Slovenia’s Goriška Brda Wine Growing District – An Introduction
Tucked into a northwestern corner of the country, Goriška Brda is Slovenia’s westernmost district, its most developed and best known internationally. Featuring a broad band of picturesque rolling, terraced hills, it’s often described as Slovenia’s Tuscany.
At its eastern edge, Goriška Brda borders Italy’s Collio; it’s a more hilly extension of it actually, sitting halfway between the highest peaks of the Julian Alps to the north and Monfalcone on the Bay of Trieste to the south. But don’t be deceived by the views of snow-capped Alpine peaks. Grape vines flourish alongside cherries, olives and even lemons. The climate, the look, the feel and even the attitude is very Mediterranean, albeit tempered by that Alpine influence.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Goriška Brda is one of four districts in Slovenia’s Primorska region, located in the west of the country. The others are Kras, the Vipava Valley and Slovenska Istra.[/su_pullquote]Goriška Brda is home to Slovenia’s best known wineries and winemakers, including Ales Kristančič from Movia and Jean Michel Morel from Kabaj, both named among the 100 best wineries of the year several times by Wine & Spirits Magazine. But several other producers have chiseled places for themselves on the wine lists of some of the world’s finest –and most expensive– restaurants. That’s good for the district’s international stature, and reflected in the wines’ rising prices — some deserved, some not.
Goriška Brda –brda means hills in the local dialect, and is often how the area is referred to– covers 140 square kilometers between the rolling hills that butt up against the Soca (Isonzo) River Valley made famous by Hemingway to the east, the divided city of Gorica/Gorizia to the south and Collio to the west, and includes 1,992 hectares (4,992 acres) of vineyards.
[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 Goriška is pronounced Go Reesh Ka. (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]The marl, shale and sandstone soils impart a distinct mineral quality to the wines, especially the whites which flourish here. Rebula (Ribolla), Zeleni sauvignon (Sauvignonasse, Sauvignon Vert, Tokai Friulano) and Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio) are probably the best whites; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc the best reds.
That said, exceptional wines span the gamut, from innovatively stylish sparkling wines to Saunternes-like late harvest offerings. In recent years, winemakers from Goriška Brda have been at the forefront of the orange/amber/minimal intervention movement, oftentimes setting the international standards.
For the patient among you, know that the aging potential is great, and oftentimes at a fraction of the price of Italian or French reds. While slightly lighter in style, aged reds I’ve tried have been phenomenal. Over the past 20 years I’ve tasted many from the 1960s on several occasions –1968 is considered the best vintage of the past half century– and all were excellent.
Goriška Brda is home to Klet Brda, Slovenia’s largest cooperative, thus the country’s largest producer. It’s located in the village of Dobrovo, the district’s center.
As per national regulations, the recommended varietals for production: Rebula (Ribolla), Zeleni sauvignon (Sauvignonasse, Sauvignon Vert, Tokai Friulano), Beli Pinot (Pinot Blanc), Sauvignon Blanc, Malvazija (Malvasia), Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio), Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
And as per national regulations, the permitted varietals for production: Rumeni muškat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), Pikolit, Prosecco, Verduc, Refošk (Refosco), Cabernet Franc, Modri Pinot (Pinot Noir), Barbera, Syrah, Gamay, Glera, Klarnica, Pergolin, Pokalca, Poljšakica, Viognier.
Reviews of Goriška Brda wines on Piran Café
(Listed alphabetically by winery and date of tasting; updated as needed)