Kabaj 2014 Pinot Gris Goriška Brda, Primorska, 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 Goriška is pronounced Go Reesh Kah. (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]
There’s quite a bit that’s unconventional in wines from Kabaj, the 2014 Pinot Gris, or Sivi Pinot locally, among them. You shouldn’t expect anything less from Jean Michel Morel, one of Slovenia’s most innovative and celebrated winemakers, whose independent-minded approach to wine-making has gone a long way to help put the country’s western Goriška Brda district on the international wine map in recent years.
Like all of Morel’s whites, Kabaj’s Pinot Gris is fermented on the skins, in this case for two weeks in oak vats, which imparts a lush rosé hue to the wine, a pale amber salmon tone that’s more true to the grape’s color than most might realize. It then spent 15 months in 225-liter French oak barrels before bottling.
You sense that on the nose and palate, but there are also layers of herbal notes, all in a creamy package that leans more towards earthy than fruit. But there’s that too, grapefruit and pear notes that meld well with a nuttiness and very pleasant, almost addictive acidity. It’s medium bodied but offers the feel of a mouthful. And will continue to do so for at least another couple years.
A Parisian by birth, it was love that drew Morel to Goriška Brda. Morel met his future wife Katja Kabaj while working at a northern Italian estate in the late 1980s; they eventually married and settled in the village of Šlovrenc where Katja’s family has been producing grapes for several generations, but never as a commercial bottling venture. That changed in 1993 with Kabaj/Morel’s first bottled vintage. Today they produce between 60,000 and 70,000 bottles annually. If you’re researching Slovenian wines and wineries for any upcoming visit here, you’ve likely already added Kabaj to your List of Wines to Try. If you haven’t yet, do so now.
Wine & Spirits Magazine has named Kabaj one of the world’s top 100 wineries three times in the past decade, in 2013, 2015 and 2016. But such superlatives haven’t pushed their prices out of orbit or out of line. At least not locally. Most of Kabaj’s current releases are under €15 in Slovenia; this Sivi Pinot is just €12.50.