From the idyllic Southern Burgenland and proud Vas County, both in Western-Pannonia, to the most northern European wine pioneers in Groesbeek and the historically rich Saale-Unstrut river landscape, trekking and tasting around in green Vipava valley, biking alongside the sweet slopes and Danube strands of Ilok-Srijem, until finding endless sun, funny people and full bodied wines in the mountains of Bullas.
Wine making was originally introduced to the Vipava valley over two thousand years ago by the Romans and their love and respect for this art is still reflected in people's attitudes today. Wine-making is regarded as a way of life here. Just as it was in 1689, when the famous Slovenian author and historian, Janez Vajkard Valvasor, published his classic description of the area, "The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola". In his book Valvasor claimed that the Vipava valley produced more wine than bread and backed this up by noting that Vipava even included a vine on its coat of arms! Certainly the area has always been very proud of its wine production. In the Middle Ages, when Vipava wines were particularly popular with the court in Vienna, the local authorities went to great lengths to stop Italian winemakers from using the word Vipava to describe their inferior products. And rightly so! Quality and dedication have always been the key to the superb wines produced here and local winemakers have always understood the need for research and new techniques. Not surprisingly the first book on wine cultivation was published here by Matija Vertovec and this is where the first agricultural school was established as well as the first wine association. And all over a hundred years ago!
The unique climate in the Vipava Valley produces a host of classic whites, including Rebula, Sauvignon, Malvazija, Laški Rizling and Chardonnay and a wide variety of splendid reds, such as Merlot, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon and Modri Pinot. However, what makes this area particularly special are its rare, autochthonous wines. Thanks to the perseverance of local producers and the adoption of modern production methods, many rare and ancient grape varieties have been re-established. This is the home, for example, of the exquisite Zelen and Pinela grapes. Pinela is a fruity refreshing white with a subtle bouquet and aroma, whereas Zelen is slightly more robust with a distinctive flavour and pale yellow colour, not incidentally as its name (zelen or green) would suggest. Two other very old and rare specialities are Klarnica and the unforgettable dessert wine Pikolit, which with its intense peach aroma and aromatic bouquet is a rare treasure for any palate.
'This is our Valley: come, traveller, drink in its beauty!' (Ivana Slami c).
As can be expected, an area as varied as the Vipava valley offers its visitor a wide range of spectacular scenery from hills and mountains, to ruined castles, beautifully preserved gothic churches and quaint villages with traditional tiled roofs laden with stones that prevent the roofs from being blown off by the strong north-easterly wind called “burja”. Namely, “burja” can often display its powerful force, reaching the speed as high as 200 kmph. But perhaps the best way to really discover the area is to follow Ivana Slamic's advice and “drink in its beauty”. A short drive along the Vipava wine road and you will find yourself in a different world where you can sample local specialities and chat with the winemakers themselves. And what better way to relax than in one of the region's splendid wine cellars where the locals will always be happy to welcome you, introduce you to some very special vintages and maybe even sing you a song!
Remember, it has taken centuries to create this special atmosphere, so take your time to enjoy it.