Your Guide to Wines of Slovenia - This Month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club
Welcome to this month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club, the UK's most exciting wine subscription for the curious drinker. Each month, we will introduce you to a new wine region as part of our promise to deliver no two wines the same for a whole year. Not a member yet? Subscribe here.
Looking for an older guide? See all the Explorer's Club guides here.
What's in this month's Explorer's Club?
Happy New Year, Club members! This month we've got a real treat to get 2023 started with two wineries exclusively imported by Novel Wines. If you're on our bigger Globetrotter sub, you'll receive 3 different traditional method sparkling wines from Istenic and 3 still wines from Tilia Estate. Those on the Rambler package will get a sparkling, white and red to enjoy in January.
Istenic has been one of our favourite fizz suppliers for a while, stunning the wine scene by winning medals and trophies at the international awards up against Champagne. Owned and managed by second generation Miha Istenic, the winery focuses on making the best possible fizz they can. Celebrating their love of Chardonnay and fruity indigenous grapes like Rumeni Plavac, get ready for a sparkling wine experience like no other.
Alongside the Istenic wines, we're introducing you to one of our newer wineries, Tilia Estate. Unlike Istenic, which is to the east, Tilia is nearer the Italian border. It is run by Slovenia's "Mr Pinot Noir" in the Vipava Valley, and they produce some stunning still wines with a Mediterranean glow - perfect for cheering up this grey January weather.
So let's get stuck in! Here's our buyer Ben chatting you through this month's Club selection.
If you have any specific questions about the wine, you can get in touch with our team here. However, we've got lots of info on the wines below, so pull the cork and get stuck in!
Starting this month's Explorer's Club is the fizz Istenic Barbara Sec Sparkling NV (included in The Globetrotter only). This is an off-dry sparkling wine made up of Chardonnay and two indigenous grape varieties: Rumeni Plavac (aka Yellow Muscat), that gives the wine ripe peach character, and Laski Rizling, a zesty bittersweet grape variety that adds freshness to the wine.
This fine sparkling might have a bit of residual sugar but it's the perfect aperitif wine, or if you find it too sweet then pair it with some nibbles like salty crisps and it will taste moreish and delicious. Expect a smooth, creamy palate with notes of green apple and toasted brioche.
If you're hosting a dinner party, try pairing this wine with salmon blinis as guests arrive or a burger stuffed full of melted blue cheese.
Next up is the Istenic No. 1 Special Cuvée NV (included in both The Rambler and The Globetrotter). This is the flagship sparkling wine from Istenic and takes its name from Miha's father, Janez's shirt number. Janez was the Slovenian national football team's goalkeeper and wore the number 1 shirt. This is a dry wine, made in the Brut style inspired by Champagne, and is made up of the indigenous and fruity Rumeni Plavac along with the noble Champagne grapes, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It's a smooth, fine wine with notes of summer berries and creamy lees-aged character. Pair this wine with creamy pasta or gnocchi - although the very best pairing is fish and chips!
Now the final Istenic wine is the Istenic Gourmet Rosé Brut 2018 (included in The Globetrotter only). This is one of my favourites from Miha's range. Made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes, this is an extra dry rosé that spends nearly four years on lees developing a creamy, gorgeous finish. It's packed with redcurrants and bright summer berry fruit.
The Bizeljsko-Sremic region where the Pinot Noir is grown is on a narrow strip of land along the northern bank of the Sava River, protected by the mountains from the harsh north winds and making for some of the region's finest growing conditions. This wine, named "Gourmet" because of its affinity with food, goes well with everything from charred mackerel to veal.
Moving onto the still wines, let's start with the awesome Tilia Estate Zelen (included in both The Rambler and The Globetrotter). This is a rare Slovenian grape variety that I wish we saw more of in the UK. It's lemon coloured but viscous with legs oozing down the glass. The wine is unique, combining aromas of lavender, pear, peach and blossom. On the palate it's a mix of apple, apricot and lemon peel with a finish full of pink grapefruit. Genuinely gorgeous!
Try this wine with roast chicken wrapped in bacon, pork loin and spuds, pasta with shellfish, or fosseway fleece sheep's cheese.
Time for a classic with a twist as we introduce the Tilia Estate Pinot Gris (included in The Globetrotter only). Grown on the Vipava Valley not far from the Mediterranean's Adriatic Sea, this is a luscious take on Pinot Gris with an oily texture and lots of white pear character. It's a deep, full and yet somehow still bright white wine. This was the deal-maker wine that excited us enough to import the Tilia wines, so I hope you'll love it as much as we do.
As with all good Pinot Gris, pair with your favourite Italian food for a sure-fire winner.
Last up in your case is this Tilia Estate Pinot Noir (included in both The Rambler and The Globetrotter), a beautifully made red wine with lots of red fruit character. It's got a mouth-coating texture and layers of red and black fruits, giving you a fuller body than the more traditional Pinot Noir wines of France and northern Europe. Some slightly smoky elements also present themselves, adding more interest to this Slovenian red.
As with all great Pinot Noir, this should pair with any kind of food really. However, my favourite thing to eat with Pinot Noir is lamb, especially if you're loose-handed with the rosemary and garlic. Cheese wise you'll love it with Cornish Yarg.
The wines of Slovenia
Slovenia might not be the first wine region you think of, but you may be surprised to hear it's home to more than 2,500 wine producers and produces nearly 1m hectolitres of wine per year.
In the Primorska wine region to the west, you'll find vines moderated by the Mediterranean breeze. It is not far from Croatia's Istrian wine region and benefits from the cooling Adriatic coast. Here is where you'll find the Vipava Valley, where Tilia Estate is based. This is a majestic landscape and home to the exciting Zelen grape variety, fast-becoming Slovenia's star white grape. It also produces some very exciting orange wines. The vineyards here are small but the history of winemaking is long and prosperous, so there are plenty of characterful wines to discover.
Over to the east, you'll find the Posavje wine region that is home to Bizeljsko's Istenic Winery. There are also the forest-green plains of Dolenjska and the hilly Bela Krajina wine sub-regions. This area is a pillar of Slovenia's wine culture. You'll find lighter white and red wines, as well as some exceptional sparkling wine. The cellars are mostly dug directly into the ground.
If you have the chance to explore Slovenia, you really should!
Eating with Slovenian wines
Slovenia produces lots of exciting wines, so food pairing with the wine of Slovenia can be as versatile as you like. Although with the Mediterranean within throwing distance and a host of lighter, sun-kissed wines or bright sparkling wines, fish is an easy favourite.
Dishes like smoky, baked mackerel with citrus would pair with Tilia's textured Zelen and its fruit-driven Pinot Noir, or work as an indulgent match with the zesty Istenic No. 1 Special Cuvée.
However you experiment with your food and wine pairing, if you find a winner then let us know!
Where can I find out more?
If you're not subscribed to the Club, crack on and get your subscription online by clicking here and join from only £49. If you'd rather just stock up on wines then find our wines from Slovenia, go here.