In Slovenia’s Štajerska, or Styria region in the country’s northeast, a pubec is a boy, one confidently on the path to becoming a young man. It’s a colloquialism firmly etched in local lore, one clearly distinguishing the region that’s home to more than a third of Slovenia’s population from the rest of the country. It’s thus an apt name to give to an association of wine producers from Štajerska, by far the largest of Slovenia’s nine wine-growing districts, aiming to lift the profile of the region’s young wines.
Inspired in part by Burgundy’s Beaujolais Nouveau and the Steirischer Junker model in Austria’s Styria, the Slovenian project reached fruition in 2015 as a joint marketing effort by 27 winemakers. The association hosted its third annual event in Maribor on 23 October; I attended in Ljubljana three days later, its second in the Slovenian capital.
While several Slovenian producers have been bottling ‘young wine’ for a number of years, Štajerska makes sense for yet another Slovenian entry into the global young wine fray. Whites dominate in the region, light and crisp versions of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and various Rieslings, along with less-known Rizvanec (Müller-Thurgau), Rumeni Muškat (Muscat Blanc) and Ranina (Bouvier). Several of the district’s wineries already have growing reputations abroad; adding a young wine to the mix is a no-brainer, a quick and tasty offering for their friends and fans.
Judging from what I experienced, most are succeeding exceptionally well, producing nicely balanced, fruity efforts that are worthy of the kind of celebration that was hosted in Ljubljana’s 80-year-old Festival Hall, or Festivalna Dvorana, a venue that exudes a distinct, soothing pre-war ‘Calm-Before-the-Storm’ kind of party vibe. Young wines are, above all, for celebrations of the harvest and the year gone by, their release as good an excuse as any for a party. But they also give wine drinkers an early look at what to expect from the current vintage.
Pubec has grown to include 30 wineries this year. I tasted wines from 14, almost exclusively dry releases; of those I short-listed a handful for my personal top-six, and further provide notes on another handful which I have no problem recommending.
In the spirit of Beaujolais Nouveau –and following Slovenian law– Pubec-branded ‘mlado vino’ bottlings will only be available for a limited time, from one month after the harvest through January 31. Both legally and practically, they’re absolutely meant to be consumed and enjoyed young. Few, if any, will be available outside of Slovenia, so if you cross paths with then over the next few months, dip in and give ‘em a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
A few notes about the notes –
Not all the wineries came up with a label or name specifically for this bottling, choosing to simply use a Pubec bottleneck hanger to set it apart. So, to avoid confusion with future or more fully mature 2017 bottlings, I added mlado vino, or ‘young wine’, to each of the names here, whether they were part of the wine’s name or not. If it was given a name, it appears in italics.
I didn’t ask them all, but most producers I did ask said that their Pubec line consists of between 800 and 1200 bottles, with a retail price ranging from €6-10.
Onward beginning with The Short List.
– Dveri Pax Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Mlado Vino
Showing really nice balance, not overly citrusy, delicate, boding very well for this standout winery’s 2017 Sauvignon Blanc vintage. One of my three two favorites of the night.
– Gaube Prvenec 2017 Mlado Vino
A blend of Muškat Ottonel (Muscat Ottonel), Rizvanec (Müller-Thurgau) and Kerner, this is as much interesting for its lush aromas and bouquet as it is a pleasant exploration into how these primarily local grapes grow and live together.
– Steyer Ranina 2017 Mlado Vino
100% Ranina (Bouvier). So glad I came across a dry version of this grape; it’s been a while. It’s delightful in the hands of Danilo Steyer, on the shortest of short lists of Slovenia’s best gewürztraminer craftsmen. Tropical aromas, fresh (!), and a great long finish. Note to self: find a case of the regular bottling next summer. Yup, one of my three two favorites of the night.
– Valdhuber 2017 Mladič Mlado Vino
A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Rizvanec (Müller-Thurgau), this glass was loaded with pleasant citrusy characteristics, a smidge of apricot and lychee, with a nice finish.
– Mulec 2017 Mlado Vino
100% Sivi Pinot (Pinot Gris), delicate and fine, pleasant citrus notes and ripe pear. Delightful.
– Joannes 2017 Mlado Muškatno Vino
A blend of local Rumeni Muškat (Muscat Blanc) and Muškat Ottonel (Muscat Ottonel), a pair of unrelated grapes that work well together here. A great fruit harmony, tropical notes, hint of banana on the nose and palate.
And another five:
– Puklavec Family Wines 2017 Mlado Vino
A Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris blend; a pleasant harmony of peach and ripe pear.
– Kramer 2017 Mlado Vino
100% Zeleni Silvanec (Silvaner), another well-crafted local varietal. It’s subtle and soft-spoken, which made for a pleasant diversion from all the fresh ‘n fruity. It was the only Zeleni Silvanec I crossed paths with and I’m glad I did.
– Hafner 2017 Frkolin Mlado Vino
100% Ranina (Bouvier); apricot and peach on the nose and palate with a crisp finish. Now I’m even more curious to know how the regular release fills out. A pleasant surprise. I want to explore this varietal more.
– Jamnik 2017 Tinček Mlado Vino
A blend of Rumeni Muškat (Muscat Blanc) and chardonnay, this one fell on the dryer end of the medium dry spectrum. I recalled biting into a Saturn peach. Pleasant finish.
– Falot 2017 Mlado Vino
A blend of Muškat Ottonel (Muscat Ottonel) and Rizvanec (Müller-Thurgau), a pair of local varieties that spell tropical fruit here.
Oh, here’s that bit of video you’ve all been waiting for. Enjoy!
On Tuesday the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said it expected an 8% decrease in global wine production to 247m hectolitres for 2017.
The international producer group’s forecast foretells the worst global harvest since 1961, with the weather to blame, after vines in key wine-producing countries such as Italy and France were ravaged by both freakishly hot and cold weather.
A hectolitre is the equivalent to 133 standard wine bottles, so the fall in output predicted by the OIV equates to about 2.9bn fewer bottles in 2017.
Winegrowers in France have finished harvesting their grapes to produce wine for 2017. Yet many fear they will be unable to satisfy market demand after their vineyards perished during the April frosts. Jérôme Despey, head of a governmental wine advisory board at FranceAgriMer, said this year’s harvest will be “the smallest since 1945”.
Upcoming Wine Events
A regularly updated calendar of wine and wine-related events in Slovenia (and select events in nearby areas of Italy, Austria and Croatia, too.)
1-11 – Old Vine Festival, Maribor (through 11 Nov). [Website] [Facebook]
4 – Martinovanje (St Martin’s Day) in Ljubljani I, old town center, Ljubljana, 10am-5pm [Website] [Facebook]