most common.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]For those of you who need a refresher (or are just eager to learn!), in Slovenian č, š and ž are pronounced “ch”, “sh”, and “zh”. ‘J’ is soft, as in the ‘y’ in you. So Cviček is pronounced Tsvee-Check. (As for the tongue-twisting ‘lj’: whenever you see those two letters together in that order as in the capital city’s name Ljubljana, it’s easier to just pretend that the ‘j’ isn’t there.)[/su_pullquote]In general terms, the wines, both red and white, tend to be lower in alcohol and higher in acidity. The releases focus on fresh, lively wines, although high quality late harvest wines are also common.
The landscape is hilly and can include some very steep slopes, the soil composed mainly of marl and sandstone. The climate is moderate, cooled by winds from the Alps to the northwest that mix with currents from the southeast. Average rainfall ranges from 1,070 to 1,200mm annually.
The region is divided into three districts: Dolenjska, Bizeljsko Sremič and Bela Krajina.
Posavje’s claim to fame? Cviček, a dry, tart red and white blend produced only in the Dolenjska district, thus very much a uniquely Slovenian concoction. [More on our Cviček page.]
Bela Krajina (608 hectares)
Slovenia’s smallest district, Bela Krajina is a narrow strip that stretches west from the Croatian border and Gorjanci mountain range just north of the city of Metlika than twists south towards the town of Crnomelj. The climate is sub-Pannonian, which results in more rapidly maturing vines.
Long home some world class late harvest wines, Bela Krajina has been gaining momentum in recent years through the efforts of forward-thinking wineries such as Sturm and Prus.
As per national regulations, the recommended varietals: Laški Rizling (Welschriesling), Beli Pinot (Pinot Blanc), Sauvignon Blanc, Sivi Pinot (Pinot Gris), Chardonnay, Rumeni Muškat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), Modra Frankinja (Blaufrankisch), Žametovka
And as per national regulations, the permitted varietals: Zeleni Silvanec (Sylvaner), Renski Rizling (Riesling), Ranina(Bouvier), Kraljevina, Traminec (Gewurztraminer), Dišeči Traminec (Gewurztraminer aromatique), Kerner, Bela Žlahtnina (White Chasselas), Modri Pinot (Pinot Noir), Gamay, Zweigelt, Portugalka (Portugieser), Šentlovrenka (St. Laurent), Rdeča Žlahtnina (Red-skinned Chasselas)
Bizeljsko Sremič (1,264 hectares)
Bizeljsko Sremič is the northernmost of the three Posavje districts, bordering the Podravje region. Its area ranges from the town of Kunšperk, which borders Croatia to the east, to the towns of Laško and Zidani Most, which lie along the left bank of the Sava River, to the west. The area’s climate is characterized by mild winters and warmer springs and falls. Vineyards lie between 200 and 400m (656 and 1312ft) above sea level.
Modra Frankinja (Blaufrankisch), does well, perhaps even best, here. Bizeljsko Sremič is also home to some notable sparkling wine producers and is the center of Slovenia’s modest port wine production.
The district is also boasts several repnice, wine cellars and caves carved out from the area’s silica-rich soils. Decorated by frescoes and other local art, some date back more than 200 years. The name? From repa, Slovenian for turnip, the food first stored in the caves.
At 2,456 hectares, Dolenjska is the largest of Posavje’s three districts. As mentioned, it’s home to Cviček, one of only a few wines with the designation Priznano Tradicionalno Poimenovanje (PTP), or recognized traditional designation, reserved for wines with regional (in this case district) distinction.
The hilly terrain, with peaks up to 400m (1312ft) above sea level, can be steep, dropping to smaller or narrow valleys that contribute to the area’s unique microclimate. The most common soils are marl and clay.
Note: the actual area of the wine district shouldn’t be confused with the country’s Dolenjska geographical region, which is significantly larger. Only areas where wines are cultivated are included in the designated wine district.