If you asked the average European where Slovenia was, even as late as 20 years ago, chances are they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Let alone strike a conversation about the country with someone from another continent. In recent years, however, this has changed dramatically. Slovenian tourism has skyrocketed, sprouting roots in every area; from sports and adventure travel, to gastronomic tourism and, you’ve guessed it, wine tours. But we’ll get to that.
Although relatively unknown to most wine drinkers, Slovenia has been synonymous with high quality wines to many sommeliers in the past. And for good reason.
To understand why Slovenian wine is where it is today, we have to travel back in time.
Fancy tasting rooms and touristy wine trails may be new to this country, but winemaking definitely isn’t. Celtic and Illyrian tribes first planted vines here sometime during the 5th century BC. That’s before any other more renowned winegrowing region in Europe. The Romans quickly picked it up and spread it around these parts. In the Middle Ages, Christian monks would inherit this tradition for both ritual and recreational purposes.
Centuries later, Slovenians have mastered this skill to perfection. Thanks to its uniquely diverse landscape, microclimates and soil, vineyards now represent over 1% of the country’s area. Today, Slovenia is home to 28,000 wineries. That’s 1 vineyard per 70 inhabitants. Not bad for a country of only 2 million. So where can we find this wide assortment of wines?
Slovenia is divided into three main wine regions: Podravska, Posavska and Primorska. Grape varieties in the latter show an Italian influence, while the former two a more Germanic. Generally, however, Slovenian grapevines are subject to an increasingly international or French influence.
In Podravje, Riesling (both Rhine Riesling and Welschriesling) are found, as are Traminec (Gewurztraminer) and Rizvanec (Muller-Thurgau). Sivi Pinot (Pinot Gris) is also produced at large quantities, as is Beli Pinot (Pinot Blanc) and its local “mutated form”, Radgonska Ranina.