The Makovec family farms a stretch of vineyards that spread across some 7.5 hectares (18.5 acres) of hilly terrain near the western Slovenian village of Brje, located roughly midway between the Vipava River that snakes through its eponymous valley to the north, and the Branica River, whose namesake valley runs almost parallel, to the south. It’s also roughly the geographic center of the Vipava wine-producing district, where the Alpine, Mediterranean and Karst worlds meet.
That confluence brings with it many things, among them an area especially conducive to the production of several of Slovenia’s autochtonous varieties, including a dry white, Klarnica, which is coming back into favor by a growing group of local winemakers.
As the locals tell it, the wine is named for Klara, a young woman of extraordinary beauty whose home was surrounded by a thick wall of Klarnica grapevines that kept her countless suitors and stalkers at bay. It was through Klarnica –the grape, not the maiden– that I came to know wines by Makovec, since 1999 branded under the label Mansus. In medieval France a mansus was a unit that measured landholdings; it’s said that eight were joined to form the village of Brje.
The Makovec family’s present-day holdings include about 2,000 30-year-old Klarnica vines; that’s hardly the backbone of their operation but its quality is helping them garner attention, and with it, to the remainder of their portfolio as well which includes a handful of other world class offerings.
Here’s a five-wine introduction.
Mansus Klarnica 2014
Klarnica is a local variety, and a sparsely produced one at that – on this planet it grows only in Slovenia’s Vipava Valley. Taste this one from Mansus, and you’ll be hooked.
It’s “orange” in style giving it more character and depth, macerated for 21 days then aged in small acacia barrels for 15 months before it’s bottled, unfiltered.
It’s a beautiful light amber gold in appearance, with honeyed fruit on the nose, reminiscent of dessert wines. But that it isn’t. It’s dry, firm, with nutty, pear, and acacia notes, and a long succulent finish. Bar none, my most memorable discovery of 2017. I can’t thank enough those friends who served it up on not one, not two, but three separate occasions last year. Thanks again.
Mansus Pinot Gris 2012
Macerated for 36 hours, it possesses the coppery rosé look that a pinot gris should. This one’s aged sur lies for six months then further aged in stainless steel. Fruity and dry, crisp acidity with hints of cherry and some mineral-y notes. Pleasant finish, on the fuller side of medium-bodied.
Mansus Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Nice berry, smokey oak and some spice on the nose, with ripe cherry and strawberry on the palate. Nicely balanced, with a well-rounded finish. This will last a while and will get better. Good value.
Mansus Merlot 2011
Lots of up front fruit, with cherry dominant. Still youthful given the age. Well-formed tannins that could be thinning, so I’m not sure about how much this will improve, but it’s quite good now. How does Mansus Merlot age? See below.
Mansus Adultus Anton Merlot 2005
This was the top prize, at least for me, at last November’s St. Martin’s Day festivities in Ljubljana – and I savored every sip.
The wine spent three years in oak barrels, three years in acacia, then transferred to tanks. It wasn’t bottled until mid-2017. And there were only 200. Deep ruby red, with luscious upfront fruit, jammy but delicate with a harmony that’s infectious. There was lots of life in those few sips, and plenty left. On the short list of the best merlots I’ve had in the past five years.
€61 (from the winery only)