The Slovenia Times

Behind the Label



As in any wine-producing country, legislation in Slovenia places strict controls on the labelling of the product, and these controls are liable to create as much confusion as they avoid. In actual fact, the Slovenian system has worked quite well to date, and is now fully in line with European Union requirements. This guide should help you pick your way through the minefield of labelling terms.


The EU recognises table wines and quality wines, and in Slovenia there are two categories in each class. The table wines are labelled namizno vino (equivalent to vin de table) or deželno vino (equivalent to vin de pays), but unlike the examples from certain other countries where remarkable bargains are to be found, here they are strictly spritzer material at best. If anyone finds any exceptions, drop me a line as I would be most interested.

Next up, in the quality wine bracket, is kakovostno vino, which translates rather predictably as quality wine. Wines carrying this label have to conform to strict geographical origin rules and can only be made with approved varieties. There is a growing number of excellent wines in the kakovostno category, as more winemakers choose not to have their grapes tested by outside authorities. For example, all sparkling wines made by the tank method and most of the nouveau-style wines released in the late autumn are in this category.

The highest category is vrhunsko vino, which guarantees strict production methods and grape quality. No chaptalisation or rectification is allowed, so your wine (unless it's sparkling) will not have any added sugar (unlike those of France) or added acid (unlike those of Australia). I enjoy pointing that out.

Residual sugar

Or how dry or sweet the stuff is. All bottles have to carry an indication of sugar content, which for still wines means suho (dry), polsuho (off-dry), polsladko (semi-sweet) or sladko (sweet). It's common in Podravje for wines to be made polsuho or polsladko: don't be afraid of the sugar, as you'll find that the high levels of acidity usually leave the wine with a good balance and structure. For sparkling wines there is no polsladko, but instead varying degrees of dryness: brut nature, extra brut, brut and zelo suho (very dry) in increasing order of sweetness.

Types of wine

As elsewhere, a varietal name on the label means that the wine has to be at least 85% from the stated variety. Two varieties on the label means more than 15% each, and no other varieties in the blend.

Two Slovenian specialities recognised by the EU are teran, an iron-rich, robust, acidic red made in the Karst, and cviček, a very light, sharp, pink-coloured wine made in Dolenjska from a blend of several red and white varieties. The real stuff is labelled Teran PTP or Cviček PTP.

Sparkling wine carries the label penina or peneèe vino. Watch out for biser, an altogether lower-quality fizzy product, and the dreaded gazirano vino (yes, gassed wine). Bubblies made by second fermentation in the bottle (the finest method) are labelled tradicionalna metoda. Those made by the supposedly inferior tank method or Charmat process are labelled charmat metoda or something similar, but there are some fine examples that are well worth a taste (see Ten to Try).

Rapidly growing in popularity (some might call it a craze) are nouveau-style wines, released after Martinovanje and on sale until mid-January. Made by carbonic maceration, the reds have a fruity bubble-gum flavour and can make a refreshing change. The whites I'm less convinced by. Both red and white are labelled mlado vino or novo.

In a nod to the German QmP system, Slovenia also recognises extra quality in the vrhunsko class, usually for white wines of varying degrees of sweetness. The scale starts with pozna trgatev (late harvest, equivalent to spätlese in Germany), which funnily enough is made from grapes harvested later than normal, with a touch of noble rot. Next is izbor (auslese), for which individual bunches of grapes are selected during harvesting. This is followed by jagodni izbor (beerenauslese), for which individual berries are picked, and suhi jagodni izbor (trockenbeerenauslese), which involves the laborious process of individually picking berries fully infected with noble rot. And then there is ledeno vino (icewine), a delicious nectar of exquisite concentration and sweetness made from naturally frozen grapes picked in the depths of winter. All of these wines are likely to be very good, and it pays to seek them out, as they are something of a forte in Slovenia. If someone offers you the chance to try some suhi jagodni izbor or ledeno vino, do not under any circumstances refuse.

Finally, a term sometimes found in Primorska is slamno vino, which like Italy's passito is made by raisining the grapes on straw mats. Usually sweet and always concentrated, many of these are extremely good, if a little pricier than the sweet wines from the east.


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