May 13, 2013

Wine Tasting Slovenian Style

By In Photographs, Tasting Reports, Vineyard & Wine Travel
I’ve tasted wine in many places. There’s the standing in front of a table pressed in by trade and journos followed by the scrummage to locate a spittoon. There is the shivering and cold tasting in some dark, dank cellar or the spitting of tank samples in a cavernous echoing chamber surrounded by gleaming stainless steel tanks. I’ve been relaxed at informal winemaker dinners and terribly on-edge and nervous at highly formal ‘reverent’ meals too. I’ve also been bored senseless at lunches with a never-ending run of speeches often in a foreign language… while the food gets cold and the wine sample was long ago drained. I’ve also sipped huge numbers of wines in functional boardrooms with rolling vineyards spread out below, just visible through dusty windows. But I’ve never, ever, tasted wines in the actual vineyard the grapes grew in.

Until a trip to Slovenia earlier this year.

The suggestion to visit and consume IN a vineyard caused a certain amount of consternation and frantic reorganisation: chairs were piled into the back of a car, over-sized glasses plonked into wickerwork and trays of food cling-filmed and slid onto the backseat. But it was certainly worth it.

Warm sun, luscious greenery, spring-growth on the vines and a view of distant mountains, picturesque farm buildings and a slightly manic-looking winemaker, Ivan Batic, taking us through his array of ‘natural’ wines. Certainly ‘worth it’.

I rather liked the concentration to the Batic Chardonnay, not that convinced by the odd, unique bottle it comes packaged in mind. But the wine offered a pure rendition with a mineral texture and tropical fruit freshness.

Photo Gallery: Wine Tasting Slovenian Style: In the Vineyard

Interestingly Batic use over-ripe grapes, having thinned the vineyard during the summer and also allow fermentation to run at “unregulated temperatures” for three days. The wine eventually ends up in Slovenian oak barrels for over a year. Amazing then that such freshness is retained. No surprise though at the weighty mouth-feel and complexity.

The Batic Pinela was equally as interesting. It’s a local grape variety originating on the Italian (Friuli) side of the border that, given the quality, one wonders why it isn’t grown and known more widely. Here the Pinella gives a lighter style of wine with layers of straw-like flavours, hints of herbs, pears and apples (although not in that off-putting cideresque way) and a distinct nutty edge. Dry and orange in hue.

Being a huge fan of white blends (the sum being better than the individual) the Batic Zaria 2007 was wonderful. Take Pinela add Zelen (another local variety), Rebula, Vitovska, Klarnica, Chardonnay and Yellow Muscat and you have Zaria. Full and rich, deep yellow in colour and a complexity on the palate that is at once intriguing (as in trying to tie down the various strands of flavours) and delicious. Straw was mentioned, although I tended to the spicy led over-ripened tropical fruit end of the flavour array. Ivan referred to the wines ‘živahna’ – vivaciousness.

How much of my enjoyment of the wines and the afternoon stemmed from being in the vineyard; standing next to those Klarnica and Pinela vines; lapping up the sun, enjoying the local cheeses and enjoying the company of fellow wine lovers? Certainly beats yet another bloody stainless steel tank.

The Raw Fair – an excellent place to sample Natural Wines – aka The Artisan Wine Fair takes place in London 19-20th May 2013. The Fair is open to general consumers and not just the wine trade. The Batic Estate will be at stand 152 showing the Angel 2007, Pinot Gris 2011 and Zaria 2010.

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