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Slovenian Wine - the Balkan Burgundy

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

Throughout its' history, Slovenia had all the ups and downs a winemaking country can possibly have. One thing is clear - today this tiny but proud country has all the ambitions to become the Burgundy of the Balkans with its' focus on small family run wineries that make wine based on local grapes.

Slovenian biodynamic winery Guerila Wines and their vineyards in the Vipava Valley
Guerila vineyards in the Vipava Valley

Winemaking in Slovenia

From already 500 BC the Celtic and Illyrian tribes were making wine in Slovenia. That's long before the Romans introduced wine to countries like France, Germany and Spain.

In the Middle Ages the winemaking was controlled by the Christian church, later on by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, the advent of communism after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of Yugoslavia in 1920 led to rapid disassociation with winemaking traditions. Local grape varieties were practically prohibited as they weren't in demand for export sales, winemakers who refused to replant their vineyards with international grapes and kept the local ones were receiving fines. All wineries and vineyards became state owned in cooperatives. The focus shifted from quality to quantity thus the country became a bulk wine producer in no time.

Slovenia wine map and wine regions
Slovenia's Wine Map

Slovenia was the first former Yugoslavian country to gain independence and to rebuild its' winemaking traditions and industry. Just like Burgundy of the East, the 16 000 hectares of Slovenian wine land is spread among 29 000 producers. A country of small, family run estates with passion for their native grape varieties. The country is divided on three wine regions - Primorska, Posavska, Podravska - all of which have their subregions.

The Wines of Vipava Valley

The Vipava Valley is a lush green expanse that accompanies the Vipava River on its' way to the Adriatic Sea. It is the second biggest wine district in Slovenia and the biggest in the Primorska region.

Guerila wines biodynamic wines from Slovenia from the Vipava Valley
the Vipava Valley in November, photo by Blaz Rosa

The special weather conditions of the Vipava are caused by the clash of two climates - the Mediterranean and Continental. This results in strong winds and heavy rainfall. This wind's name is Burja, and it can be devastating as it reaches over 120km/h.

The soil here consists of sand, sandstone, marl, clay, and limestone in layers.

Winemaking is part of the region's history and younger generations bring in modern technology to complement the traditional winemaking techniques of their ancestors. Natural farming is a staple of the region, and many of its' progressive winemakers craft wines from organically grown grapes based on biodynamic principles.

The Vipava Valley is most famous for its white varietals and the quality white blend called Vipavec. Ribolla Giala, Malvasia Istrska and the indigenous to the region Pinela, Zelen, Klarnica, Pergolin, Pikolit, Poljšakica and Vitovska Grganja all feel at home in the Vipava.