Of the four districts in Slovenia’s Primorska region, Slovenska Istra, or Slovenian Istria, best fits the region’s name. Primorska roughly translates to “by the sea’; some vineyards here, which butt up against some of the country’s 42-kilometer long stretch of Adriatic coastline, couldn’t get closer.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Slovenska Istrais one of four districts in Slovenia’s Primorska region, located in the west of the country. The others are Kras, The Vipava Valley and Goriška Brda.[/su_pullquote]Fanning around Slovenia’s main port city of Koper in all directions, the district covers 2,331 hectares (5,760 acres) of vineyards, south to the border with Croatia’s Istria and north to the Italian border just south of Trieste. Slovenska Istra is the warmest part of the country and the most Mediterranean, where vineyards and olive groves often share plots of land.
As you might expect, the summers are hot and winters mild; snowfall is rare. The vineyards are mineral rich due to coastal influences. Vinakoper, the largest local coop, this year celebrated its 70th anniversary by being named Slovenia’s Winery of the Year.
[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 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.)[/su_pullquote]Reds dominate here, especially Refošk (Refosco), the most widely cultivated. Here is it makes a wine that’s more medium-bodied and richer in taste than its continental brother in the Kras district, where its terra rossa soils create a heavier and more acidic version (and with a different name, Teran, for the same grape). Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot also do well; red blends of all three are becoming increasingly popular, more interesting and complex. Syrah has also begun to gain a foothold in recent years.
Among whites, Malvazija (Malvasia) is king. Rumeni Muškat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are plentiful, with some of the best in the region produced here.
Oh, and this: Piran, the charming 2,000-year-old-town that lends this site its name, lies at the end of Slovenia’s Istrian peninsula. Grapes grow there, too.
As per national regulations, the recommended varietals: Malvazija (Malvasia), Chardonnay, Refošk (Refosco), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
And as per national regulations, the permitted varietals: Rumeni Muškat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), Beli Pinot (Pinot Blanc), Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio), Sauvignon Blanc, Maločrn, Cabernet Franc, Modri Pinot (Pinot Noir), Syrah, Gamay, Cipro.
Reviews of Slovenska Istra wines on Piran Café
(Listed alphabetically by winery and date of tasting; updated as needed)
Gordia White 2012 / Slovenska Istra, Primorska [Feb 2018]