I’m in the eastern Slovenian town of Ptuj, the country’s oldest city, inhabited since the late Stone Age. The only hill for miles around lies at its center, topped by a castle that dates to the 12th century; not far from its shadow is one of the city’s greatest architectural treasures, a Dominican Monastery founded in the late 13th century, which tomorrow plays host to the fourth Salon Sauvignon, focusing (obviously!) on Sauvignon Blanc, in Slovenia thought to be at its best in and around this part of Styria, or the Štajerska Slovenia district.
More than 100 wines from 54 wineries will be poured over the course of the day, making the event a great introduction to this classic white varietal, or, a refresher course on how well this Bordeaux native continues to evolve in this part of Europe. I’m looking forward to finally catching up with several producers I haven’t yet crossed paths with, but even more so to focus a little more attention eastward and to Styrian wines.
That’s large due to what I admit is an unintentional bias towards wines from the western part of the country. I met noted Slovenian wine writer, educator and critic Robert Gorjak tonight, who brought up that very bias during a presentation of his recent book, ‘Slovenia: A Winemaking Country. In Ljubljana –the economic, cultural, political and well as geographical center of Slovenia– the current fashion is to pay more attention to wines from the west, from the Primorska districts of Goriska Brda, Vipava and Slovenian Istra. Those districts have made big leaps in quality, craft and creativity over the past two decades, with a handful of winemakers who have “made it” internationally giving the Primorska region a welcome boost.
But historically, Gorjak pointed out, Slovenia’s best quality wines have always come from the eastern half of the country, primarily Styria. I’ll be more conscious of that from now on, beginning tomorrow afternoon at the Dominican Monastery.
The downside to Salon Sauvignon 2018?
Allergy season has hit me harder this year than ever before; so hard that I’ve been almost entirely out of commission for much of the past two weeks. I’ve only started to marginally feel better about a day-and-a-half ago and debated until this morning whether I’d actually make the trip. (Ptuj is only about a 90-minute drive from Ljubljana, but Slovenia rail that this innate ability to stretch it to a journey of nearly three hours.) That will all obviously conspire to affect how I taste and how I remember what I taste, and ultimately, any tasting notes I produce. Nuance won’t be there but the ability to judge the generally good from the generally bad has fought through the pollen and returned.
Some of what I’ve been reading this week
With these painfully scratchy eyes, the list wasn’t too long this week.