Meet Slovenia's Sparkling Wine Champ: Miha Istenic
'Sparkling wine is an obsession for my family,' Miha Istenic says. Miha is the owner of Istenic Winery, and his team have been making world-class sparkling wines in Slovenia for over 50 years.
Back in 1958, Slovenia's national goalkeeper Janez Istenic played at Stanford Bridge. The same man, after graduating with a degree in oenology, went on to become a winemaker at one of Yugoslavia's state cellars in the sixties. Taking a scholarship to study in France, Janez Istenic discovered Champagne and fell in love with sparkling wine, so much so that on his return he began to save to buy land and equipment to realise his dream.
By 1968, when Janez's daughter was born, he became the first private producer of traditional method sparkling wine in Slovenia. Like his daughter, his first wine was christened 'Barbara'.
Today, Istenic holds 5 hectares of private vineyard estate and buys in grapes from some of the top sites. The best vineyard sites are characterised by limestone and carbonate bedrock with a mineral composition that has evolved over millions of years. They have good drainage and offer ideal growing conditions for grapes to balance acidity and character well.
Miha Istenic with Ben, celebrating our Decanter Retailer Award in 2019
Due to warmer climates than their French counterparts, Istenic practises early harvesting, plants on higher altitude and cooler climate sites, and only uses gently-pressed, free-run juice for its quality fizz. Interestingly, as well as the traditional Champagne varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Istenic also uses the indigenous and peachy Rumeni Plavac grape, adding a unique dimension to their sparkling wines.
The final wines in Istenic's range are sparkling wines with wonderful freshness, but also an intensity of character. They are lees aged, some for 18 months, others much longer. Autolysis flavours are there, but balanced well with refreshing fruit and marked acidity. Vintage wines are produced in the finest years.
If you're a fan of quality sparkling wine, then Istenic's Slovenian bubbles should be at the top of your list of wines to discover. Producers are as focused as Istenic on producing truly unique and delicious fizz outside of Champagne should be celebrated with gusto.
View our selection of Istenic wines here, and raise a glass to their success! Cheers!