Generic wine tastings is the name we wine trade folks give to events that focus on a particular country. The likes of Wines of Australia or Wines of Argentina are typically vast affairs, in substantial venues with an impressive gaggle of importers, sommeliers and journalists making their way from wine to wine. Tastings organised for emerging countries tend to have a more modest feel and it is noticeable that attendees tend to be those looking for something new with less journalists about because there are typically fewer wines with representation in the UK.
So it appeared at the recent Slovenia tasting. Of some 30 or so producers only five were exporting to the UK.
Slovenia is a small country sandwiched between Croatia to the south and Austria to the north and with a population of just two million people. There are three wine-growing regions: Podravje (north east); Posavje (central) and Primorska (coastal) and they each contribute to the country’s rich diversity of microclimates and varied plantings of international and indigenous grape varieties.
Of the five companies with wines available to buy in the UK, two stood out for me. The first — Verdus Vinogradi — is located in Styria (Podravje) and is run by three friends who have taken on the vineyards of their grandparents and parents with the aim of making ‘distinctive, fruity wines with lots of character’.
For the time being, all of their wines are white, made from single varieties that will mostly be familiar to you: Sauvignon Blanc; Riesling and Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio). The wine that impressed me however was the Verus Furmint 2010 (£8.99 currently at www.therealwineco.co.uk) that picked up one of my best scores of the day. The fresh, green fruit flavours are crystal clear and there’s a surprising breadth to the flavour that really makes the wine stand out. You’ll not stumble on many wines with that sort of elegance at that price.
Furmint, just so you know, is most commonly associated with the sweet Tokaj wines of Hungary. As demand for sweet wine has diminished an increasing number of wine makers have begun making dry wines from Furmint and it is steadily gathering a loyal fan base that have seen its potential.
Quite different — but equally high scoring — was the Dveri Pax 2009 Sivi Pinot (£11.50 www.savageselection.co.uk). Sivi Pinot is the Slovenian name for Pinot Gris and this example is one of the loveliest I tasted on the day. Weightier than the Furmint it had a very attractive mineral quality to the fruit and hints of spice too.
I have this rather good recipe for guinea fowl with pea and lettuce fricassee and I spent much of the journey home fantasising about what a good food and wine combination that would be . . .
The wines of Slovenia may not be readily to hand but I think it’s worth making the effort to find them.