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This is the third installment in a series that we began at the outset of 2023 for the Monthly Amaro Wine Club in which we explore wines from countries with rich winemaking histories that were out of reach for most of the wine-consuming world during 50 crucial years when the wine industry was just truly starting to become global, from 1941 to 1991. The countries whose wine industries we will cover in the first months of 2023 were countries that were metaphorically behind an “Iron Curtain.” Please read the first section of “Wines Behind the Iron Curtain: Hungary” at https://amarobrooklyn.com for more on this topic.
Last month we explored Croatia, with a mostly Mediterranean climate and sensibility. For this installment, we look at its tiny bordering neighbor with a slice of Mediterranean climate that meets Continental Europe climate and terrain, and a rich viticulture and winemaking past: Slovenia


Just like the two previous Iron Curtain countries we’ve covered so, Slovenia has a winemaking culture that predates the Roman Empire’s military-led expansion of viticulture through Europe, with wine cultivation tracing back to the 4th century BC by Celtic and Illyrian tribes. And then of course the Romans expanded it.
About 75% of the country’s production currently is white wine, and almost all of the wine currently produced in Slovenia is consumed domestically. The small percentage that is exported has been mostly to the United States, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and recently the Czech Republic. There are three main wine regions in Slovenia: Pimorska, Posavska, and Podravska.

The Primorska region, in the far west of the country, is the most developed and prolific of the winemaking regions. It is divided into four districts: Gori?ka brda, Vipavska Dolina (Valley), Kras, and Slovenska Istra. The first three districts share their eastern border with Italy and predictably share food, culture, architecture, viticulture, and even language in some communities, with Northern Italy. The eastern border of the southernmost district, Slovenska Istra, is the Adriatic Sea and it shares its southern border with Croatia and predictably you’ll find some Mediterranean-influenced, Croatian-type wines from this district.
Source: Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, by Anne Applebaum
The Podravska region is the largest geographically, in the northeast of the country and is subdivided into seven districts, the two most prominent being Prekmurje and the Styria (Stajerska) district. This region borders Austria and whereas Primorska includes Italian language and culture influences, Podravska includes Germanic language and culture influences.
The Posavska region is in the southeast of the country and is the only region that produces more red wine than white wine, but not by much. The most celebrated red wine in the region is a blend of white and red wine grapes called Cvisek. It is unique in that it has low alcoholic content (not allowed to exceed 10%), which usually is a sign of a sweet wine, but is instead light and dry. It is mostly produced in the Lower Carniola region and is an excellent complement to the traditional hearty food of the area.
March 2023: Wines Behind the Iron Curtain - Slovenia
Source: ThinkSlovenia (www.thinkslovenia.com)
Because Slovenian wine exporting is still in its infancy, it was not easy to identify three wines unique enough from each other and at a high enough caliber for the Wine Club. Normally, a country with three broad wine regions would lead us to select a top representative from each region, since we offer three wines. But because of the nascent nature of Slovenian imports, there weren’t enough options for us to do that. As would be expected, most Slovenian wine imports are from Primorska, and within that region, most are from the district of Gori?ka Brda. But because the Slovenian import market is saturated with Gori?ka Brda wines, we looked elsewhere in Primorska. Of course, we didn’t want to deprive you of the Gori?ka brda experience, so we urge you to try the two we already have in the store, on our value table (Villa Brici), on our skin contact (orange) wine shelf (Blazic Goriska Brda) , and on our Other Europe shelf (Marjan Simcic).
We found two wines that are both technically from Vipaska Dolina, but one is bordering Kras in a special microclimate gorge. The third wine is from the Podravska region in the Styria district. We really wanted to find one from the Posavska region and tried especially hard to find a Cvi?ek, but none met our standards. We will continue to hunt, though. In the meantime, rest assured that you will enjoy the three unique expressions of Slovenian wine. 


The Vipavska Valley district has a Mediterranean climate coming from the west and a continental climate from behind the plateau, Nanos, on the northeast side. We specifically selected a wine that follows an old school, pre-phyloxera approach to viticulture called Vipavec, named after the region itself, in which vineyards are planted with several local varietals mixed among themselves in the same vineyards, mostly white varietals, and then macerated and fermented together with their skins and aged in big oak barrels.

Just north of the Italian port city of Trieste, Pasji Rep is a sub-region with the highest concentration of valleys and streams that allow for one of the cooler climates in the subregion where grapes are planted in valleys nestled among steep hills in soil that contains flysch and mineral-rich marl. The first mention of the Paji Rep vineyards were in a land registry of 1476, and they have also been documented in the book The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola (1689) by Johann Weikhard von Valvasor.
A valley that sees a mix of continental and Mediterranean climate
Ones 1,100 feet above sea level on sloping terraces
Featured March Amaro Wine Club SLOVENIAN wine: Pasji Rep Moser Cuvee (2019)
VARIETALS: 45% Rebula, 35% Malvazjia, 5-10% Zelen, 15% Welschriesling

The vineyards are 280 to 350 meters (920 to 1,100 feet) above sea level on sloping terraces. The grapes were hand-picked at full ripeness and destemmed and macerated to ferment for seven days. After gentle pressing, the fermenting must was racked, 60% into a big oak barrel (foudre) and 40% into a concrete egg, and it finished fermenting on its fine lees. After 12 months, these two containers of wine were blended and racked into a stainless-steel tank for decantation where it rested for another 6 months. The wine is bottled straight from the tank during a waning moon with no filtration and/or fining. This labor-intensive process and attention to detail are reflected in the price. This is not a casual wine.

