by Ian Blackshaw
My wife and I have just returned from a pleasant few days in Slovenia, where I was a keynote speaker at the first ever Sports Law Symposium in the Country, which was held in the delightful Slovenian lake-side resort of Bled.
During our visit, we were taken on a whistle-stop tour of this pocket-size, but beautiful country, including the fine sea-side resort of Portoroz on the Adriatic coast, bordering Croatia. Our Slovenia lawyer host also took us for lunch at a winery in Goriska Brda, not far from the Italian border. Slovenia borders Austria in the North, Hungary in the North East and Italy and Croatia in the South.
Overlooking the vineyards and in warm sunshine and blue skies, we had an excellent lunch comprising several local specialities, many of which are influenced by the Italian cuisine, including pasta dishes and fluffy omelettes served with local truffles. The winery, which boasts a fine restaurant and well-appointed bedrooms, with en suite facilities, is owned by Katja Kabaj and Jean Michel Morel.
Following lunch, we visited the Cellars and enjoyed a wine tasting of some of their whites and reds. The whites are stored in oak barrels and the reds in underground amphoras. We were not disappointed with the offerings that we sampled!
However, for me, the highlights of the tastings were the reds! As many readers of my wine articles will know, I am particularly fond of red wines, especially those from the Bordelais region of France.
Of the reds we tasted was an outstanding Merlot of 2009, a good year throughout Europe, with an abv of 13.5%, which compared very favourably with an equivalent Bordelais. In fact, we were told by the winemaker that the aim of this winery is to produce red wines of the same quality and standing as the clarets from Bordeaux, using French winemaking techniques. The Kabaj Merlot – made from 100% Merlot grapes – has a fine ruby red colour and ripe plum notes, with a long finish in the mouth. This wine is very satisfying indeed and goes down very well with a hearty Winter stew.
We were told that wine stored in amphoras is not a new craze, but goes back some eight thousand years and has its origins in Georgia, which claims to be the ‘cradle of viticulture’. Certainly, to my knowledge, the Georgian reds are excellent, having sampled them on several occasions. The practice of using amphoras was also followed by the Ancient Greeks, so it has a respectable history.
We left the winery fully satisfied – if not replete – and spent the night in Ljubljana, the historic Slovenian Capital, and needless to say we slept very well.
These days, French vignerons not only face stiff competition from the ‘New World’, but also from wine makers nearer home in other parts of Europe, particularly Slovenia, as we discovered during our recent visit!