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Slovenian Grape Varieties

An Introductory Guide

 

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.

Reds

Barbera

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Cabernet Franc

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Cabernet Sauvignon

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Kras district (both sub-districts), Primorska

Cipro – Infrequent, usually used to produce sweeter dessert-style wines.

Istra district, Primorska

Gamay

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Šmarje-Virštanj sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje; Srednje Slovenske gorice sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje

Maločrn (Piccola Nera) –

Istra district, Primorska

Merlot

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Kras district (both sub-districts), Primorska; Vipava district

Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Modri Pinot (Pinot Noir) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje; Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Portugalka (Portugieser) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Šmarje-Virštanj sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje; Srednje Slovenske gorice sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje

Refošk (Refosco) – It’s known as Teran (Terrano) in the Kras district

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Kras district (both sub-districts), Primorska

Syrah

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Šentlovrenka (St. Laurent) – Highly aromatic. Most widely-planted red in the Czech Republic.

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje

Žametna črnina; also Žametovka – In Posavje, commonly used in Cviček, but it’s most famous as the Stara Trta, or Old Vine in Maribor, which is 400-plus years old, one of the oldest on the planet.

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Maribor sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje; Šmarje-Virštanj sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje; Srednje Slovenske gorice sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje

Zweigelt – A red developed in Austria in 1922 from a cross between St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch.

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Whites

Beli Pinot (Pinot Blanc); also Beli Burgundec –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Kras district (both sub-districts), Primorska; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Bela žlahtnina (White Chasselas) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Chardonnay

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Vipava district, Primorska; Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Kras district, Primorska; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje; Prekmurje district, Podravje

Dišeči Traminec (Gewurztraminer aromatique) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Glera – Until 2009, better known as Prosecco. Mainly used in sparling wines.

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Kerner

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Klarnica – One of the few truly Slovenian varieties. Sparse. More here.

Vipava district, Primorska; Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Kraljevina – Most commonly used for Cviček, the red-white blend from the northeast Posavje region.

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Haloze sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje; Maribor sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje; Šmarje-Virštanj sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje

Laški Rizling (Welschriesling) – Slovenia’s most widely-planted white varietal, used primarily in inexpensive blends and bulk “open”, or odprto, wine.

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Malvazija

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Kras district (both sub-districts), Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska

Muškat Ottonel (Muscat Ottonel) –

Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje; Prekmurje district, Podravje

Neuburger – A cross of Roter Veltliner and Sylvaner, most common in Austria

Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje

Pergolin – A light native variety, mainly used in blends.

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Pikolit

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Kras district (both sub-districts, Primorska

Pinela

Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Pokalca (Schioppettino, Ribolla Nero) – also Črna Rebula.

Goriška Brda district, Primorska

Poljšakica

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Prosecco

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Ranfol – Mainly used in blends. In southeast Posavje, commonly used in Cviček.

Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Haloze sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje; Srednje Slovenske gorice sub-district, Štajerska district, Podravje

Ranina (Bouvier) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Rdeča žlahtnina (Red-skinned Chasselas) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) –

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Renski Rizling (Riesling) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Rizvanec (Müller-Thurgau) –

Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Rumeni Muškat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje; Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Rumeni Plavec – Mainly used in blends. In southeast Posavje, commonly used in Cviček.

Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje

Sauvignon (Sauvignon Blanc) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje; Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Kras district (both sub-districts), Primorska

Scheurebe

Dolenjska district, Posavje

Šipon (Furmint) –

Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Sivi Pinot (Pinot Gris) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje; Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Istra district, Primorska; Kras district (both sub-districts), Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska

Traminec (Gewurztraminer) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

Verduc

Goriška Brda district, Primorska

Viognier

Goriška Brda district, Primorska

Vitovska Grganja

Vipava district, Primorska; Kras district (both sub-districts), Primorska

Zelen

Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Zeleni Sauvignon, or (Sauvignonasse, Sauvignon Vert) –

Until 2007 known locally as Tokaj (Tokai Friulano) until April 2007 when European law forced the change. Some winemakers market it as Jakot.

Goriška Brda district, Primorska; Vipava district, Primorska; Vrhe sub-district, Kras district, Primorska

Zeleni Silvanec (Sylvaner) –

Bela krajina district, Posavje; Bizeljsko Sremič district, Posavje; Dolenjska district, Posavje; Prekmurje district, Podravje; Štajerska district (all six sub-districts), Podravje

 

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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.

 

Sources: Official Gazette Republic of Slovenia, JancisRobinson.com, Slovenia Wine Guide 2010 by Robert Gorjak, Wines of Slovenia by Miso Alkalaj.
Last update: 12 Nov 2017
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