It’s fall. The harvest, for the most part, is over. Which means time to once again direct more of this site’s attention to the wine and wine events in my immediate neighborhood. That’s what cafés are for, right?
For now, that means exploring the wines, vineyards and wineries of Slovenia and regions that share its borders — Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Austria.
By steadily working through the wines I continue to gather (and sometimes even hoard) and by attending as many tastings as I can — and then inserting the aftermath into this bi-weekly update that I plan to publish every other Wednesday. I’ve made many promises on this site since its inception in 2006, and have kept precious few. That’s something I won’t do again. And I say that knowing full well that publicly proclaiming another promise, one whose very survival is contingent upon consuming lots of wine, starts this one off with my back against a proverbial wall. But I’m ok with that.
Slovenian wines are finally beginning to attract some attention in other parts of the world. I was involved in the trade as an importer and distributor in the US for a decade and a half beginning in the mid-1990s, soon after independence, a time when most people there didn’t know a country named Slovenia –one whose wine tradition goes back nearly 2,500 years– even existed. Trying to sell a bottle of wine from an unknown land that would retail for more than $6 proved to be a difficult chore. I won’t even get into the looks we received when trying to sell bottles whose price tag would approach $20.
But I learned a lot. About wine in general and wines from Slovenia in particular. Much of it is knowledge and experience that’s still not being widely shared. Besides the occasional feature on a Slovenian wine or winery in the UK or US press, it’s still difficult to find information about Slovenian wine in English. That’s a hole I hope to at least begin to fill here. With no commercial interests or relationships in the trade, I can now endeavor to do so freely.
If there’s anything you’d like to see in this space, please let me know.
Up front – A Rodica Trio
I thought a good way to (re)begin would be to feature a few local varietals, ones that are not only unique to this immediate area, but are known to do exceptionally well here. I was recently gifted a Malvazija/Malvazia from Rodica (Roe-dee-tsa), a family-run organic winery in Truške, a village about 12km from and Slovenia’s main port city of Koper. It’s the southernmost part of Slovenia’s Primorska region and the heart of its Istra (Istria) district. So we’ll start there.
The Rodica estate consists of about 15 hectares of vineyards planted with some 60,000 vines; as with most Istrian winemakers –both in Slovenia and Croatia– Malvazija is Rodica’s white varietal number one.
This one is a lush pale gold, peachy on the nose. It’s very dry and medium-bodied, elegant on the palate, with ripe pear and fresh cut apple notes. And citrusy too, as in a pleasant orange-tangerine cross. Not outrageously complex, but pleasant. It feels Mediterranean.
About a quarter of the wine was aged in 2500-liter acacia barrels for six months and then blended in stainless steel tanks. It was bottled unfiltered and released in 2016; about 10,000 bottles were produced.
In general terms, Malvazija won’t lose much from cellaring for a year or two, but it really is meant to be drunk and enjoyed young when it’s fresh and fruity. The same very much holds true for this one.
I’m a fan of rosés made from refosco and merlot, so this one and I hit it off right away. Its composition is a quartet, made up of equal parts of those along with cabernet sauvignon and syrah. The pleasant aromas –a blend of red roses and cherries– opened the path to more cherry and berry on the palate. The acidity in refosco balanced it out nicely on the finish. This will go well with basil-heavy dishes.
Total production 6000 bottles. When to drink? Why wait? Drink it now.
Rodica Refošk Classic 2015
Refosco, or Refošk (ree-foshk) locally, is Slovene Istra’s most prominent red varietal. Its acidity and dark ruby red color really sets it apart.
Herbal with red berries on the nose, a waft of cherry cordial chocolates hit me head-on on the palate — I mean that in the best possible way, by the way. Nicely balanced and plummy on the finish, which was a bit short. It’s also less peppery than others I’ve tried.
Similarly to Rodica’s Malvazija, this one was aged in 2500-liter acacia barrels but for eight months before moving to stainless steel tanks where it sits further sur lies. Bottled unfiltered in January 2017. 20,000 bottles produced.
Overall? Rodica does well for wines at these price points. I’m looking forward to exploring them more.
Oh, and this: curious to know how Rodica red ages?
I am too. I have their 2006 Truške red cuvee reserve, a blend of Refošk, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, lying impatiently in wait. I’ll let you know soon.
The Collio Problem – Wine Spectator (9 Oct). It’s not Slovenia, but quite a few points in this blog post about Italy’s Collio, which shares a border with Slovenia’s Goriska Brda, apply to the eastern side of the frontier as well. From the piece:
Northeastern Italy’s Collio has a problem. A problem that, on its face, many wine regions would love to have: Too many grapes do well here.
Its terraced, hilly vineyards, which hug the Slovenian border, produce unique white wines from a long list of varieties—from international grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay to local stars Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, the backbone of many “orange wines.”
And that’s only the dry white wines. The area also produces a range of reds, from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Cabernet Franc, along with a sweet white from Picolit.
The trouble is, with such a wealth of grapes and varied winemaker styles, it’s been near-impossible to define the region to the world.
– Decanter Tastes Rebula
Slovenia’s Dream White – Decanter (2 October). Andrew Jefford reports from the first International Rebula Masterclass which took place in Slovenia’s Goriska Brda in August. A dry white, Slovenia’s Rebula is Italy’s Ribolla Gialla.
From the story:
It’s an ancient variety, first mentioned in the twelfth century in an ecclesiastical squabble. Ever since then, everyone who has made wine in the seamless scallop-shell of hills known in Italy as Collio and in Slovenia as Brda has understood, through all the vicissitudes of fashion, that this was the great variety of the place. Tax records show that it has always made the region’s priciest wines. Another clue to the respect with which it was regarded in the past is the recent discovery of a historic vineyard classification which separates local sites into no fewer than nine different quality categories.
“In the mid-1970s,” remembered Saša Radikon, “my grandfather wanted to retire. He said to my father, ‘You can have everything: the farm, the land, the equipment. There’s only one condition: you have to keep planting Ribolla’”. “There have been tough years,” recalls Aleks Simčič of Edi Simčič, “when Rebula was very hard to sell. So we drank most of it ourselves.”
More about this regional star along with notes on 15 wines, most of which, if you like to keep score, Jeffords rated 90+.