Wine + a tour: an evening of wine from Slovenia

 

20

DECEMBER 2019

Despite being a keen wine drinker, it’s not often that I get to join a wine tour when traveling. The last one I did was in New York City, which was incredibly good fun but a while ago.

So, upon hearing about the Ljubljana wine tour, it seemed like a good chance to add another to the list. I’d only ever tried one wine from Slovenia — a dry, yet fruity white variety — and was keen to learn more.

Like Slovenian food, I knew little about the types of wine from Slovenia before our visit. With zero expectations, we arrived at the meeting point, ready for an evening of delicious wine tasting.

Wine and a castle

I was taken by surprise at the first place on the wine tour. Ljubljana Castle had been on our itinerary for the following day, so I was happy to be visiting sooner.
 
By night, the castle’s lights illuminate the Ljubljana skyline. It’s also noticeably quieter around the grounds than during the day, almost giving the impression that the castle’s all yours.
 
Our first tasting stop on the Ljubljana wine tour was at Strelec Restaurant. Meaning ‘archer’, it’s one of 2 restaurants on site, with Gostilna na Gradu making up the second.

Its interesting décor takes you back to a bygone era. The paintings, created by local artists, date to World War II and reflect traditional Slovenian stories and songs.

Strelec’s menu continues the nostalgic theme, giving diners a taste of Slovenia’s medieval past. Dishes are a fusion of Alpine, Adriatic and Pannonia cuisine, with a wine list ready to complement each plate.

It’s open Monday to Saturday, from 12pm to 10pm. Strelec Restaurant is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

The restaurant in the castle, Strelec Restaurant — wine from Slovenia

 

Start with some fizz 

A kind of standard with many wine tours, we kicked off the evening with a glass of Slovenian fizz. Zlata Penina is a white sparkling wine from the Radgonske Gorice winery.

Dry, and a sunny yellow in color, it was a promising — and not to mention refreshing — start to the tour. To complement the sparkling wine, we were served a bruschetta-style dish, topped with local cheese and rocket.

Fruity and fresh šipon — wine from Slovenia

Up next was another domestic variety, this time from the Šipon grape. Internationally, it’s known as furmint, a white grape variety that originates from Hungary.

The grape variety already existed in Roman times and has been present in eastern Slovenia for over 1,000 years. Moreover, furmint occupies 1/5 of all of Verus winery’s vineyards.

The wine with the interesting name — wine from Slovenia

Legend has it, that the name ‘šipon’, allegedly comes from the Napoleon soldiers who were in Slovenia during the time.

After trying the local wine, they remarked ‘c’est si bon’ which the locals mistakenly interpreted as ‘šipon’. With an interesting anecdote added to the wine, we tried our first sip.

A full-bodied wine with notes of pear and green apple, it’s a deliciously fresh vintage that also ages very well.

Along with our second tasting, we nibbled on another bread dish — this time topped with duck and walnuts.

Wine from Slovenia — try a glass of Verus Šipon

 

“I’d only ever tried one wine from Slovenia — a dry, yet fruity white variety — and was keen to learn more.”

Map: where to drink Slovenian wine in Ljubljana

Wine from Slovenia — ending on a sweet note

The last of the 3 wines at Strelec was a semi-sweet variety from the Styria region in north-east Slovenia. Made from the Gewürztraminer grape, the Steyer wine we tried was a vintage from 2017.

On hearing the word ‘sweet wine’, I immediately thought ‘I’m not going to like this.’ However, after giving it a try, I was proven wrong. The Dišeči Traminec contains light tropical notes and is also very drinkable.

To accompany the semi-sweet wine, we tried one of the scrummy handmade chocolate truffles with cinnamon and Cointreau.

A Slovenian wine heavyweight — Movia wine bar

We made our way from Ljubljana Castle back to the old town, and on to our next stop. A more traditional setting, we were about to enter the vinoteca owned by one of the top wineries in Slovenia.

Dim lighting, intimate and super cozy, Vinoteka Movia is a wine bar and ideal date night all in one.

This bar’s in the heart of Ljubljana old town. It serves wine from the Movia winery, as well as other Slovenian wines, but the food’s Italian and French. The winery started life in 1820, when the Movia and Kristančič families came together.

About 10 to 15 years ago, Movia began producing natural and organic wines. This typically means minimal sulphates and spontaneous fermentation during the winemaking process.

 

Light and refreshing — a Slovenian Malvazija

 

It begins with Malvazija — wine from Slovenia

Our first tasting at the Movia wine bar was a glass of the wonderfully fruity Malvazija. As its name suggests, it’s made from the Malvasia grape.

This variety usually grows in the Mediterranean, but it’s also now grown in many winemaking regions around the world. Unsurprisingly then, the Malvazija comes from the Istria region of Slovenia, which is located at the head of the Adriatic. It’s a region that’s shared by Croatia, Slovenia and Italy.

Low acidity, with a high alcohol content, the Malvazija from the Bordon winery contains notes of peach and grapefruit.

We enjoyed all the wines at the Vinoteka Movia alongside a Mediterranean platter. A board generously piled with Parmigiano Reggiano and Mimolette cheese, prosciutto from San Daniele and Sicilian olives.

