Wine Routes

Wine Routes – Windows to the Slovenian Soul

Vineyards of Štajerska white wines. Photo: Aleš Fevžer

Wine-growing region of PrimorskaThere are twenty wine routes in Slovenia - some fully fledged, others still trying to find the key to success. The names of most of them reveal which wine-growing district they are situated in, or designate the wine-growing regions where the numerous tastes of fine Slovenian wines can be discovered. The common features of all wine routes are genuine wines, along with local culinary specialties and their cultural and historical backgrounds. The wine routes are true pilgrimage destinations of this picturesque land.

Lendava Wine Route,Prekmurje and Goričko Wine Routes

Let’s start in the extreme east of Slovenia with the Lendava Wine Route, which has much in common with two nearby routes, the Prekmurje and Goričko Wine Routes; all are in the Prekmurje wine producing district and all produce wines made of white grape varieties, mainly Italian Riesling, followed by Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Rhine Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Traminer, and Muscatel.

Each wine cellar also offers one or more types of blended wines, i.e. wines which are a blend of different varieties, known internationally as cuvée. All three routes also boast characteristic culinary delights: the ubiquitous Prekmurje ham, the indispensable bograč goulash, dishes made with buckwheat and millet porridge, dödöli (white potato žganci) and, of course, the Prekmurje koline sausages.

Haloze, Ptuj, Ormož, Jeruzalem and Kapela Wine Routes

Autumn - the finest time for winegrowers. Photo: Darinka Mladenovič

The East of Slovenia is crisscrossed with wine routes. The districts of Srednje Slovenske Gorice, Radgona-Kapela, Ljutomer-Ormož and Haloze include the Haloze, Ptuj, Ormož, Jeruzalem and Kapela Wine Routes, which are home to the most eminent vineyards of Štajerska white wines.

The Ptuj wine cellar is the oldest of its kind in Slovenia: its origins are traced back to the Middle Ages. Its vaults store the oldest existing wine to be produced in Slovenia, dating from 1917. A few vintages from the four years of the Second World War and before are missing, while subsequent vintages are all present in the archives. A visit to the cellar is a memorable experience.

The town of Ormož is yet another veritable treasure trove of natural and cultural heritage. The vineyards, the wine-making landscape and, of course, wine all fall into both of the above categories. Ormož Castle is just one of the landmarks of this rich cultural heritage. Visitors to the Jeruzalem-Ormož cellar can enjoy the inspiring majesty of the excellent wines found maturing in the cellar and originating from the famous vineyards at Malek, Mali and Veliki Rebrovnik, Runeč, Jeruzalem, Svetinje and the surroundings.

The journey then continues towards Jeruzalem and on to Ljutomer. The people of the Prlekija region know how to welcome their guests with good wine and interesting dishes. If you have never heard of ajdovi krapci, Prlekija is the place where you can taste this sweet or savoury buckwheat dish. The region also has its own version of gibanica and, above all, prleška tünka (meat cured in pork fat).

At Gornja Radgona, the town’s celebrated wine cellar bids welcome. In 1852, the first sparkling wine of Slovenia was produced in this very institution. But it has also won much praise for its distinguished Traminer, Ranina and Janževec wines.

Maribor, Pesnica and Podpohorje wine routes

The Podravje wine region also includes wine routes around Maribor, beneath the Pohorje Mountains, and towards the Austrian border: the Maribor, Pesnica and Podpohorje wine routes. The latter comprises vineyards above Hoče, around Slovenska Bistrica, Ritoznoj and Kovača vas, and around Slovenske Konjice, chiefly at Škalce. The Lent quarter of Maribor is home to the world’s oldest vine. The plant is over 400 years old and is a favourite site for celebrations accompanying vine pruning and grape harvesting.

The route is home to choice wines: Italian Riesling, Grüner Silvaner, Riesvaner (Muller-Thurgau Blanc), Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Rhine Riesling, Kerner, Traminer, and Muscatel. Of the red wines, the Pinot Noir, Blue Franconian and Zweigelt varieties are most widely produced.

Bizeljsko, Dolenjska, and Bela Krajina

Photo: STO archive

The wine-growing region of Posavje is divided into three wine districts: Bizeljsko, Dolenjska, and Bela Krajina, and each is precious in its own right. Winemakers at Bizeljsko pride themselves on fresh white wines and excellent reds, the best known being the white and red Bizeljčan blends. The exquisite red wines are made from Blue Franconian and Pinot Noir grapes. Bizeljsko is known for the so-called repnice, wine cellars dug out of siliceous sand.

The Dolenjska wine route is best known for its reddish cviček wine, which is a blend of red Blue Franconian and Žametna črnina varieties with the white Kraljevina and Italian Riesling. A trip through Dolenjska is like a pilgrimage route, passing vineyard cottages, churches, and other landmarks which mark the vivacious everyday life of this astonishingly beautiful land.

Region of Primorska

Vineyards in Dobrovo. Photo: STO, Bajželj

The wine-growing region of Primorska. We start at the Vipava wine route, one of Slovenia’s oldest. The upper part of the Vipava Valley offers fruity whites with pronounced bouquets: Zelen, Pinela, Klarnica, Italian Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. A well-known white blended wine is Vipavec. In the lower part of the valley they grow Rebula, Točaj (Toccai Furlano) and Muscatel vines. The entire Valley is renowned for its excellent reds, from Merlot, Pinot Noir and Barbera to Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

There is plenty to experience on the Karst wine route. It is home to the kraški teran (Terrano Carsico), a red wine made from Refosco grapes, but the winemakers of the Karst also produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines. The white wines include the indigenous Grganja or Vitovska variety, as well as Malvasia, Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

The Istria wine route, extending from the village of Črni Kal towards the sea has many vineyards. The grapes are used to produce Malvasia, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Muscatel. The undisputed king of the red wines is the Refosco, followed by Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and, recently, Shiraz.

Goriška Brda is a world unto itself, and words cannot describe its beauty in all seasons. Picturesque villages amidst vineyards, olive groves and orchards of cherry and peach trees offer exquisite white wines made from Rebula and Točaj grapes - two local varieties - and also from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. The excellent reds include Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.