The Slovenia Times

Hard work pays off when customers savour the wine

A Colnar vineyard. Photo: Colnar Winery

The Colnar Winery in the heart of Slovenia's southeastern wine-growing region of Dolenjska produces 150,000 litres of high quality wine every year. There is no greater satisfaction than seeing a customer savour your wine, says young winemaker Janez Colnar Jr.

Colnar comes from an old wine-making family from the environs of Novo Mesto, where traditionally the first son in each generation is named Janez. Colnar is the eighth Janez since the tradition began in 1747. His one-year-old son is, of course, named Janez.

Colnar took over the business from his grandfather after studying at the local agriculture vocational school and in Luxembourg. The family decided to build a new, modern winery.

New facilities, new possibilities

The new winery, which was completed in 2022, allows for better quality control, said Colnar. Using a modern laboratory, they can determine up to 22 parameters of grapes in only 30 seconds. The findings help them decide when to pick the grapes and which wine to produce. "There are no more decisions by feel," says Colnar.

Colnar's new winery. Photo: Aleš Kocjan/STA

The winery is equipped with solar panels, allowing for energy self-sufficiency.

The family also established a zero-waste system by finding uses for one of the largest by-products - grape seeds. "There is no waste in grape processing and we can use what we would otherwise throw away," says Colnar.

They use the seeds to create grape seed oil and flour, two super-foods that lower cholesterol and blood pressure and improve the general well-being. The family is also in talks with a company to start producing grape seed tablets.

Sour Cviček still ahead of other wines

Most of the grapes for the 150,000 litres of wine the winey produces yearly are grown in Colnar's vineyard with 90,000 vines. The family buys the rest from small local producers.

"My wish is that people would not cut down vineyards but instead help each other to keep the story going," Colnar says.

Cviček, a traditional wine of the region produced from red and white varieties and known for its high acidity, accounts for more than half of the wine cellar's yearly production.

Colnar also makes sparkling wine using the traditional method. The winery also produces Dolenjsko White, Italian Riesling and Collis, dry white wines, as well as a Rosé and a red Blue Franconian. They also produce non-alcoholic grape juice.

Their wine is largely sold in bars, restaurants and hotels and to a smaller extent in stores. Most is delivered to end customers in Slovenia and some is exported.

"Our philosophy is that you have to approach the customer with the wine, otherwise you will not be able to sell it, regardless of price," says Colnar. "It is also important that the wine is drinkable, that it has all the necessary characteristics and that you stand behind what you put on the market," he adds.

What it takes to make good wine

To make quality wine, grapes have to arrive to the winery healthy and have to be processed correctly.

A third of grapes are picked by machine, the rest by hand. Some 90% of grapes around the world are harvested by machines, says Colnar, adding that technology has progressed so far that there is practically no difference between hand- and machine-picked grapes.

After the grapes are harvested, they are de-stemmed and pressed. Grape juice is then put into barrels to ferment and age. Part of the grape juice, including the juice used for sparkling wine, is aged in bottles.

Colnar is trying to keep production as natural as possible by reducing use of pesticides and fertilisers. The winery uses technology to determine when spraying with pesticides is needed and which parts of the vineyard require fertilisation. By using a special method, they have halved the amounts of pesticides used.

They do not use artificial fertilisers, instead opting to fertilise with humus. "This ensures the same quality of soil in the entire vineyard and makes sure that vines grow and bear fruit evenly," says Colnar.

A family business welcomes visitors with open arms

The winery offers wine tastings and guided tours. Visitors can also stop at the family's vineyard cottage on Trška Gora hill where most of their vines grow.

Colnar's parents, uncle and brother are involved in the business, which has four other employees. "There is plenty of work and sacrifice but it is all worth it to make a good vintage and see a customer savour your wine. That is something very beautiful," Colnar finds.


More from Business