A visit to Santomas winery, including a wine tasting and tour of the cellars, in the hills of Slovene Istria near Koper (Capodistria)
With not much choice but to attend virtual wine tastings during lockdown and COVID time, it feels wonderful to venture further away from home and enjoy wines at their very source: the winery.
How did we spend the first part of 2021? Eating and drinking wines at home. Nice for a while. But as soon as we get the opportunity to travel around Slovenia and not be restricted by intraregional movement, we decide to explore a couple of pretty villages in Slovenian Istria (Korte—where I must return for Torkla House, Medljan, and Cetore).
No visit to Slovene Istria is complete without a visit to a scenic winery, so we throw in a visit to Santomas estate. That had been crying out for attention from my to-do list for a long, long while.
Istrian Wines of High Quality
I like Santomas. High-quality wines are what they’ve been striving to produce over the past couple of decades since the owner, Ludvik Nazarij Glavina, decided to up the game of the farm he was brought up on.
1997 was a game changer for him. He founded the brand Santomas and continued to produce both wine and extra virgin olive oil, which had been produced for at least four generations before him. But along with his rebranding, which I’ll come to in a second, he took it into his hands to ensure that the new name would also reflect a much higher standard of produce.
Most Famous Wines from Koper & Beautiful Views at Santomas Winery
I’d come across Santomas wines during the Decanter World Wine Awards Salon and the popular Ljubljana Wine Route. I can’t say I was very attracted by the name then, but the wines I tried were certainly worth the discovery. That’s when a visit to Santomas winery got onto my to-do list.
Fast forward to April 2021 and I finally have the opportunity to delve further into this winery. I also confirm that, apart from its brilliant wines, Santomas also offers beautiful views over the hills of Slovenian Istria and the centre of the village in which it is located: Šmarje.
As we sample a starter wine of refreshing sparkling rosé on the winery’s striking terrace, I ask Niko our wine tasting guide what’s behind the name, Santomas. “The owner, Glavina, is a lover of antique books and borrowed the idea for the name from the book Topographie de tous les vignobles connus,” he explains. In this book from 1816, wine writer André Jullien mentions that among the most famous wines from the vicinity of Koper are wines called Santomas.
Back to Santomas’s striking terrace. Firstly, it’s expansive with enough room for large gatherings and weddings. I’d get married here! Secondly, it overlooks lush green hills and vineyards. Yet, even more striking is the tall tower that rises through it. Clad in typical Istrian grey stonework, it also bears the national flag of Slovenia and a second flag with the estate’s family coat of arms.
During the tasting, we try around seven different wines, including one of the best Refosco wines I’ve ever had. I say this because Refosco wines tend to taste rather soily. They leave you with a rather dry, astringent feeling in the mouth. Not this Refosco though.
I also love their dessert wine: Invasia Malvazija Izbor which is far from being too sweet. It’s just right, creamy with lovely notes and a taste of dried pear, honey, and vanilla. As I drink this wine, I think of a smooth panna cotta as the perfect match.
Note about Refosco: Refosco is a grape variety native to Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia, western Slovenia, and the Istrian peninsula of Croatia.
Together with the wines we enjoy a plentiful platter of cured meats and cheese. The salami with black truffle from the nearby Gold Istra Residence is ultra addictive.
Excellent extra virgin olive oil from Istria
Nothing better than a premium extra virgin olive oil from Istria to dip our bread in. This oil by Santomas, pressed from two olive varieties Istrian Belica (Istrska Belica) and Leccino, is also positively addictive. I’ll take a few bottles for my one spoon a day.
Venturing out in Slovenia
How good it feels to be able to venture out and explore Slovenia again after a long period of hibernation. I can only hope to venture out some more and be back with more stories from Slovenia.