Get to know Slovenian wine - White grape varieties
We are continuing with the posts about Slovenian wine. In this one, I am going to present to you the most important white grape varieties and the other less popular white grape varieties in Slovenia.
MOST IMPORTANT WHITE GRAPE VARIETIES
WELSCHRIESLING (LAŠKI RIZLING)
Welschriesling is the most widely planted grape in Slovenia (12,9% of all plantings), and don’t get confused by Rizling in the name is has no relation to Riesling.
This variety enjoys a cooler to medium climate; the produced wines have gentle fruit aromas, medium to high acidity, and a lighter body.
Welschriesling can produce noble rot and therefore is famous for both simple wines or outstanding sweet wines.
In the Podravje region, it is used as a blending component for the entry-level white blends which are usually sold in bulk; it can also produce fresh and light styles; sweet wines made from botrytis, or as in ice wine style.
In the Posavje region, it is one of the main components of Cviček.
Welschriesling can be found in the Vipava Valley district of Primorska, where they use it in simple blends.
Second, most planted grape in Slovenia and at the same time Slovenia ranks in the top 10 Chardonnay producers in Europe.
Chardonnay is a low aromatic variety. Depending on the climate, it can produce wines with aromas of lemon, melon, peaches, and sometimes tropical fruit. It prefers oak and aging on lees (sur lie).
Štajerska Slovenia and Vipava Valley: medium to high acidity wines with medium body.
Brda and Prekmurje: wines with medium acidity and full body.
Prekmurje, Štajerska Slovenia, the Vipava Valley and Brda produce serious oak-aged Chardonnays.
In Brda and the Vipava Valley, we can find premium white blends mixed with local varieties.
All around the country Chardonnay is used as a blending component in sparkling wines and for entry-level whites. Single varietal wines are made in a light style, and stainless steel is used.
It is called only Sauvignon in Slovenia, and on wine labels, we would also see only Sauvignon.
Sauvignon prefers cooler climates; produces very aromatic wines with zesty acidity. The aromas can be elderflower, tomato leaves, hay, gooseberry, blackcurrant, and sometimes tropical fruits (mango, papaya).
Significant plantings are found in Štajerska Slovenia, the Vipava Valley, and Brda. In Brda and Štajerska Slovenia, the wine is matured in oak, giving premium wines with full body and creamy texture.
Most of the wine on the Slovenian market is produced in stainless steel, giving pungent, highly aromatic wines.
MALVAZIJA ISTARSKA (Malvazija, Istrska Malvazija)
Malvazija Istarska is one of the most popular grapes in Slovenia. It originates from Istria and is an indigenous variety.
Malvazija Istarska is an aromatic variety with low acidity, high alcohol levels (when not planted on cooler sites).
In Slovenia there are three styles of Malvazija Istarska produced:
- Gently aromatic wine made in stainless steel, best consumed young;
- Oak-aged, blended with other whites;
- Wine style made with prolonged skin maceration and aged in amphoras.
Malvazija Istarska is often called the queen of Istria, with Refosco being the king.
In the Vipava Valley is used in the traditional Viapvec blend.
Malvazija Istarska is most often used for wines produced by prolonged skin-maceration.
RIESLING (RENSKI RIZLING)
This variety prefers a colder climate, therefore is found only in Podravje and a small % in Posavje.
Riesling is an aromatic grape, producing wines with aromas of lemon, peaches, pineapples, linden flowers, burnt matches. With wine aging, the aromas become mineral with hints of petroleum.
Wine styles from Riesling (Renski Rizling)
- Works well as good blending wine;
- Dry and steely;
- Medium sweet to lusciously sweet made as Trockenbeerenauselse or ice wine.
RIBOLLA GIALLA (REBULA)
Ribolla Gialla has been known since the 14th century in Friuli, Slovenia, and Istria, at the time as a style of wine and not a grape variety. Slovenia has the most significant plantings of it anywhere.
It is a late-ripening variety, giving aromas of lemon, gentle spices, anise, a touch of cloves and licorice.
Mainly planted in Brda, in the Vipava Valley is used for the Vipavec blend.
Ribola Gialla can be a blending component in simple blends. In Brda is blended with Chardonnay, or Pinot Gris, Sauvignonasse, Sauvignon Blanc to produce signature blends sold at premium prices.
A single varietal wine is also produced and is very popular in the capital town of Ljubljana. Must try style is the oaked Ribolla from Marjan Simčič.
There is also a style of wine produced with prolonged skin maceration which is then aged in oak, concrete tank, or sometimes amphoras.
As a key ingredient in sparkling wine, Ribolla adds freshness and a regional touch.
In Brda can be produced in sweet style from dried grapes.
Furmint is considered to be a Hungarian variety. The Slovenian plantings of Furmint are the second biggest in the world after Hungary. Croatia produces Furmint under the name Moslavec and in Austria is called Mosler.
It is a late-ripening variety with a subtle aromatic profile when the grapes are ripe. The aromas shown here are apples and when fully ripe even some ripe pears. Wines are high in acidity with low to medium alcohol. Furmint also is an excellent grape for producing botrytis wines.
Best Furmint wines come from the Ljutomer-Omrož, around the village of Jeruzalem; in recent time there are good quality examples also in Halože.
Fun fact: Slovenia has a wine club dedicated only to Furmint – naturally named the Furmint Club (Klub Šipon), it was formed in the late 90is.
Dveri-Pax produces a good quality version in oak barrels.
Due to its acidity, Furmint is a popular variety for producing sparkling wines as well.
Štajerska Slovenia had some success producing wine from dried grapes, and those wines could be considered in the world-class category of sweet wines.