A Slovenian wine from one of the top wineries in the country — Movia Rebula​

 

The star of the show at Movia

Next up was a taste of the bar’s namesake, and our first ever try of a Movia wine. Movia Rebula, or Ribolla, as you may know it, is a very dry and medium bodied white wine.

A golden hue of amber, the Movia Rebula has notes of gooseberries and blackcurrants. It also has a longer and lingering taste on the palate compared to the light Malvazija.

The name Ribolla, originates from the Italian word ‘ribollire’, meaning to re-boil. Serve chilled at 9° or 10°, Movia Rebula is also a great accompaniment for fish and seafood dishes.

A deep dark red — wine from Slovenia

Last of the tasting trio at Vinoteka Movia was a robust red called Teran from the Derenda winery.

Teran is the Slovenian name for the Terrano grape, which comes from the Refosco grape family. As someone who’s more of a red, than a white, wine drinker, I was happy to see the switch.

Intense, with a rich ruby color, and smooth on the palate, I savored every sip. A local indigenous wine, Teran has a higher content of iron, meaning it’s more acidic. Allegedly, it also means that it’s supposed to be very good for the blood.

I sensed some hints of forest fruits and vanilla as I finished the glass. Choosing between which of the 3 I liked best at Vinoteka Movia wasn’t going to be easy.

Wine from Slovenia — sip on a robust glass of Teran

Dolenjska wine delights

Feeling slightly merrier than when we first started the tour, it was onto the final stop of the wine tasting. Dolenjska Delights is a store dedicated to products made in the Dolenjska region of Slovenia. It was also the setting of our final 3 wines.

Dolenjska is an area located towards the east of the country, known for its thermal springs along the Krka River. Dolenjska’s other famous export is the Cviček wine.

 

Holding a glass of wine in front of a cheese and ham board — wine from Slovenia

Cviček is a classic wine from the Dolenjska region of Slovenia

 

Wine from Slovenia — a Slovenian classic

Cviček is a red wine, though lighter in shade than the bold Teran. This is because the wine is made from both red and white grape varieties. Žametna črnina and Blue Francocian make up the reds, while the white variety is the Kraljevina (Grau Portugiser).

Cviček can only be called this if it has less than 10% of alcohol. A dry wine, it’s produced around the town of Situlae in the Dolenjska region. Cviček is light, easy to drink, and is also a great daytime wine. It’s also a specialty from the Lower Carniola region of Slovenia, and goes well with any dish.

Cviček has a high acidity level, and they recommend eating it with foods that are heavy or high in fat. Right on point, another platter was presented before us to try alongside the wines.

In truth, our appetite was non-existent after everything we’d already eaten from the previous 2 places. Still, in the name of research, we soldiered on and had a small try of everything.

A wooden platter of bread, cheeses, salami and jams were brought before us. They were all Dolenjska specialties, each and every one utterly delicious.

Modra Frankinja — wine from Slovenia

Fresh and young wine — wine from Slovenia

Second on the tasting was the Modra Frankinja from the Frelih winery. Made from the Blaufränkisch grape variety, it’s a dry and young red wine.

Modra Frankinja is the Slovenian word for Blaufränkisch.

Oaky notes, and strong hints of cherries and blackberries come through as you enjoy that first sip. Fruity and aromatic, the Modra Frankinja is a light yet flavorful wine you can easily enjoy.

As advised, we tried it with a piece of bear salami. In all honesty, it was pretty delicious and not as strong a flavor as I was expecting.

Unique, translucent and sublimely delicious — Bela Frankinja wine from Slovenia

The pretty wine — wine from Slovenia

I’m not sure whether I can call a wine ‘feminine’ but these were my thoughts upon trying the last offering.

Saving the most special wine for last, we were presented with a bottle of Bela Frankinja from the Kerin winery.

A semi-sweet white wine, only the prettiest grapes make the cut. The grapes are handled very gently, and they also use a silicon press to discard the skin. Because of this, the color of the Bela Frankinja is totally translucent.

Interestingly, the wine’s actually made with red grapes, the same used for the Blaufränkisch wines. The leftover grape skins taken from the Bela Frankinja is used for the Blaufränkisch varieties.

 

Food platter at Dolenjska Delights — wine from Slovenia

An evening of delicious wines and food on the Ljubljana wine tour

 

The only color coming from the Bela Frankinja is the slight pinkish hue of the bottle. Without running the risk of gender stereotyping, this feature makes it a popular choice for many women.

While I was skeptical to try it at first given its ‘sweet’ label, I quickly warmed to the unique wine. It’s something new, indigenous and altogether different.

What began life as an experiment has resulted in the Bela Frankinja being the winery’s most successful export.

We ended the night at Dolenjska Delights after an enjoyable evening of drinking Slovenian wine and eating delicious food.

Surprisingly, both of us were still standing by the end, walking back to Vander Hotel on a very merry high.



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Have you ever tried Slovenian wine before? Could you do a 9-tasting wine tour?! Let me know in the comments below.

Till next time, happy boutique travels x

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Lisa Rivera

Lisa Rivera

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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience; a demographic (late 20s onwards) that enjoys glamping over camping, staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels, sampling the local food and wine, cultural activities, and indulging in a spot of wellness on their travels. Read more here…

       

 

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