Primorska is a coastal region in South-west Slovenia. Its name means “the one by the sea” or simply “coastal”. It has a little over 7.399 hectares of vineyards spread across 4 districts called Vipava valley, Slovenian Istria, Goriška Brda and Kras.
The vineyards have altitudes of up to 400 meters (a bit more in Brda) and the soil is mostly made of Flysch and limestone dolomite. In Karst, this leads to the development of a famous red soil, known as the terra rossa. The region gets about 1.5 millimetres of rain per year, with hot summers and mild winters. Snow is a rare occasion.
Primorska is bordered by Croatia in the South and Italy in the North-west. It’s hot Mediterranean climate enables the production of some of the best known Slovenian wines. The terrain is hilly with very diverse soil. With an abundance of hot sunny days, the wines coming from this region are very rich and complex.
Being this close to Italy, Primorska has always been the first to embrace western trends. As such it was the first in Slovenia to market young wines as a serious sales category. Though having the same climate, the 4 districts that comprise the region are very diverse. In general, the wines are dry with higher alcohol content and low acidity. This is mainly due to the heat and the draught caused by the proximity of the Adriatic sea.
The winemakers in the area produce all sorts of wine, from fresh to mature in wooden barrels, amphoras and lately even concrete barrels. Orange wines are becoming increasingly popular in the region presenting a new challenge to the budding winegrowers by taking them back to their roots. Orange wines are traditionally made by a short maceration of white wine. This style of production was already popular a few generations back only to become unfashionable. It is now once again becoming a trend, which is great because they really are delicious.
1. Vipava Valley District
The wine district Vipava is the second largest in Slovenia. It’s bordering Italy to the west and is squeezed between Trnovo plateau to the north and Kras plateau to the south. It’s bordered in the east by the Nanos mountain and opens up to Friulian plain and Adriatic sea to the west.
The altitude of Vipava is low ranging from 45 to 300 meters. It’s terrain used to be a bay which has dried up. The remaining sea sediments of flesh layered with sandstone make for some of the best wine-growing soils possible. Though the valley itself is one of the windiest parts of Slovenia, the strong Bora doesn’t cause any harm to the vines. If anything it makes them that much stronger.
In Vipava they mostly produce strong white and red wines that are particularly varietal. This is also the home of the largest number of surviving native varieties in Slovenia. The most common varieties grown in Vipava are Merlot, Sauvignon, Malvasia, Ribolla, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay.
2. Goriška Brda
The Goriška Brda district, also known as simply Brda is a textbook case of a typical Mediterranean wine-growing district. It’s bordered by Soča river to the east, starting with mount Sabotin then following its ridge all the way to Korada. To the west Brda are bordered by Friuli with river Idrija separating the two. As you travel further to the south of the district the altitude of the terrain gradually becomes lower until it reaches the Prevalje plain.
The Brda soil is a result of ocean sedimentation. Just like Vipava, Brda was also once covered by the sea. Once the water subsided it left behind layers of flysch (also known as Opoka), sandstone and limestone. The weather is very good for vine growth with mild winters and hot but not too dry summers. The climate is almost Mediterranean contributing to the specific taste of the local wine.
The vineyards stretch to an altitude of 600 meters. The wine produced in the higher altitudes of Brda is known for being harmonious, elegant, with lower alcohol content and higher acidity. On the other hand, Wines from the lower parts of the district are fuller, richer, with higher alcohol content.
The most commonly grown varieties in Brda are Ribolla, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignonasse (Green Sauvignon), Gray Pinot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon.
The Kras district is a protected natural park. It’s dominated by the Teran wine, a Slovenian speciality made from the Refosco variety. The Kras plateau is squeezed between the Gulf of Trieste, Vipava Valley and Brkini Hills.
The area is a typical karst plateau with uneven terrain full of sinkholes and uvulas where old vineyards remain to this day. The climate is relatively dry with strong winds, especially bora. What influences the vineyards in this area the most is a distinct red soil called terra rossa.
The most commonly grown varieties in Kras are Refosco, Chardonnay, Vitovska Grganja (Knights vine), Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon.
4. Slovenian Istria
The Slovenian Istria district runs along the coast of the Gulf of Trieste starting at the Italian Border then going through Izola, Piran, Sečovlje and all the way to the Croatian border. This is the warmest district in Slovenia, marked by the proximity of the Adriatic sea. The most prominent variety in the area is Refosco.
The terrain along the coast is comprised of a series of cliffs and river valleys cutting through the stone. This is a district with the largest number of sunny days in a time of vegetation, which is evident in the resulting wine. The grapes contain an astounding amount of sugar and little acid, which makes for a wine with high alcohol levels and low acidity. Along with other compounds, this results in warm, highly mineral wines with long aftertastes.
The weather conditions in fall are perfect for drying the grapes and producing special wines. Though uncommon for the area, the winemakers in Istria have recently started planting Syrah.
The most widespread varieties in Slovenian Istria are Refosco, Malvasia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Yellow Muscat and Chardonnay.
This concludes our brief description of the Primorska wine region. To learn more visit Wine Tasting Bled and make a reservation at one of our upcoming tastings.