Slovenian grape varieties are definitely off the beaten track. This makes Slovenian wines both exciting and challenging to find. And why wines from these grape varieties are a real treat for anyone who loves different flavours and complexities.
Here are six underrated and unique Slovenian grape varieties for you to start discovering these delicious white and red wines for yourself. Let’s start.
Slovenian grape #1 Pinela
A Slovenian white wine grape that produces crisp and citrus-y wines. Pinela is popular in the Vipava Valley, the winegrowing area in the Primorska wine region. Winemakers harvest the white grapes early to preserve their acidity. This results in light-bodied wines with a fragrant nose. The light, fruity characteristics pairs well with fish or poultry dishes.
Out of all the Slovenian wines, Pinela is one of Slovenia’s most well-known wines. Yet few people know about it because it’s overshadowed by the country’s more famous neighbour: Italy. As you explore Slovenia’s wine regions, you’re bound to run into Pinela—and we recommend trying it. Pinela won’t disappoint.
Slovenian grape #2 Zelen
The Zelen white wine grape was almost non-existent until the early 2000s. Since then, several producers in the Slovenian wine industry saw its potential.
The name Zelen translates as “green” in the Slovene language.
Zelen is an excellent native grape that can produce aromatic white wines. It has a greenish golden colour with aromas of white fruit, white florals, and herbal aromas.
Zelen hails from the Vipava Valley in the Primorska wine region near Italy. You can also find it in Prekmurje and in neighbouring countries, Croatia and Austria.
Slovenian grape #3 Refošk
One of the more famous Slovenian wines, Refošk, is a red wine grape variety in Slovenia and Italy
The Slovenian wine made from Refošk is one of the Refosco grapes. This is a family of red wines that share some common characteristics. They may have originated in Italy.
Slovenian Refošk is best known in Teran red wine (Kraški teran). Above all, not confused with the Croatian grape variety named Teran. Slovenian winemakers in the Karst region on the border of Italy are specialists in Teran.
In Slovenian vineyards, Refošk becomes a dark and juicy red wine, with a robust tannin structure.
Slovenian grape #4 Rebula
Rebula is a white wine found mostly in the Goriška Brda region and one of the best Slovenian wine grapes. Some consider it to be one of the oldest grapes in this part of Europe.
The grapes are small, yellowish green and with a very thin skin. Rebula has a powerful personality. It needs an experienced winemaker who knows how to handle it. Although when you do get to enjoy it, you will feel you hit the jackpot. Rebula is a sophisticated grown-up version of Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio.
Rebula white wine from Slovenia’s vineyards are bright gold. They show apple, pear, quince, elderflower and almonds aromas and flavours. Some experts claim some of the award winning wines can also give off notes of menthol or smoked bacon as well.
Rebula is the same grape as Ribolla Gialla from Friuli in North-East Italy. It may have arrived in Slovenia over time by Italian immigrants in Slovenia. And why Rebula is plentiful on the Italian-Slovenia border. In particular, in the Primorska region: Goriška Brda, Kras (Carso in Italian), and Slovenska Istra.
Slovenian red #5 Modra Frankinja
Like Pinot Noir or Blaufränkisch – and not so much Cabernet Sauvignon? Then you’ll love Modra Frankinja – the Slovenian wine name for the same grape as Blaufränkisch.
You can find Modra Frankinja red wines in the Štajerska region, which is a part of the Podravska wine region.
This red grape is well-known for its floral notes and high acidity, and it produces a similar light red wine. The purest expression is in Dolenjska. The local terroir here seems to bring out the most in this unique expression of this juicy red wine.
Slovenian grape #6 Žametovka
This is not Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. You are in Slovenia now: Land of Žametovka.
The Žametovka is a native Slovenian red-skinned wine grown in Styria and Dolenjska. It’s rarely used as a single grape varietal, and most often as blended wines. For example, the famous Slovenian wine, Cviček from Dolenjska in the Podravska wine region is a blend.
The characteristics of Žametovka are usually pale and have a distinctive raspberry flavour. Moreover, it is also one of the oldest known grape varieties in Slovenia and a popular local red wine.
Put Slovenian wines on your bucket list
Slovenian grape diversity makes it an exciting region to explore new wines.
Slovenia’s unique geography also makes it a great place to grow wine grapes. Landlocked on one side and next to a sea on the other results in a variety of climates. This supports a tremendous array of grape varieties.
Whether you’re adventuring through this beautiful Central Eastern European country. Or searching for your next favourite bottle. There are plenty of delicious Slovenian wines for wine lovers to try.
Above all, the diversity found in Slovenia’s wine regions will make it easy to find a Slovenian wine you love.
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