The wine park

Dabbling in Slovenian Wine and Food

May 20, 2013 12:58:54 PM

Living in London has its advantages, especially for an oenophile like me. I come across wines from many regions, where some are more intriguing than others. One such country to be making efforts in creating a niche for itself is Slovenia. I was keen to get to know their wines, and when I heard of a dinner featuring three respected wineries, I knew, I had to fly down.

Getting to know

 

Slovenia grows indigenous, international and Italian varieties. Amongst the local varieties it is common to see Pinela and Zelen. Friulian fans could find the Rebula (Ribolla), Pikolit (Picolit) and Refošk (Refosco). Others include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris and Blanc for whites while Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir for reds.

 

It is common to see winemakers follow ‘natural’ techniques here as well. Natural, simply means least interference in the winemaking and vine growing process. It is an exclusion of any of the following or more, use of yeast, manipulation of acid and tannins levels, use of temperature controlled fermentation tanks, use of sulphites and subjecting the wine to filtration or fining.

 

Natural wines have led to many discussions, strong ones, amongst the wine fraternity. They are criticised by many winemakers as the wines being inferior, but the supporters protect the cause vehemently. It is common to find natural wine producers in Slovenia, Georgia, Serbia, France (Bordeaux, Burgundy), Italy (Veneto and Fruili), far afield in US, New Zealand and Argentina as well.

 

The show begins

 

The dinner was organised in Ljubljana, the capital city, pronounced lube-lee-ania, where the ‘j’ is pronounced as a ‘y’ as in other eastern European languages, at JB restaurant. The owner and Head Chef Janez Bratovž is the only Slovenian chef to have been included in ‘S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list, and he had put together a six-course food and wine pairing menu.

The winemakers present at the dinner were Vasja Čotar from Karst, Miha Batič from the Vipava Valley and Aleks Klinec from Goriška Brda. We began the evening with Teran, which has high acidity, red fruit aromas and a lean structure. An aperitif-like style. This matched superbly with the selection of amuse-bouche doing the rounds.

 

Our first course began with an octopus starter served with vegetables, fish cream, slivers of onion cooked in a dashi soup, cuttlefish meringue and herb jelly. Delicate flavours of the sea were matched with Klinec’s Rebula. The Rebula has seen some oak ageing, which gives it a rounder mouthfeel. The wine matched the balsamic vinegar notes and meatiness of the octopus.

 

We moved on to veal tripe with porcini mushrooms, wrapped in a pork blanket on a bed of bean sauce and a touch of veal gravy with a roasted fresh fig on the top. The preparation had grounded, earthy flavours. Mushrooms tend to make pairings challenging, as the wine needs to be fuller bodied, rich, sweet and fruit-led. The dish was put alongside Čotar’s Vitovska 2008. The wine has a cloudy, deep golden yellow appearance. The cloudiness, in this case, is not a fault, but due to the wine being unfiltered. A full body, refreshing acidity, and concentrated fruit was refreshing, at the same time, living up to the big flavours.

 

The third course of pumpkin and bitter almonds ravioli, in a green stalk celery sauce infused with tonka beans was finished off with parmesan and a milky, brown butter. This dish was fragrant, peppery, with nutty flavours running through it and Klinec’s Gardelin (Pinot Gris) 2009 complemented well. An orange wine (rosé), as known in Slovenia, Klinec leaves the grapes in the must to macerate for four-five days. The wine has red fruit aromas of plums, cherries and a medium to high acidity, with a touch of spice from oak ageing. Given the consistency of the dish, an acidic wine would refresh the palate and uplift, which was achieved to perfection.

 

Our main consisted of stewed foal cheek in coriander sauce, mashed kohlrabi (from the cabbage family), potatoes, cracknels and fresh vegetables put together with Batič’s Angel 2007. This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, based on the right bank Bordeaux blend. The 14.5% ABV and tannins were well-integrated and didn’t seem overpowering at all. Miha Batič, winemaker and owner said, “The year 2007 was a hot, but we had to give less water to the vines to make them work harder.” This is the result of the complex, full bodied Angel.

 

The meal ended with almond and dried fruit wrapped in pastry with a black tea sauce. Paired with another of Batič’s wines, called Valentino. A blend of Pinela (50%) and Rebula (50%). Aromas of apricots, hazelnut and honey. The full bodied, sticky sweet indulgence has an underlying acidity that prevents it from being cloying. Nutty and delicious with the dessert. Harmonious finish to a splendid evening!

 

About the Blogger 


 

Mumbai girl now living in London, Zainab Majeriková is a freelance food, wine and spirits writer. Before moving to London, Zainab was the editor of a leading food and drinks publication and a glossy, lifestyle magazine. Currently, she is studying the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) course, where she has completed the Advanced Level. Zainab cannot wait to move on to the Diploma. Two things she can't live without: wine and dark chocolate.