Take a tour of Slovenia’s best Decanter-awarded wines for 2019 down below, then make it a point to taste them all. You can be sure to be drinking the crème de la crème—you’ll know why once you sample them.
After attending the recent 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards Salon in Brdo (Kranj), I can surely say that Slovenia has so much to offer to the world in terms of its wines. It would be a pity to organise a European wine trip and not consider including Slovenia in your itinerary. There’s so much variety in the styles of wines you can find here, and the quality is top-notch. You could spend an entire week, or even a month—not to mention a lifetime—discovering this country’s wines.
Best of the Show
During the Salon, I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop titled ‘Best of the Show’. Wine expert and Decanter Awards judge Beth Willard led us through the tasting of seven award-winning wines from Slovenia. She’s regional co-chair of this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) for North, Central and Eastern Europe.
Beth knows this region’s wines inside out. But she’s also able to give an outside and more worldly perspective on the wines thanks to her experience as a global wine buyer. According to her, “The wines that we’ll be going through in this workshop are some of the best wines in the world.” Why are they so good? How do they compare to other award-winning wines? We’ll soon find out.
Wine Buzz of the Moment
Talking about the wine styles that are internationally popular right now, Beth said that there’s currently a buzz around Furmint or Šipon. You might already know that Furmint is the star ingredient in Hungary’s sweet Tokaj wines. In fact, Hungary has been celebrating its flagship grape for the past 10 years with its ‘Furmint February’ initiative. Moreover, various countries around the world take part in this celebration, which has certainly helped to promote the grape variety.
“Wine consumers know about Furmint and look for it. They go into a shop and ask for this variety specifically,” commented Beth. “Tokaj sweet wines have long been popular internationally, but not many consumers had acknowledged that the wine is made from Furmint. So the marketing campaign has helped to make people aware of it.”
Furmint is a beloved variety. People are so attracted to it because it’s complex, unlike a lot of white wines that lack character. It’s also very age-worthy, so wine lovers who are disciplined enough to allow their favourite bottles to age can truly enjoy the fruit of their patience. Furmint is a wine that you can hold back rather than drink the same year it’s produced. It’s really worth the wait!
Three of this year’s Slovenia awards have gone to Furmint wines: Iglic Furmint 2016, by Vino Gross (Platinum medal), another Furmint by Vino Gross: Gorca Furmint 2016 (Gold medal), and Dveri-Pax DP Brut Furmint 2015 (Gold medal). I’ll enlighten you with the juicy details on each one right now.
Vino Gross: Iglič Furmint 2016
Coming from the steep terroir of Haloze in northeastern Slovenia, this wine is very expressive of the Furmint variety. It’s got powerful white pepper and spicy aromas with flinty stony notes, and is also slightly smoky. Yet it still has that fruity freshness with nose of apple and green melon. Even though it’s been fermented and matured in oak barrels for 18 months, the oak doesn’t overpower the fruitiness of the wine. It’s a flexible lunch or dinner wine as it pairs suitably with a wide range of foods from light fish dishes and raw fish to well-seasoned dishes.
When speaking about its aging potential, Beth Willard speculated that it could age for 10 years plus. Now here’s a perfect opportunity to enjoy the fruit of your patience. 🙂
Just in case you were wondering what Iglič is, it’s a plateau dominated by calcareous clay marl with south-facing terraces. Calcareous clay soil contains certain nutrients that makes the grapes grow better and sweeter. The calcium carbonate in calcareous clay also helps the soil maintain a cooler temperature, which is useful in hot weather and delays ripening, yielding a more acidic wine. The clay part of the soil retains moisture, so the grapes never suffer during dry periods.
Vino Gross: Gorca Furmint 2016
Here’s another wine by Vino Gross. Gorca Furmint 2016 gives off a complex bouquet of green walnuts, strawberries and yellow citrus fruits. Some cinnamon on the palate, mixed with rosehip, and dried apple peel. Finally, a lively aftertaste of herbal tannins.
This is another Furmint that can take part in a wide rage of food pairings. It goes equally well with light fish or raw fish dishes to rich, seasoned foods.
Tip: Leave Gorca Furmint to breathe before you enjoy it.
Fun fact: Gorca is a wine-growing village with a reputation built over many generations, and is characterised by steep terraces.
Dveri-Pax: DP Brut Furmint 2015
“This sparkling wine offers everything that I would expect not only from a top quality Furmint but also from a fantastic sparkling wine.” Beth is thrilled about this wine as it ticks all her boxes. “It has the qualities of a really good champagne… it’s got a unique character, and doesn’t taste like Prosecco—it tastes like it comes from Slovenia.”
“DP Brut Furmint 2015 has the qualities of a really good champagne… it’s got a unique character, and doesn’t taste like Prosecco—it tastes like it comes from Slovenia.”Beth Willard—Decanter Awards judge, DWWA 2019 regional co-chair for North, Central and Eastern Europe.
