The Slovenia Times

Vinag - The Amazing Maribor Underground



So we took on a role of accidental tourists who found themselves in front of Vinag's tasting bar. But someone knew we were coming, and it was no accident we were greeted by the charming Ms Mateja, chief of marketing, who showed us around and told their story.
After an initial glass of sparkling wine and an introduction telling the history and details of Vinag, we moved downstairs into the magical underground of Maribor. Twenty thousand square meters to depths of 18 meters belowground and corridors, filled with barrels keep the secrets of the finest winemaking.
I was told that the recent guests of honour were brought in from the nearby Ljutomer film festival. It was Lady Lee (of Sir Christopher) and producer Menahem Golan, who was determined to film a scene of his upcoming flick right there, while the Saruman's wife simply couldn't take her eyes off the mossy wall textures.
As a film buff, it all made sense to me. Any adventure-mystery-horror would feel far more real in there than inside some studio fabrication. The mould inside these tunnels is two hundred years old, and intact, because it preserves humidity and microclimatic conditions for maturing wine. The corridors lead from one end with the biggest oak barrel dating 1862 to another with enormous mixing cistern and archives. The archives hold all years from 1946 on. Interestingly, the previous archive was walled up as the proud cellar keeper decided to hide it from the occupying Nazis during WWII. Bottles were found; however, it's difficult to make sense of them, because most labels have fallen off and additional digging could damage the tunnel structure.

The drink

What's a wine cellar without wine? Vinag bottles approximately twenty labels of mostly white wines. Its wide range of tastes from tasty, dry companions for culinary pleasures to light and fresh wines, ideal for the on-going summer. The cellar is also birthplace of Mariborčan, a fine blend of the cellar; it is their own trademark, demonstrating the virtue of winemaking and blending. Special mention should definitely go to the sparkling Penina Royal, made with a classical method and Lisičkino vino (The Fox Wine). It's a couvée composed of sauvignon, white pinot and chardonnay grown at the best locations - dedicated to the Golden Fox trophy, a world cup skiing competition held at Maribor Pohorje.

Join the elite

Vinag is innovative and follows current trends. It has decided to form a special production and marketing policy for the new era, abandoning their traditional line and focusing on fresh wines of the upmost quality, covering a wide range of prices. This is achieved by the total control of vines in strictly their own vineyards and carefully handpicked grapes.
Actually, the winemaker's pride and self-confidence borders on arrogance, as in, "Oh, we have crates of medals and prizes up in our management offices, but they don't mean much to us". For Vinag, the product speaks for itself and therefore needs no such medium to prove it. Unlike most other winemakers, who would crow about their export success, Vinag is not rushing to conquer foreign markets. Irrelevant, they say.
What matters is that their wines are highly desired in elite society and that they don't even have to push their way in there. Moreover, there is also a list of celebrities who are regular drinkers of Vinag: Slavica Ecclestone, Donald Trump, Monica Belluci, Brad Pitt and Agnelina Jolie are just a few names form the hall of fame. There's also a list of historical famous customers, such as the President Tito, who had his own barrel to consume and refill every year. I was told that a renowned Hollywood couple plans a visit to the cellar sometime soon, but the details are top secret, because they don't want a media parade around it.
The cult status of wines is earned by a carefully nurtured tradition. By the way, a bottle of 1946 Reisling would cost you EUR 3,500. Still, the guardians of this tradition somehow despise the many snobs who come and say "Just give me the most expensive one you've got."
If you are ready to meet this tradition in person and raise a glass, the doors of Vinag are always open. Tours to the cellar are made every hour from 9am to 5pm, while groups can negotiate any kind of cellar visit-tasting combo.


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