The rich winemaking history of Slovenia, tracing back 2,000 years, was a revelation to me. Equally surprising was the fact that Slovenia earned the initial title of the world’s first Green Destination, a distinguished achievement in building a sustainable ecosystem for tourism. I also had no idea that the country is home to the world’s oldest vine, still producing fruit after an impressive 400 years.
For a tiny nation of just over 7,800 square miles, the diversity of the wines and the number of indigenous grape varietals is impressive. The terroir is influenced by the Alpine, Mediterranean, and Pannonian climates, contributing to the production of unique and high-quality wines.
Slovenia spans the Julian Alps, lakes, forests, and coastal areas along the Adriatic Sea. It borders Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the east, and Croatia to the south. First inhabited by the Kelts and the Illyrians, and then by the Romans, wine making has been around for centuries. Slovenia’s history is storied with monasteries fueling growth, phylloxera, socialist government and finally when it became independent in 1991, which led to the growth we see today from blending modern and Old-World techniques.
Recently I attended a master class, which was part of the US Slovenia tour, led by Sommelier Bujar Yuri Tukuli of Duro Hospitality, which was where I tasted small production wines of indigenous and international varietals made with minimal intervention. I really enjoyed the diversity of the wines that I tasted and trying new varietals I had never even heard of before from small family producers.
Not to be confused with Salvinia in Croatia, Slovenian wine regions include Primorska, Podravje, Posavje, and Dolenjska, offering a variety of geographies, grape varieties, and wine styles. Indigenous grape varieties, like Rebula, Zelen, and Žametovka, which add distinct hallmarks to Slovenian wines. The country’s commitment to sustainable and organic viticulture is also gaining attention.
The region has 28,000 grape growers and 2,700 wineries, producing more than 80 million liters of wine from 22,300 hectares of vineyards annually. Around 75% of that production is for white wines, but the sparkling deserves a shout-out. Most of the wine produced is consumed locally, but this event was targeted to expand current US distribution.
Key Wine Regions
Slovenia has nine winegrowing districts that fall within three main regions: Podravje in the northeast, Primorska in the west, and Posavje just south of the center of the country.
Named for the Drava River, this region accounts for approximately half of the country’s wine production, Podravje is divided into two districts: Štajerska and Prekmurje. Štajerska is the center of wine production. It’s known for white varieties like Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Traminer as well as Sauvignon Blanc.
Located by the Adriatic Sea, this is a region with a Mediterranean coastal climate. The district of Goriška Brda is known for producing Rebula, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Posavje wine region is located by the Sava River in the eastern part of Slovenia on steep hills. The Posavje region is known for indigenous varieties such as the white Žametovka and the red Blaufränkisch.
Klet Krško Winery is in the Posavje wine region. The winery has been making wine for over 100 years from indigenous and international grape varieties. I really enjoyed the sparkling wine and the red blend that I tried.
Pullus Winery, which is in Slovenia’s Podravje wine region Founded in 1937, Pullus has is situated along the Drava River and the wines reflect those diverse terroirs and microclimates.
Penine Istenic Winery is in the Bizeljsko-Sremič wine region and is known for its commitment to sustainability and as well as using indigenous grape varieties such as Šipon (Furmint) and Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch).
Slovenia’s wine industry stands as a testament to the country’s heritage, innovative spirit, and commitment to sustainability. From its ancient winemaking traditions to its modern achievements as a leader in eco-friendly tourism, Slovenia is worth the adventure with its diverse terroir, indigenous grape varieties, and thriving wineries.