Made in the Champagne method, this wine has had 18 months on lees, so it has a complexity and creaminess about it. Furmint yells for attention here with its white pepper spiciness. Cheers to that, it’s wonderful! Especially as its pleasant spiciness is in the mix with some apricot and citrus in the mouth. I also notice a very predominant green-apple aftertaste. I’m not much of a sparkling wine fan, yet I can still picture myself enjoying this Brut Furmint with a delicate starter of seafood carpaccio!
We’re done with the award-winning variety of Furmint for now. Let’s move on to Slovenia’s other outstanding variety: the famous Rebula. Ščurek winery has received a Platinum medal for its complex Rebula Up, an orange wine from Goriška Brda. The wine is not straightforward—it’s hard to describe and therefore piques your interest.
Apparently, it caused quite a bit of controversy at Decanter. Most DWWA judges understand this style of wine. But those certain judges who retaste the wines to verify that they’re worthy of the gold or platinum medal tend to be more conservative. “They deal with more traditional regions in France, Spain, or Italy, and don’t necessarily appreciate or understand this style,” said Beth Willard.
But Beth is an orange wine devotee, so she stood up for this Rebula like there’s no tomorrow. Rebula Up is rich, with aromas of candied orange, apricot, and dried fruit. On the palate, it’s sweetly spicy with some vanilla flavours.
Orange Wines: Not Just a Fad in Slovenia
Orange wines are trendy around the world right now. It’s the latest buzzword in the hipster drinking crowd. “The unique characteristic of Slovenia with orange wines is that there’s a history here, it’s not just a new fad,” Beth added. “In other regions of the world, people are trying to make skin-contact whites. Rebula Up is an ideal example of an excellent orange wine—it’s not flabby but fresh and lively, so I think we made the right choice.”
Fun fact: Orange wines get their particular texture and rich flavour from their prolonged contact with the skins of the white grapes.
Gašper: Cabernet Franc 2017
Together with the previous wine, this Cabernet Franc by Gašper from Goriška Brda is a sold-out one. It has the right Cabernet Franc characteristics: red peppers or capsicum, black pepper, lots of red and dark fruit. But even if heavy on the oak, it’s still elegant as the oak sits behind the fruit.
The hand-picked grapes are fermented and aged in new French oak barrels. Cabernet Franc 2017 is a Platinum award winner.
Erzetič: Sivi Pinot Amfora 2012
This Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio) is aged and unusual (Pinot Gris is usually drunk very early, within the same year of production). Sivi Pinot Amfora 2012 (Gold medal) has been aged in amphora, hence the lovely texture. It’s an unusual wine as it’s fresh and doesn’t have the obvious fruity or oak notes that wine drinkers are accustomed to. This is also a trendy wine that can be likened to a Chardonnay. It has a richness of mouth, which isn’t typical of Pinot Gris.
This and Ščurek’s Rebula Up are perfect representations of two attention-grabbing styles in the whole world of wine.
Vinska Klet Colnar: Rosé, 2018
Have you ever come across a rosé that’s struck you as special? This one could be it—a premium rosé for which care has been taken in the selection of the grapes, and in finding the right blend—50% Pinot Noir, 50% Blaufränkisch. The wine’s gone through a short four-hour maceration that gives it its beautiful light, Provence-pink colour.
Even though it’s a delicate and light rosé, it doesn’t lack the fruit concentration and lovely flavour. In the mouth, I taste strawberries and some mild cherry. Colnar’s Rosé 2018 (Gold medal) has some structure and tannin, making it a good complement for food.
Marjan Simčič: Leornardo 2013
To top things off, we end with a wine that’s really something special. Leornardo 2013 (Platinum medal) by winemaker Marjan Simčič is the most awarded wine in the Slovenian history of Decanter judging. Also globally, because it regularly achieves platinum and gold medals, and regional trophies.
Made from dried Rebula grapes, this wine really stands out. I have a soft spot for wine made from dried grapes so I found this wine to be extremely delicious. Another great thing about this wine is that it has all the complexity of a high-quality sweet wine that tastes almost savoury (some sweet wines can be overly sugary). Perhaps I could liken the taste to toned-down salted caramel.
A Treasure For Now and the Future
Leornardo 2013 is also a treasure you can store in your wine cellar to enjoy in a couple of years’ time, as it ages marvelously. I can conclude here with a comment from wine expert Beth Willard: “This is one of the greatest wines in the world. Its style is very unique. I’ve travelled and tasted a lot, and this wine really stands out”.
If you’re planning a wine trip to Slovenia, you can now know which wines to look out for. Visiting Slovenian wineries and vineyards always makes for an unforgettable experience. The winemakers are very friendly and so open that they are ready to divulge the intriguing wine-making stories to those who take the time to visit them.
Happy wine touring around Slovenia! 🙂