FOOD PAIRINGS: Chicken, Turkey, Sole, Scallops, pork, salmon, tuna, rich vegetarian dishes, Asian cuisine


The Upper Branca is a subregion in the Vipavska Valley that is at the border of the plateau that delineates the Karst wine district. But to be even more specific, the wine that we have chosen is located in Stanjelin, a sub-region unto itself that is located in the ?ipnje gorge, which has its own microclimate. The Karst plateau blocks a good portion of weather from the Adriatic Sea and is known for iron-enriched soils, while the Vipavska Valley is known for its wind, the bora. This estate gets both. Eocene Flysch soil is covered by a top soil called “soudan,” which is a mix of marlstone, sand siltstone, breccias, and conglomerate rock. Actual dirt is barely noticeable through this soudan, but when it is, you see a a blend of the terra rosa and brown and white clay. In addition to the mineral laden soils, the gorge is battered by the relentless bora wind and is also the coldest part of the Vipavska Valley. It is this demanding climate that lends so much minerality and acidity to the grapes.
Soil is barely detectable through the rocky soudan
Sandra, Matej, and their son. Truly a family affair
Featured March Amaro Wine Club SLOVENIAN wine: Santei Wines And Spirits Malvazija (2019)
VARIETALS: Malvazjia

This producer is a husband-and-wife team, reflected in the name of the estate, which is a mix of their first names, Sandra and Matej – San / Tej. Sandra and Matej are determined to be ever more natural in both their farming and their winemaking. After starting their winery, they immediately began converting their estate land to organic farming and became certified organic in 2014. Becoming certified biodynamic is their next goal, and they believe they are within a year of obtaining certification. In the meantime, they are already fully operational as a biodynamic farm. Otherwise, they keep their viticulture simple, working with three varietals that thrive in the microclimate – Malvazjia (Malvasia), Zelen, and Rebula (Ribolla Gialla), and they let each stand alone in single-varietal wines.

FOOD PAIRINGS: seafood dishes, grilled fish fillets, fresh oysters, chicken salads, risottos and pastas. 


The terrain of the entire ?tajerska (Styria) region is made up of steep-sloped vineyards and narrow valleys that act like wind tunnels. The soil composition consists mainly of sand and clay with marl in the lower layers and the roots of vines must go deep into the ground to absorb minerality and maintain footholds on the steep slopes. In contrast to the Primorska region, the Padrovska region has a continental climate, with long, dry, hot summers, and snowy winters, yet given the hilly terrain there are plenty of microclimates, too.

The Haloze appellation in ?tajerska is particularly storied. Ancient Roman archives mention it as one of the top wine-growing sites in Central Europe. Ptuj, the nearest city, was chronicled by the Roman historian Tacitus in connection with a war meeting in Poetoviani (the Latin name for Ptuj) in 69 BC when Pannonian Roman legions confirmed the election of the emperor Vespasian.

Nearly 97% of wine in the Padrovska region is white, but the wine we found for you is red made from a grape that is popular in the region’s neighboring country to the north, Austria. And in fact, the Blaufrankisch native is even claimed to be native to the region, but then both the Austrians and Hungarians claim the same varietal as native to their lands. One will probably never know, but one thing for sure is that if the varietal has been transported from somewhere else, it happened centuries, if not a millennia, ago, so it may as well be native. 
Roots must dig deep to find nutrients and maintain a firm foothold
Featured March Amaro Wine Club SLOVENIAN wine: Kobal ‘Roots’ Blaufränkisch (2021)
VARIETALS: Blaufrankisch

Enoteca Kobal is situated below the castle hill in the oldest house of Ptuj, the “Casa Romana” (Roman House). While using little intervention in the field, Bojan Kobal still has an aggressive approach to winemaking in that he finds a variety of expressions for the varietals he grows in Haloze, from light-hearted pet-nats to skin-contact wines to serious time-worn wines. For the “Roots,” he hand-picks the Blaufrankisch grapes, de-stems them and macerates them with their skin for three weeks. He allows spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts in large open oak vats and the wine is aged 6 months in used barrique barrels where it also undergoes malolactic fermentation. The wine is then bottled un-filtered and un-fined and aged for an additional 3 months in the bottle before released.

FOOD PAIRINGS: cured and smoked ham, grilled or roasted pork chops, brick-oven pizza, roasted chicken or turkey, grilled chicken salad, grilled burgers and French fries, any type of game – venison, wild fowl, wild boar, rabbit – and hearty stews
The hilly Haloze subregion in the district of Styria
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