MUSCAT BLANC À PETIT GRAINS (RUMENI MUŠKAT)
It is a very old variety grown all around the world under a different name; Rumeni muškat in Slovenia, Moscato Bianco or Moscato Giallo in Italy, Gelber Muskateller in Germany.
Wines have aromas of grapes, muscat, flowers, lemons, lychee, anise and some spiciness. Most of the wines are produced in a medium-sweet or sweet wine style; including botrytis wines and are sold among locals. If a wine is made in a dry style, it is sold in Austria.
Štajerska region produces all of the mentioned styles.
In Istria is produced in medium-sweet or sweet wines made from dried grapes.
In Bela Krajina are produced the best examples of the wine in the country. Here can also be found some wines made in ice wine or Trockenbeerenauslese.
PINOT GRIS (SIVI PINOT)
In Slovenia is sometimes know (in Štajerska region) as Rulandec (Ruländer).
Pinot Gris is a pink-skinned grape and is producing white wines. Lately, there is also some production of lightly pink rosé wine. White wines are dry with medium acidity; high sugar levels, full-bodied with high alcohol.
Over half of the whole production in Slovenia is in Štajerska Slovenia.
In Brda, the wines are kept in stainless steel or in old oak, which gives wines with a serious character and depth. Pinot Gris here is also very popular in the top white cuvées.
PINOT BLANC (BELI PINOT)
Gives fruity wines with not much distinction in character and has high acidity.
Over half of the plantings are in Štajerska Slovenia, where most of the wine makes it into blends. In Brda, there are some examples of varietal wines.
This variety is called Friulano in Italy.
Fun fact: In the past, this variety was called Tokaj, but the name was changed after Hungary gained Protected Designation of Origin for it. In the meantime, Slovenians couldn’t agree on the new name so this variety lost in popularity.
Sauvignonasse is a mid-ripening and aromatic variety; with vegetal, dried herb character, sometimes reminding of Sauvignon Blanc. Wines are medium to full body with medium acidity.
It is mostly grown in the Primorska region in the Brda and some notable examples in the Vipava Valley.
Due to the aromatic character, it is trendy for blending for both entry-level wines and high-quality cuvées.
TRAMINER/GEWÜRZTRAMINER (TRAMINEC / DIŠEČI TRAMINEC)
In Slovenia there are planings of both Traminer (Traminec) and Gewürztraminer (Dišeči traminec). The description bellow is for both.
As the name suggests, Traminer is a very aromatic variety with aromas reminding of roses, oriental spices, lychee.
Traminer has a medium level of acidity and alcohol, Gewürztraminer is low in acidity and high in alcohol; the two are often seen in blends together.
In Štajerska Slovenia, which is the primary source of Traminer it is producing it in medium-sweet style.
OTHER WHITE GRAPE VARIETIES
Important blending component for Cviček. It has high acidity and low alcohol, with low, neutral aromatic characteristics. Due to its features, almost no varietal wine is made.
In Bela Krajina, some successful examples of botrytis wines are made.
Popular in Štajerska Slovenia and has some appearance in Prekmurje. It is an early-ripening variety, with low acidity. Popular for blending and for producing »nouveau« wines.
MUSCAT-OTTONEL (MUŠKAT OTTONEL)
Early ripening variety, with low acidity and is highly aromatic. Can have high levels of sugar. One of the finest examples of this variety is a sparkling wine called Muškatna Penina.
SILVANER (ZELENI SILVANEC)
Old variety originating from Germany. Few examples made in Štajerska Slovenia, Dolenjska, Bizeljsko and Prekmurje.
Old Slovenian variety, most likely originating from Italy. In Slovenia is exclusively grown in the Vipava Valley. It is mid-ripening and gives medium-aromatic peachy and flowery wines with full body and medium to high acidity.
Considered ancient grape variety, most likely originating from the region of Styria. Before the attack of phylloxera in the 19th century this variety was planted over 50% of all plantings in Štajerska and at the time was called Belina or Štajerska Belina (Styrian white).
Ranfol produces light, rather neutral and straightforward wines.
Significant plantings are found in Dolenjska and Štajerska Slovenia; the Podravje and Posavje regions also have some plantings.
Is an ancient Friulian variety producing high-quality sweet wines in Brda and the Vipava Valley.
INDIGENOUS SLOVENIAN VARIETIES
Has very high acidity and it is used for blends in Bizeljsko-Sremič and Dolenjska. In the later years is becoming popular as a premium blending component for sparkling wines by the producer Istenič.
ZELEN (meaning green)
This indigenous variety originates from the Vipava Valley, which is still the only source of the variety. It is mid-ripening. Gives distinctive wines with some apricots and dried Mediterranean herbs; has very low acidity, and the produced wines have low alcohol (11% or sometimes 12%).
Clotar Bouvier had it discovered it in 1900 near Gornja Radgona (hence the name). It ripens very early (Ranina = »ripens early«) and is grown almost exclusively in Štajerska Slovenija. Produced wines are lightly perfumed with Muscat, and they have low acidity.
Vitovska Grganja has an aromatic profile which is quite similar to Malvazija Istarska, but it has higher acidity and medium alcohol levels.
Significant plantings are in the Vipava Valley. This variety is often used for wines with prolonged skin maceration.
Is considered ancient variety originating from the Vipava Valley. Minimal % of plantings, only a few producers are making retained qualities (Mansus, Stegovec, Cigoj).
Wine styles from this variety can be dry, medium sweet, sweet and some examples of sparkling wines.
OTHER white varieties planted in Slovenia
Verduzzo (Verduc), Chasselas (Bela Žlahtina), Poljšakica, Glera, Pika, Sämling, Tržarka.
Source: Slovenia a winemaking country by Robert Gorjak, page 38-49.
As always have a WINEderful day!