Slovenia’s Vipava Valley Wine Growing District – an Introduction
At 3,005 hectares (7,425 acres), Vipava is the largest of the Primorje region’s four districts, and the second largest of Slovenia’s nine districts. Taking its name from the 49-kilometer long river that snakes east to west through the valley and empties into the Isonzo/Soča in Italy, the district stretches about 35 kilometers southeast to northwest from the towering Mt. Nanos to the divided city of Nova Gorica on the border with Italy.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]The Vipava Valley is one of four districts in Slovenia’s Primorska region, located in the west of the country. The others are Kras, Slovenska Istra and Goriška Brda.[/su_pullquote]It’s a relatively narrow, picturesque valley, resting between the rolling hills of the Kras/Karst plateau to the south and the dramatic ridges of the Trnovska plateau to the north. You feel and breath the effects of both, a unique meld of wind and air that is both Adriatic and Alpine and at the same time neither.
Those natural walls capture the warm air that flows from the northern Adriatic and Italy’s Veneto to produce a pleasant climate, more Mediterranean than Alpine, typified by hot summers and mild winters. As in other parts of the Primorje region, spring usually comes early. But that pleasant environment is rattled in the late autumn and winter by occasional burst of the Burja winds –Bora to Italians– which pound the area with gusts of up to 200kph. That can cause topsoil erosion in some areas but also clears the clouds, making the Vipava Valley the sunniest area in Slovenia.
[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 Sončni is pronounced SonCHnee. (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]Adding to the climatic diversity of the terroir, vineyard altitudes range from 50 to 300m, some inland and some closer to the Adriatic coasts, with soils –marl, clay, flysch and sandstone– as varied as the landscapes. In short, territory conducive to a wide variety of grapes. Among reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Barbera are popular and do well; among whites Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and the omnipresent Laski Risling (Welschriesling) dominate.
For curious and adventurous oenophiles, it’s the indigenous white varietals that are of most interest. The Vipava Valley is the only place in the world where Zelen, a floral, fragrant and fruity white is produced. Another is Pinela, which only appears here and in small pockets of Veneto just across the border. And Klarnica, a dry, floral white which is rare, even here.
In 1844 a local priest and polymath Matija Vertovec wrote Vinoreja, the first expert text on wine and wine-growing written in the Slovenian language. The focus was heavy on the Vipava valley, cataloging and describing the varieties grown in the area at that time. It’s said that later that same year he inspired France Prešeren, Slovenia’s greatest Romantic poet, to write Zdravljica, or ‘A Toast’ (as in raising a glass and saying ‘Cheers!’), a poem calling for a national political awakening which became Slovenia’s national anthem upon independence in 1992. In 1905, composer Stanko Premrl put it to music. He was from the village of Podnanos, in the eastern edge of the Vipava Valley.
As per national regulations, the 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
And as per national regulations, the 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 Vipava Valley wines on Piran Café
(Listed alphabetically by winery and date of tasting; updated regularly)