Slovenia’s Kras Wine Growing District – An Introduction

Borrowing its name from the wider Slovenian Karst (Kras to locals) world that extends from the Vipava Valley to the north, east to the Brkini Hills, south to the northern reaches of Croatia’s Istria and west to the northern Adriatic’s Gulf of Trieste, Slovenia’s Kras wine district, the smallest of the four in the Primorska region, is limited to the plateau that rises sharply eastward from the city of Trieste.

Kras is one of four districts in Slovenia’s Primorska region, located in the west of the country. The others are The Vipava Valley, Slovenska Istra and Goriška Brda.
Largely barren and in spots desolate, the plateau, which lies at about 365m (1200ft) above sea level, is most notable for two things: the harsh rocky and dry environment that makes growing anything difficult, and its mineral-rich clay-red terra rossa soils. The topographical term Karst, whose features include rocky limestone, dolomite and gypsum landscapes with underground drainage systems, sinkholes and caves, originates from this area. Known as Carso in Italy, most of it lies in present-day Slovenia.

Kras wine district
Kras wine district, western Slovenia

The weather can be extreme, hosting the harshest climate of Slovenia’s nine wine districts. Winters can be cold, summers scorching with frequent droughts. Then there’s the Burja winds –Bora to Italians– whose gusts of up to 200kph are more prominent in the neighboring Vipava Valley, but not infrequent in Kras. The stone from the region is a prominent feature in local architecture.

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 Refošk is pronounced Reh FoSHk. (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.)
Viticulturally, the 753 hectare (1860 acres) district is mainly known as the home of Teran, the name given to Refošk (Refosco) from this region only. Grown in the iron-rich terra rossa soils, Refošk here makes a deep red, fuller-bodied spicy, aromatic wine. Another style, in which ripe Refošk must undergoes an extended maceration, results in Teranton, which sometime isn’t released until eight years after the vintage. It will age quite well.

Other typical reds include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Those, blended with Teran, are becoming more widely available and produce exceptional wines.

Among whites, Malvazija (Malvasia), Chardonnay and Rebula (Ribolla) are most prevalent, although many winemakers also grow indigenous varietals including Vitovska grganja and Klarnica, two grapes that nearly disappeared in the latter half of the 20th century.

The district is divided into two sub-districts: the higher peaks of Vrhe, and the Karst plateau.

In the Kraška planota (Karst Plateau) sub-district –

As per national regulations, the recommended varietals: Malvazija (Malvasia), Refošk (Refosco)

And as per national regulations, the permitted varietals: Vitovska grganja, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio), Beli Pinot (Pinot Blanc), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon

In the Vrhe sub-district –

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Recommended varietals: Rebula (Ribolla), Malvazija (Malvasia), Laški Rizling (Welschriesling), Sauvignon Blanc, Pinela, Zelen, Beli Pinot (Pinot Blanc), Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio), Chardonnay, Merlot, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon

Permitted varietals: Zeleni Sauvignon (Sauvignonasse, Sauvignon Vert. Tokai Friulano), Rumeni Muškat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), Pikolit, Vitovska grganja, Prosecco, Modri Pinot (Pinot Noir), Cabernet Franc, Refošk (Refosco), Syrah, Glera, Klarnica, Pergolin, Poljšakica.

Reviews of Kras wines on Piran Café

(Listed alphabetically by winery and date of tasting; updated as needed)

  • Boris Lisjak Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 / Kras, Primorska [Feb 2018]
  • Stoka Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 / Kras, Primorska [Aug 2007]
  • Štoka Vitovska Grganja 2015 / Kras, Primorska [Nov 2017]
  • Vinakras Teranton 1997 / Kras, Primorska [Jan 2008]
Last updated 4 December 2017
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