The Slovenia Times

Better than receiving?



The pretty lights are up and shining, flurries of snow are launching themselves off rooftops at the shoppers thronging the streets below, and everywhere there are groups of people imbibing liver-thrashing quantities of mulled wine. Which can mean only one thing: yes, it's Happy December. And our thoughts turn to Christmas. Or perhaps Hanukkah, if you are of the Jewish persuasion. I know we've just missed Eid (but the more committed Muslims are probably not so interested in my brand of advice anyway), and Diwali to boot, but never mind, there's also New Year to be used as justification for celebration, much as might have been done in the good old days of Marx and Lenin. Then again, atheists like me are usually more than happy to join in the festivities and to uphold the traditions and customs, which for many over the next few weeks will entail the giving of presents, and, for many of the many, this means booze. December is the perfect opportunity to show off your taste, generosity and bonhomie. And if you're a hardline Chinese communist who doesn't get out much, well, maybe you know someone with a birthday coming up. So, whether you're a corporate type buying for a grateful or expectant business partner, or dutiful offspring looking to get mum and dad something nice, you're faced with the question: what to get? Well, in some ways it should depend on the receiver. A bold, extravagant choice is safer made for someone you know well. Similarly, it might be better to err on the more conservative side with a prospective client. Either way, a gift is bound to be appreciated if it appears as though a little thought has gone into it. And an ideal way of conveying this impression is to get something distinctively Slovenian. This does not mean a bottle of firewater complete with a lump of Cartesian-diving fruit inside, unless the impression you aim to convey is that of you unloading all your change at the airport. Even the good homemade stuff is better avoided, and anyway few people seem to share my phenomenal appetite for things made out of grappa. No, wine is clearly the beverage of choice. But which wine? First, let's rule out cvicek and teran. Some things are too distinctive, and require a context for consumption. You might consider a variety unique to Slovenia: a good klarnica, pinela or zelen from the Vipava Valley for instance. Or you might go for a style that captures the feel of the country: a full, oily sivi pinot, or one of the sauvignons we looked at in the previous column. But for a touch more adventure, and, as we'll see, one or two other benefits, why not try a sweet wine? Don't sneer, or say that you only drink the dry stuff. Many of the sweet wines made in Slovenia are world class. Few places can produce anything to equal a good icewine or suhi jagodni izbor, particularly at the prices that can be found in Podravje. A rich, concentrated rizling, laski rizling, sivi pinot, sipon or sauvignon will provide a taste of the exotic to the lucky recipient of your gift. And these top-quality sweet wines usually come in smaller sizes: 50 cl, half-bottle, even 25 cl. Which is a boon when it comes to getting your present to its destination. Whether you're posting it, freighting it or carrying it yourself, a smaller bottle is easier to handle, not to mention cheaper. It even saves on wrapping paper. Many of the large supermarkets carry a small selection of extra-special sweet wines, while Maximarket and Leclerc have entire ranges full of potential gift material. If you're in Ljubljana, then you might want to speak to the good people at Provin (, who can help you in making your choice, and also offer a discounted price. I dare say you'll even end up with few presents for yourself. Or get in touch with the winery and cellar in Ptuj (, a venerable institution that stocks vintages going back to the early 20th century. They'll certainly find you an icewine or two, perhaps from one of the great years. But what if you insist that only the hard stuff will do? Then have a word with Movia, and get some of their Methana herbal grappa. It comes in an elegant 50 cl bottle and box, it has a wonderful anise flavour that is the very essence of the Mediterranean, and if opened on Christmas Day it has no chance of making it through to New Year. Oh, one more word of advice: if you're taking a drinkable present with you on the plane, make sure it's in your carry-on, unless you want to see your clothes bathing in the well-chosen gift as they orbit the carousel. Goodwill to all men is most unlikely to extend to baggage-handlers, so assume the worst and put the bottle in your hand luggage. Right, season's greetings and happy hunting from me, I'm off to thrash my liver with mulled wine.


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