Earlier this spring we took a few journalists and bloggers out to southern Slovenia so that they could meet our RAW WINE artisans and get a feel for the country, its landscapes, food, people and, of course, its darn good wine – as Ms Marmite Lover put it, “lush. Slovenia is lush”.
Below you will find a selection of snippets from various blogs that followed, and we hope they will get you excited not only about tasting the deliciousness this tiny country has to offer but also about meeting these wonderful growers in person this Sunday and Mondy in London.
To top it off, we’re also delighted to share a last minute addition… a gorgeous 5-day farmstay, including a fully comped dinner for two, at the home of the Štekar family, kindly donated by the Association of Farmstays Slovenia, together with SPIRIT Slovenia and the Slovenian Tourist Board. All you have to do to enter the competition is visit their stand at RAW WINE (stand 154) and plop your name and email address in the prize bowl, cross your fingers and hope for the best. They will contact the winner by email. Good luck!
“Holidays on a farm are an unforgettable experience.
PLEASANT COUNTRYSIDE THAT INVIGORATES YOU!
The Association of Farmstays Slovenia together with SPIRIT Slovenia have kindly donated a gift certificate, to cover a romantic five-day Farm-getaway for you and your partner, at the gorgeous ŠTEKAR farm in the hills of Snežatno 26, Kojsko in the region of Goriška Brda. We will even throw in a romantic dinner with wine on one of the evenings”.
Lush. Slovenia is lush. Telly Tubby green hills with stepped terraces, a Northern Tuscany. On the way from Trieste airport in Italy, one side of the road is Slovenian, the other Italian. This played havoc with my phone data roaming. I’d racked up a bill simply by sitting on the wrong side of the car, near the middle lane.
I screwed up straight away, asking the guide “You use the euro in Slovakia don’t you?“
“You are in Slovenia, not Slovakia” he said.
“That’s ok. I’m used to it” replied our guide.
This tiny country is new. Once the northernmost tip of Yugoslavia, elbowed between Italy and Austria, it was a region not a country. During the communist era, Slovenians did their shopping in Italy, smuggling back fashionable jeans by wearing several pairs at once. Only trouble was, it took all day to queue at the border, there and back.
Slovenians were the first to leave Yugoslavia, slipping out before things got nasty: yelling ‘see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya’ as they ran into the arms of Western Europe.
Although their language is Slavic, they don’t consider themselves to be Eastern Europeans. Most of them speak fluent Italian as a second language…
According to the guide at the Piran salt flats, dry salt all tastes the same. It’s only when it is wet that different flavours emerge. He confirmed what I always thought, when cooking: sea salt, that is ‘sweet salt’, is less salty.
In the bay of Piran, that tiny shimmering crescent of access to the Adriatic for Slovenia, the traditional method is used to make salt, the last place to use it. Many of the salt farms were abandoned in the 1960s due to an influx of cheap salt from Africa…
…These are the most northern saline fields in the Mediterranean. Situated one metre below sea level here, the salters, 35 in all, harvest daily. Each salt pan has a hut where they keep their tools. Salters are men, whose fathers and grandfathers have done the same job…
Aquaculture, that is fish farms, have a bad name. But Fonda, created ten years ago by a family of Slovenian micro-biologists, have four ‘fields’ (marked by coloured buoys) in the Northern Adriatic sea, in the bay of Piran, where vicious sea bass are grown carefully.
Sea bass are old old fish, living from 50 to 100 years. When you buy a large one, you are basically eating an OAP…
…Irena claims that the Croatian sea bass taste different despite being reared and fed identically. The viniculture notion of ‘terroir’ exists for sea fish too, Irena says the Croatian fish have a different texture, the sea has a different salinity.
The dad has built a reef. Big fish come to reproduce there, dolphins and sharks, outside of the netted pens.
Irena, the daughter, is not what you imagine a fish farmer to be, with a sinewy glamour…
…the gnarled, native varieties bring the rolling valley a profound depth of colour and texture, and are the lifeblood of winemakers such as cook and art collector Aleks Klinec.
The Rayban-wearing, Vespa-riding, bearded fanatic of Che Guevara caught a flash of spring sun while picking bitter asparagus for tonight’s feast of kid goat. This he cooks over embers on an antique stove for four hours. But now, his brother, who maintains remarkably sharp sideburns, slices positively fatty garlic and wine-spiked salami, patiently cured in darkness. Aleks uncorks hazily-unfiltered ‘Jakot’ to accompany. Spelling Tokaj backwards, the turnaround label couthly circumnavigates a divisive EU law which only allows Hungary to use that variety’s moniker.
Klemen Mlečnik fleetingly casts eyes to a clearing high in the densely-forested hills. There, a five metre high inscription made of stones proclaims ‘TITO’ in capitals. “Older people maintain it,” says Klemen, face taught and eyes granite. “They remember a time of easy work for all. But Tito blocked entrepreneurs who wanted to succeed…”
…The selection includes a limpid, sprightly, fruit-driven Chardonnay from 1993. It frankly dazzles in the broad, hand-blown Slovenian glass and feels, for my perhaps overly-modernised palate, a more vigorous, vital drink than the Luddite, hazily-unfiltered, orange styles Valter favours today. These he deliberately crafts free from temperature control and artificial yeasts, with minimal use of potentially carcinogenic preservative, sulphur.
Another spread of Klinec vines in deepest Slovenia. Having seen off the unwelcomed approach of camera toting Douglas Blyde, this goose returns to the 10 strong gaggle, with triumphant calls and Napolonic swagger…
…The suggestion to visit and consume IN a vineyard caused a certain amount of consternation and frantic reorganisation: chairs were piled into the back of a car, over-sized glasses plonked into wickerwork and trays of food cling-filmed and slid onto the backseat. But it was certainly worth it.
Warm sun, luscious greenery, spring-growth on the vines and a view of distant mountains, picturesque farm buildings and a slightly manic-looking winemaker, Ivan Batic, taking us through his array of ‘natural’ wines. Certainly ‘worth it’.
I rather liked the concentration to the Batic Chardonnay…
This little place, the Slovenian equivalent of neighbouring Italy’s Agriturismo, has the most stunning view. Just below the veranda vines hug the hillside. Across the valley the rumble of a tractor and the echoes of vineyard workers silence the village chickens. The view down the valley reaches across vineyards aplenty, over blossom-drenched cherry trees, olive plantations and down the valley to mist drenched reaches.
This is Brda, a land of plump cherries…