I took a trip to Croatia that happened to drive through Slovenia from the Italian starting point. The first stop in Slovenia was Vinakoper winery. I loved the rich wood carved doors around the tasting room as well as leading into the barrel room. The lovely guide ushered us into the cool crisp hillside made up of mostly sandstone and began to explain the history of the largest winery in Slovenia.
The winery was founded in 1947. In 1949, they began blending vineyards and the cellar was officially finished in 1953. The vineyards are located on the Slovene Istria area with beautiful rolling hills around the coast in ten different locations extending over 570 hectares, which is approximately 1,408.5 acres. They also make, Grappa made from two different grape varietals from their estate. The wine production is 70% red varieties & 30% white varieties. While 50% of the wines produced are considered local varieties such as Refosco, Cipro and a unique Malvasia. Multiple times we were informed the winery believes in natural production with a very high quality.
Volume & barrel amount are listed on large barrels. For example, the biggest barrel pictured above, would last 56 years if you drank 2 liters every day. The close up on the barrel shows that the carving was in honor of the 1953 cellar creation. Red varietals are all aged in oak while the white varietals are aged in acacia, oak or stainless. They find that acacia seems to give a fruitier flavor in white varietals. They stopped using concrete tanks a while ago. The lovely winery tour guide explained how the cooperage of the barrels gives spice while the smaller barrels seem to show a deeper longevity for the wines, but they only used those barrels for 1 year for high end wines than the barrels are reused or sold. The barrel room is three quarters underground, maintaining a 53 degree temperature. Their oldest wine still in bottle is a 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon.
We were then ushered into a long tasting salon with barrels on one wall, views of the countryside on the other wall and a huge table with benches of thick, rich, beautiful wood. The first wine was a Malvazija, aka Malvasia made in a dry style. It was a sparkling light yellow with green youthful tones. Wafting into aromas of acacia blossoms, citrus infused almonds & tropical fruits. The flavors almost hinted of grapefruit with fresh unroasted almonds. As the wine warmed a slight honeyed note, hints of the varietal. I would pair this with a delicate white fish or a subtle cheese course that would acknowledge the acidity and aromatics. You can almost taste the Mediterranean sunny sea air in this glass.
The next wine took a flight with me and I have been storing the last bottle for the perfect cool evening. Refosk, aka Refosco, the king of darkness, shows as ruby red with violet hints glimmering in the light. This was a complex kaleidoscope of blackberry, raspberry and blueberry notes with a hint of floral accompaniment. In the wines youth, there almost seemed to be the pizzazz of bing cherry. This wine calls for a bountiful charcuterie plate or a beautifully grilled steak. In some of the barrels the large blocks of tartaric crystals that have settled, it was referred to as wine stone, is retained and then used as yeast for bread, added in tea or as a powder to flavor foods.
The last wine also traveled back with us and we shared the last bottle over Thanksgiving with friends. The sweet wine styled, Cipro, is refreshingly not a syrup or heavy handed dessert. It was a lovely scarlet red with slight brick red hues. I found aromas of violets and roses to be met with salty, sea air kissed strawberries and candied oranges. The playful aromas matched flavors of rose and rich, ripe strawberry with slight vanilla kisses that leave your palate in anticipation of pairing. I would chose a dessert that is drizzled with caramel and spiced with nutmeg or clove. It would also be beautiful with an airy chocolate dish garnished with a bounty of berries.
Our visit concluded in the wine shop where my husband discovered what appeared to be converted gas pumps where locals bring jugs to fill with table wine and are charged by the liter. I think I need some of those at my house! I also brought some of their sparkling wines with me for hotel evening tastings. I will share my tasting notes on those in the future. The wines offered great euro value and would be a pleasant add to your collection for everyday enjoyment. I believe at this time they are not available through shipping though, so you should make Vinakoper a stop in your vacation plans.