Slovenia is a surprising country in terms of wine production. Despite its complicated political history, its relatively young age as an independent country and its small dimensions, this country benefits from conditions that are particularly favorable to viticulture and its wines are widely appreciated.
The first ones to make wine in the territory of modern Slovenia were the Celts around 400 BCE. With the arrival of the Romans in the first century CE, wine production methods evolved including the use of terracotta for conservation and maturation. During the Middle Ages when the majority of vineyards became property of the Catholic Church, priests and monks handed down wine-producing techniques.
In the most recent past, the history of wine production in Slovenia shares similar development to that of other European countries where first phylloxera, at the end of the XIX century, and then the world wars slowed the development of a proper wine industry. These facts plus Tito’s long dictatorship and the Yugoslav war, caused a further delay to Slovenian wine making. Only recently has the country started to show excellent potential in wine production.
The vine is spread over much of the country; however, three major wine regions subdivided in different districts can be distinguished.
The most important wine region is Primorska located in the southwest of the country. Here vines, favored by the Mediterranean climate, produce wines of international fame.
The region consists of four wine districts:
• Vipavska Dolina, often called the ” Slovenian California “, where local grapes such as Zelen, Pinela, Klarnica and Pikolit are grown;
• Brda, on the border with Italy, where the hills are suitable to the production of fabulous white wines made with Ribolla, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Grigio;
• Slovenska Istra, in the hinterland of the Slovenian coast where the main variety is Malvasia;
• Kras or the land of the Carso, where wines produced from Refosco have strong flavour and intense acidity.
The largest wine region, including the entire eastern and north eastern side of the country, is Podravje. Here white wines prevail, characterized by floral and fruity aromas. The Podravje region is divided into two wine districts: Štajerska Slovenija which is the largest of Slovenia and the Prekmurje, both appreciated for sparkling wines. In this area, thanks to a temperate climate Riesling Italico is the dominant grape followed by Sauvignon, Traminer and Moscato Giallo. Red wines are produced with Franconia and Pinot Noir.
Extending in the southeast of Slovenia is the third wine region, Posavje. For several years, it has been considered an area of minor importance; however, more recently some local winemakers have managed to gain more and more attentions and success.
The Slovenia wine districts of this region are:
• Dolenjska producing Cvicek, a reddish cuvée that is one of the most popular local wines in the country;
• Bela Krajina where in recent years the production has focused on high quality wines that have received international awards; and
• Bizeljsko-Sremic where there is an established production of sparkling wines.