Ščurek Stara Brajda Red 2013
Goriška Brda district, 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 Ščurek is pronounced ShChew-wreak. (As for the even more 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]Ščurek is a name you’ll see quite a bit of in Slovenia, a winery long considered a consistent producer of fresh well-made wines. Strictly on a quality for price comparison, you’ll rarely go wrong with any Ščurek offering, but I’m mentioning the 2013 Stara Brajda Rdeče, or Old Vineyard Red –a wine very familiar to me and a regular favorite– specifically because this current release is markedly better than I remember the last few vintages being.
Stojan Ščurek and his five sons farm 20 hectares (50 acres) of vineyards that straddle both sides of the border between Primorska’s western Goriška Brda district and northeast Italy’s Collio, with an annual output of some 80,000 bottles. About 10,000 of those are filled with Stara Brajda Red, a blend of Merlot (30%), Cabernet Franc (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Refošk/Refosco (30%). It’s the latter, the most ubiquitous red in the Primorska region, that gives it a subtle tartness on the finish that imparting a strong local character to the wine.
Aged in new and used 500-liter oak barrels for 24 months (some years it’s been up to 30), the result is a rich, medium to full-bodied blend, light ruby in color, with cherry and blackberry notes and some up front spice –cracked black pepper mostly– bundled warmly in ripe, firm tannins. The latter, that firmer backbone, places it a notch above the 2012. It’s drinking nicely now, but can and will gladly live on improve for another half decade.
And Ščurek wines do age nicely. A few months ago I decided to their 2006 Merlot that I had tucked away on a whim, and my patience was rewarded with a delightfully mature wine, wonderfully balanced with layers of fruity richness. Accompanying my monthly beef and spinach lasagna fest, it was a big hit. Even among those who generally don’t like reds. I was surprised how good it still was, given its modest price. I don’t have a record of what I paid for it when it was purchased (2008 or 2009 most likely), but the current release, 2015, retails for about €12. (See quality for price note above.)
And related: if you happen to stroll into a Hofer grocery chain, you’ll find a Ščurek red blend simply labeled “rdeče”. It’s not on par with the Stara Brajda, but, loaded with up front fruit in a fresh, tasty easy-drinking bottling, it is definitely worth the €8-9 price tag for those traveling on a more limited budget.
Ščurek Stara Brajda 2013
About 10,000 bottles produced