[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 Štajerska is pronounced Shtah yeah R-skah. (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]Joannes Protner Pinot Noir 2015
Štajerska Slovenija (Slovenian Styria), Podravje, Slovenia
I first tried wines from the Joannes Protner Winery nearly 20 years ago. Like virtually all wine producers in the northeastern Štajerska Slovenija (Styrian Slovenia) district, this family winery, which produces about 12 hectares of vineyards in a beautiful valley just minutes from Slovenia’s second largest city Maribor, built its solid reputation on their whites; I especially enjoy their Renski Riesling and Rumeni Mušcat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains). I’m glad to see that reputation now widening to include reds.
More specifically, Pinot Noir (Modri pinot to the locals), the classic varietal gradually making its presence felt –along with an impact, too– in the eastern districts. This one comes close to the lightest in color, most translucent pinot noir I’ve ever tried. On appearance, that didn’t bode well.
But it was pleasantly medium-bodied, dry, with nice ripe fruit notes on the nose and palate, a bath of strawberry jam.
Winemaker Boštjan Protner puts his Pinot Noir through a three-stage maceration: the first is a three-day cryomaceration, a technique during which crushed grapes sit at low temperatures prior to fermentation to allow their flavors to develop; the grapes ferment during the second, in which the temperatures are increased; and the third is a prolonged maceration.
The wine is then aged for 11 months in both a large 4000-liter oak barrel and small 225-liter French oak barrels. Another year of bottle age follows prior to release. It’s clearly still evolving and will almost certainly improve in the bottle over the next year or two. There’s no great rush with this one.
There still isn’t much Modri Pinot produced in Slovenian Styria despite the slightly cooler thus more conducive conditions there. I’m delighted to see more of it appearing.
My preference still lies with those produced in the Primorska region to the west, but that doesn’t mean these cooler style offerings aren’t solid wines at the price.