Just as Slovenia’s wines will be new to many of you, so to will many of the grapes that go into them. Here’s an intro, very much an ongoing work-in-progress.
About 80 million liters (22 million gallons) of wine is produced in Slovenia each year, about 65 percent white, 35 percent red. By law, Slovenian winemakers can choose from 52 varietals to make wine; not all are allowed to be grown in all regions and districts.
For wine-producing purposes, Slovenia is divided into three regions: Podravje to the northeast, bordering Austria and Hungary; Posavje to the southeast, sharing a border with Croatia; and Primorska to the west, bordering Italy, the Adriatic Sea and Croatia’s Istria region.
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 ShtahyerSkah. (We’ll skip discussion of the tongue-twisting ‘lj’ for now; 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.)
The regions are further divided into nine districts which in general terms is how wines are most often described. Podravje, the largest region, has two districts: Štajerska Slovenija (Styrian Slovenia) and Prekmurje. Posavje has three: Bizeljsko-Sremič, Bela Krajina and Dolenjska. And Primorska has four: Goriška Brda, Vipava, Kras and Slovenska Istra (Slovenian Istria). Those are further divided into sub-districts. I won’t list them all here but since in a few cases regulations do no allow some varietals to be planted region- or district-wide, I have included those that apply with the respective grapes.
I’ll continue to add specifics as I become more acquainted with some of the lesser-known or lesser-seen varietals.
Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje
And what is Cviček?
It’s a dry, tart red and white blend produced in the Dolenjska region, generally between 8.5 and 10% alc. Its composition varies by vintage and producer, but is generally composed of about 65 percent red –40-50 percent žametna črnina, 15-20 percent Modra Frankinja– and about 35 percent white –10 do 15 percent Kraljevina, upwards of 10 percent Laški Rizlinga, and with Rumeni Plavec, Zeleni Silvanec, Bela žlahtnina, and/or Ranfol making up the rest.
It’s very popular, especially near its home in the southeast corner of the country, but until a handful of years ago, was not considered by many a “serious” wine. That’s been changing in recent years as a younger generation of winemakers take the blend more seriously. That was evidenced at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards, where Frelih’s 2016 Cviček Od Fare received a ‘commended’ rating, a first rating of any kind for the blend.