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Could Slovenian wines be the next big thing?

Slovenian wine production is small and atomized. The natural conditions in Slovenia are some of the best. Local wine producers may be small, but rely on organic methods and innovative techniques – and they are enjoying growing success.

Could Slovenian wines be the next big thing? That was the title of an article published in the Daily Telegraph two years ago. In the last couple of years a number of major media outlets brought out stories on the exceptional quality of Slovenian wines – for example the Financial Times and New York Times. Publications and blogs specialized in wines have also been putting out some ravishing reviews on wine coming from Slovenia. Decanter, probably the most recognized authority in wine reporting, awarded 57 Slovenian wines this year. Four won the gold award. And the world’s best sweet wine this year – the winner of international trophy for premium sweet wines - is Pullus Laski Riesling from Ptujska klet winery from Slovenia’s oldest town, Ptuj. “Slovenia’s win is a triumph for the underdog,” wrote Decanter adding: “While sweet wine is pretty small in production terms for Slovenia, it definitely punches above its weight in quality.”

Indeed, the quantities of wine produced in Slovenia are marginal: less than 100 million liters are produced annually. Moreover, wine production in the country is atomized with over 28,000 wineries. Yet 70 percent of the wines produced in Slovenia fulfill the criteria for quality and premium wines.

What's behind the success of Slovenian wines? The natural conditions play an important part. Slovenia shares latitudes with regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy and Northern Rhone. The climate, soil and relief make Slovenian wine growing areas one of the best in the world according to wine experts.

As important as the natural conditions are the skills of Slovenian wine makers. They perceive themselves as artisans rather than businessmen. Increasingly often they use organic production methods. Difficult hilly terrain means that most of the grapes are hand-picked. 

The rising international acclaim Slovenian wineries are enjoying is clearly not the result of coincidence. Take for example Ales Kristančič from Movia winery. According to Food and Wines magazine, Movia wines have become “darlings among US sommeliers”, and have created “a following that makes religious fanatics seem easygoing”. Kristančič winery has been making fine wines since 1820. He studied winemaking at the University of Padua’s Conegliano campus and picked up additional skills at Bordeaux’s Château Pétrus and Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

Movia has made such an impression on a Chinese entrepreneur that, in one year, he opened four bars in four different Chinese towns, all called Movia Wine Bar. Kristančič comes from Brda region, home of some of Slovenia’s best wineries, like Simčič or Kabaj. Wine & Spirits Magazine has listed Kabaj one of the Top 100 Wineries in the world for 2015. The latest issue of Imbibe magazine listed Kabaj’s Merlot as one of the eight best Central European wines.

Another wine listed by Imbibe is Štoka’s Teran made from indigenous teran grapes, typical to the Karst region. A few more tips on Slovenia’s best wines: Bjana’s Cuvee Prestige (Brda region), Simčič’s Leonardo (Brda), Sauvignon Icewine of Mavretič (Bela Krajina region in southeastern Slovenia), and Rumeni Muškat from Pullus (Ptujska klet from Podravje region) – all four won this year’s Decanter gold awards.

Slovenia has three key wine regions: Podravje in the east, Primorska in the west and Posavje in the south. Wines grown in Primorska show an Italian influence and those in Podravje Germanic influence – with strong overall presence of French varieties. Slovenian wines are mostly white (70 percent) with Beli and Sivi Pinot (Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris), Riesling, Chardonnay, Muscat, Sauvignon and Rebula (Ribolla Gialla). Among the red grapes grown in Slovenia you can find Merlot, Modri Pinot (Pinot Noir), Cabernet Sauvignon, Refošk (Refosco) and indigenous Teran.

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