How many places does a Wes Anderson movie meet a James Bond location meet a Conde Naste travelogue? And in how many of those places do you also have the Adriatic meeting the Alps meeting densely-packed vineyard country? Where Slavic culture meets an Austro-Italian one with a slight Hungarian influence? And where all of these influences dissolve nicely in exceptional wine? We are visiting Slovenia’s wine heaven.
For lots of historical, cultural, ethnic and geopolitical reasons Slovenia often gets lumped into “South Eastern Europe” on the travel sites. But Slovenia is more central European in culture and occupies a unique spot in the continent. It is very much its own particular place. Thanks to the isolating effect of the mountains and its location at the very northern tip of the Adriatic, Slovenia is a real geographical and cultural oasis. This is not to say Slovenia is isolated – in fact it sits at the crossroads of many empires and the persistent wars of conquest that have shaped Europe. But it is blessed, in its postage stamp size, with breathtaking natural beauty as well as a stable, open economy. And, of course, marvellous wines.
Why Slovenia Is A Great Wine Destination
Slovenia has three main wine regions: Primorska in the west; Posavska in the southeast and Podravska in the northeast. Each has a number of subregions and each has its own winegrowing specialty, whether local varieties such as Cviček in Posavska or international varieties such as Riesling in Podravska. Moderate climate, exceptional soils and multitudes of micro-terroirs combine to allow an immense winemaking range across these regions. Primorska is the region currently best known in international markets.
First Things First – Ljubljana
Your trip to Primorska is best undertaken by car and is likely to start in the capital of Ljubljana (although truth-told you are just about as close to Venice, Italy in the vineyards of Primorska). Ljubljana is a gentle, pretty and fascinating place to spend a few days. It has all of the charms you can hope for in this part of Europe. In calling Ljubljana one of its top eastern European city breaks for 2019 the Telegraph said “The bijou Slovenian capital of Ljubljana unfurls like a greatest hits of eastern European city breaks.” Study up on Slovenian wines at eVino Wine Bar at Šmartinska c. 53 or at at Wine Bar Šuklje on Breg 10. There are a number of other wine bars all huddled together along the Ljubljana river below the castle and near the famous triple bridge. For more information check out Wine Tasting Ljubljana.
A Traveler’s Guide To The Wine Roads of Primorska
The Vipava Valley
Once on the road it’s only an hour to some of your first wine stops. The scenery where we are going is so enchanting it’s almost a shame to be chasing wineries but we are going to undoubtedly get the best of both. The subregion of the Vipava valley is along the way and is a tremendous reward, even if only on a day trip. Between Ljubljana and the town of Nova Gorica you will be on the motorway to Italy so it’s important to get off the main road when you can. Far better to wind along the pretty country roads. For a full immersion in soils and terroir in the Vipava valley stop at the Burja Estate winery in the village of Podnanos before you get to the town of Vipova itself – and make sure you check out their tremendous website. After Burja visit the Štokelj Winery in Ajdovščina just past the town of Vipava itself. Further on towards the town of Nova Gorica visit top wineries such the boutique winery of Lepa Vida as well as the more internationally known Batič, both near the village of Šempas.
A Shortcut Across Italy
The quickest route from Nova Gorica as you leave the Vipava valley subregion and head towards the Goriška Brda region will take you across a pocket of Italy. Off the main highway you will pass the village of Oslavia and the famous wineries of Radikon and Gravner. You will have to book ahead if you want to take in these iconic producers.
Goriška Brda – Slovenia’s Version Of Tuscany
Here in Slovenia’s northwest is perhaps the most compelling wine region of all. The border bulges out into the Friuli wine region of Italy as though the two countries are in an embrace. Between them, Goriška Brda and Friuli are an achingly-beautiful couple. This is Slovenia’s wine heaven. The landscape is green, verdant and buckled into hills which are often topped by villages. Vineyards adorn the hillsides in all sorts of angles and aspects. In fact some of the vineyards of Slovenian estates cross the border into Italy and vice versa. Many great grape varieties thrive in Goriška Brda but the most emblematic of the region is the Rebula (called Ribolla Gialla in neighbouring Friuli).
The Winemakers of Goriška Brda
There are a large number of wineries clustered in this area and traveling between them is a joy. Try Movia Estate in the village of Ceglo (they also have a fantastic wine bar in Ljubljana). Also in Ceglo is the acclaimed Marjan Simčič winery. Also nearby is the smaller boutique producer Danilo Mavrič.
Just a few kilometres north of Ceglo is the village of Dubrovo and Vinska Klet Brda, a winery that regularly wins awards internationally for its Rebula wines. And travelling a little further northwards don’t miss the exceptional Erzetič winery.
A Side Trip To The Adriatic?
From Goriška Brda it is a little over an hour’s drive to Trieste along the northern Adriatic riviera and then an hour back to Ljubljana. So it is worth the roundabout way getting home. Add an extra day and you can also take in the Slovenian Adriatic coast with its pebbly beaches and gorgeous waterfront villages. It’s worth the side trip just to visit majestic Piran on a peninsula jutting into the sea.
SloveniaForYou.com is an exceptionally detailed website with loads of information about Slovenia generally and wine travel in particular.
Think Slovenia is a good resource for all sorts of information including holiday accomodations.
Winestronaut is a terrific source for wine tours in the Primorska wine region.
Marzito also provides a very useful Slovenian tourist information site.
IFeelSlovenia.com is a great resource for travel and adventure in Slovenia.
VisitEurope.com has a very good article on the Primorska wine region.
Photos courtesy of Simčič Marjan, Erzetič and Movia Estate.