The Slovenia Times

Get Merry



Veseli December, they call it in Slovene, and with it comes the familiar sight of merrymakers clustered around those alien-looking gas heaters, drinking mulled wine and medica, some of it very good indeed. But back in the warmth (or raging heat if you live in an apartment block) of our homes, we're less likely to need our wine at mouth-scalding temperatures. Wine writers tend to talk about winter as the season for premium reds, but to my mind it's better to leave such solemn seriousness to the dull, dark days of January and February. It's frivolity we're after, and it just so happens that there's a local seasonal product that fits the bill. Mlado vino (Slovenia's version of nouveau) is on sale for just two months, and this year I've been really impressed: the roasting summer meant there were some very ripe grapes knocking around. Stick to reds from Goriska Brda - Dolfo, Erzetic, Scurek and Buzinel are my favourites. Made from cabernet franc or merlot grapes, their soft, exuberant fruit flavours and mild tannins will go superbly alongside a Christmas bird, and make for fine glugging when you run out of or get bored with the sparkling stuff. Ah yes, sparkling wine. To most people New Year's Eve is unthinkable without it. But if your idea of ringing in the new is to head to the centre of town and fire corks at other people, remember that with bubbly, you tend to get what you pay for. Plastic-bunged bubbly is indeed best used outside, hopefully in retaliation to those wielding firecrackers, as the wine should then be too cold to taste of anything very much. However, for indoor drinking, there is a fine ros' version of the famous Zlata Radgonska Penina, whose elegant pinot noir qualities deserve to be appreciated in convivial comfort - a great party choice. And what of white wine? If, like me, you've had a gutful of frivolous and fragrant whites in our long summer, now is the time to look for something big. Not chardonnay, though, as here in Slovenia few examples can match the body and flavour found in sivi pinot, particularly from Brda. There the grape finds ideal conditions to ripen and concentrate, making something unrecognisable to those more used to insipid Italian pinot grigio. Look out for wines by Piro, Ronk, Scurek and Marjan Simcic, with food-friendly walnut, apricot and spice flavours that can also be enjoyed on their own. Another flavour-bomb is Kocijancic Sauvignon, whose huge aroma will stay in your mind for ever - more like lion urine (I imagine) than cat's pee. And from Dobuje comes a sauvignon that weighs in at 15% alcohol - utterly unlike any other example of the variety, this would make a great aperitif in place of sherry. But it's the sweet stuff that seems most seasonal of all, and there are two ways of getting a fix. The passito style, made in the west, uses raisining to concentrate the flavour. Muscat is often part of the blend, but the finest I've tried was made by Rikot in Vipava from the little-seen German variety kerner. In the east the climate is perfect for making world-class sweet wines of predicate quality (the naturally high acidity prevents the sugar from being cloying), and I urge you to try some pozna trgatev, izbor or jagodni izbor, particularly if made from sivi pinot, rizling or laski rizling. The ultimate in pleasure, though, is a ledeno vino (icewine) or a suhi jagodni izbor (known as trockenbeerenauslese in Germany). Like the other predicate wines, they will handle pretty much any food you throw at them, but these nectars really should be enjoyed alone. In all senses. Make yourself comfortable, and finish the whole bottle. Now that's what I call indulgence.


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