Ten Discoveries from the 21st Slovenian Wine Festival
The 21st edition of the Slovenian Wine Festival is done and dusted – and it was really nice to be back.
The festival returned this year to where it began in 1997, to Cankarjev Dom, Slovenia’s premiere cultural center, in the heart of Ljubljana. I attended that one, but travel conflicts kept me away from all but a handful of others since. Like Slovenian wines in general, the festival has evolved admirably; indeed, the wines –in style, quality, variety and creativity– being poured over the past two days bear little resemblance to those that were being sampled here more than two decades ago when the fledgling Slovenian wine trade was only starting to make its way. That first edition is mostly a fog of memory now, but what I do recall clearly was the feel, tone and atmosphere: it was defensive, shy, even (relatively) quiet then; the polar opposite of the confidence and youthful exuberance that now exudes from most of the vendors booths.
I like the roomy, bright and inviting halls of Cankarjev Dom for wine events, and so do others. According to organizers, more than 2,000 attended over the course of the past two days to taste more than 500 wines from 150 wineries and winemakers.
Here are about a dozen pleasant discoveries (and a few re-acquaintances) to help remember this year’s event. In no particular order:
Zvonko Bogdan Život Teče2016, a hearty and earthy Merlot (50%), Cabernet Franc (20%) and Modra Frankinja (20%) blend from the Zvonko Bogdan Winery in Subotica, Serbia. Chocolate, raspberry and with some hints of vanilla, a delightfully delicious trifecta. Aged 12 months in French and American oak. More please. Please?
Rouna Premium White 2015, a vibrant blend of cask-aged Zelen and Chardonnay from Slovenia’s Vipava Valley. The Zelen, a grape local to Vipava, was dried on the vine to concentrate its apple and pear notes. After a 24 hour cold maceration, aged two years in oak. Production 1000 bottles. An extremely pleasant surprise by a winery that’s new to me.
47 Anno DominiCabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Venezia DOC), my first organic and vegan red. More chocolate coffee. Good value at 10 EUR.
Sanctum My Red 2015, a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah from Sanctum, Slovenia’s first ‘Burgundy’ winery, who not only embraced the challenge of blending these two opposites, but succeeded valiantly. Another fine example of the reds Štajerska Slovenija (Styrian Slovenia) can produce. Aged in oak for three years. You can drink it now, but it’ll be better in half a decade.
Chateau KamnikSingle Vineyard Merlot 2015, from Macedonia’s Povardarje region. Complex, lovely. Production about 4200 bottles. At about €30, it’s one of Macedonia’s most expensive wines. Probably my pick of the night.
Mansus R-Vizija Red 2009 – A Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend –with a tiny dab of Cabernet Franc tossed into the mix– that’s yet another example of how well reds from this small Vipava Valley estate age.
Saksida Zelen 2017, another version of my favorite Slovenian indigenous white varietal from one of my favorite Vipava Valley wineries.
Venica & Venica Ribolla Gialla (Rebula) DOC Collio 2017 and Venica & VenicaFriulano(Tocai) DOC Collio 2017. I have yet to taste a wine from this northeast Italian winery that I didn’t like. If you’re wearing some, they’ll knock your socks off. (No, I wasn’t responsible for the spill.)
Korenika & Moškon Tris 2017. Tasty organic and biodynamic white blend of Pinot Blanc /Beli pinot (51%), Malvasia Istrska /Istrska Malvazija (33%) and Sauvignon Blanc (16%). Lots of apricot at play here, and I love apricots. Macerated for four days, attractive light apricot color with ripe peach and apricot notes. 6350 bottles produced.
Rahvera-AB Vranac Exclusive 2015. The most tasty example of this deep dark Balkan red I’ve had in recent memory. If you cross paths with it, grab it up. Many thanks to Visar Hajrullaga and his wife from the Rahvera Winery in Rahovec for introducing me to wines from Kosovo. Looking forward to exploring many more.
Next year’s festival is set for 14-15 November 2019.