I left the Simcic winery in Slovenia at 4:30 this morning. It was later than my usual wine tasting! Ouch!!
But Marjan Simcic just wouldn’t let us leave without tasting another bottle of his wine. He was pulling out vintage after vintage of everything from Pinot Grigio and Tokai Friulano to Pinot Noir and Merlot. He even did an impromptu blind tasting of two of his Pinot Noirs against a 2002 Joseph Roty Griottes-Chambertin. The group, which included three friends from London, preferred his 2003 Pinot over the lofty Burg.
I am spending a couple of days checking out the wine scene in Slovenia. And it’s impressive to see the wealth of this tiny, earnest country of 2 million people. It encompasses slightly less space than all of Tuscany. It has about 50,000 acres of vineyards in total, or about half the size of Bordeaux.
The country is broken down into three key wine regions. The Brda is the best. It is actually the main part of the Collio appellation that makes up the best part of Friuli in Italy. Many of the producers, including Movia and Simcic, have vineyards in both Slovenia and Italy. The Slovenians believe that they have the best soils and slopes of the Collio. They certainly have the most vineyards. They account for about 2,300 hectares of the 3,000 or so of vineyards of Collio.
“For decades, the Italians looked down at us and said that they were better just because we were part of Yugoslavia, but that has all changed,” said Simcic, who is coming out with a new range of small-production, single-vineyard wines from Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Ribolla Gialla. His 2006s I tasted show great potential.
I plan to do a blind tasting of the top wines of Slovenia in a few weeks in my office in Italy. Stay tuned.
Simcic and his buddy Ales Movia are complete nut cases. I can’t think of crazier, more passionate winemakers. They are the underdogs in the wine world, but they are already making world-class wines. Just think that Slovenia wasn’t independent until 1991. And it became part of Yugoslavia in 1918 and was under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito after the second World War. Let’s just say that freedom in winemaking and everything else is a relatively new idea in this beautiful, clean and friendly country.
"People never know where Slovenia is," said Movia during the long dinner turned breakfast. He was on Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour this year. "They know Movia. So it’s like I am my own wine country!"
Movia brought his un-dosaged sparkling wine called Puro that has to be opened underwater to catch the yeasts that make the second fermentation. "The wine has no sulfites," Movia said. "There is nothing like it in the world."
I enjoy the white version more than the rosé. It’s a bright, bold sparkling wine.
Simcic and Movia even have their own language, besides Slovenian. "Zak, Zak," said Movia. "This wine is really special as we drank the Puro rosé at 3:30 a.m. Zak, Zak." He kept winking at everyone, as if we all were part of his secret that he was making wonderful whites from a little-known wine area.
But man, by 4 a.m., I was dying to find my way to my hotel. Do these guys ever sleep? I guess you work day and night to prove something when you're an underdog.
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