Slovenia: The Land of Wine
Slovenia: The Land of Wine
Visiting a foreign country always involves discovering its cultural and natural heritage. Slovenia has an abundance of both, a fantastically beautiful natural environment and exceptionally rich culture. Compared to many European countries, Slovenia is tiny, but as the saying goes, big things come in small packages. And when it comes to diversity, Slovenia is huge. Travelling around this subalpine gem will take you to multiple geographical regions, each with its unique traditions and history.
Closely connected to the abovementioned are of course food and drink. These represent a major part of any culture and are directly connected to the land from which it stems. Slovenia’s cuisine spans centuries. Every micro area of the Slovenian countryside has something delicious and different to taste. Especially wine. Slovenia is the land of wine. The latter is ranked among the best in the world. Let’s take a closer look at why Slovenia will certainly give you something to wine about.
Slovenian wine is tradition in liquid form
The history of viticulture in Slovenia dates back to the 5 th century BC, when Celtic tribes first began cultivating wine, long before any other more renowned European winegrowing regions. In fact, today’s winegrowing areas of Slovenia are just as ideal for growing wine as Bordeaux or Burgundy in France. By the Middle Ages, the Christian Church controlled most of the wine production, which was performed in and around monasteries.
Later, under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, privately owned wineries began to flourish. As the Second World War drew to a close, Yugoslav co-operatives controlled nearly all wine production and quality was very low as the emphasis was on producing wine in bulk. Today, however, the tradition of winemaking is stronger than ever thanks to the three main ingredients for top quality wine: climate, soil, and hard work.
Winemaking in numbers
Slovenia’s unique geographical diversity with its perfect mixture of microclimates – Alpine, Mediterranean, Pannonian and Dinarian – gives life to 52 varieties of grapevine. Slovenia has three winegrowing regions: Podravje, Posavje and Primorje. Due to the differences in soil, climate, and approaches to cellaring, each one has its own wine varieties. In addition to internationally established varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Merlot, there are also the indigenous varieties, such as Sauvignonasse, Rebula, Vitovska, Zelen and others.
Although its population is only two million strong, Slovenia is home to 28,000 wineries, which translates to 1 vineyard per 70 inhabitants. There are approximately 30 thousand registered winemakers in Slovenia. Talk about a national hobby! Out of the annual production in excess of 80 million litres, 6 million litres of wine are exported, the rest is consumed locally. And who could blame them! Most of the country’s wine is of the highest quality. It might be a small place, but Slovenia’s viticultural heritage is so vast and complex, you would have to take a year off to visit its multitude of vineyards and wine cellars.
Wine: bringing people together
“Trgatev”, which literally translates to “picking”, is grape harvest or vintage and it takes places in September and October. It’s when people invite their family members, friends, neighbours, friends of neighbours and the entire next-door village to their vineyard. During this festive time, social classes and political differences fade away, generation gaps are filled, grudges forgotten, as weekends are spent hand-picking grapes. Jokes are exchanged, laughter is heard, and of course a fair bit of wine is consumed. When the harvest is over, a picnic or a feast takes place with delicious food and more wine.
The most famous grape
Harvest in Slovenia is probably one of the smallest. It’s when the oldest grapevine in the world is picked. Appropriately dubbed Stara trta or Old Grapevine, this protected beauty is a staggering 450 years old vine and grows in Slovenia’s second biggest town of Maribor. If you’re planning on popping over the Alps for a holiday in Slovenia, tasting its culture through this wonderful beverage is obligatory.
Do you know how many incredible stories get told over a glass of fine wine? Of course not. Nobody does. There’s simply too many. Travelling around the countryside, be sure to stop at local winemakers, whose winemaking skills have been passed down through generations. They will gladly share a few insider anecdotes, background stories, history of the land, and might even show you the ins and outs of their winemaking processes. Memories will be made and friendships forged!
Green wine, anyone?
No, we’re not actually talking about a new colour of vino. Sustainability in winemaking is making its mark in Slovenia. Hence, many Slovenian winemakers returning to their routs by opting for more traditional ways of producing wine. Using
Wine tours: a trending way of getting to know Slovenian wines
One of the best ways of trying the exquisite flavours of Slovenian wines, especially the sustainable variety, while getting to know the land and the people who make it is by joining a wine tour. It’s a first-hand experience that will introduce you to this country’s ancient, rich and highly respected winemaking tradition. If you wanted to explore Slovenia’s numerous wine trails, you would have to take a year off work just for visiting its multitude of vineyards and wine cellars. But by joining a wine tour, you can get a glimpse into this amazing world of wine and taste an assortment of top-class products on one or several trips. Throw an expert sommelier guide into the mix and you’re in for a very educational and fun time.