Slovenia’s lesser-known wine country

Ever since a Venetian restaurateur had told us about Slovenian “orange wine,” David and I had been dying to try it. To our frustration, few people seemed to know what we were talking about and the ones who did had none on offer. We decided to venture into Slovenian wine country to find this elusive wine.

Slovenia has 3 wine districts. The most prestigious–and by all accounts very beautiful–is on the Italian border. Another lies to the north with the city of Maribor at its heart. Finally, there is the eastern wine region, Posavje, that borders Croatia. It’s less well-known, but boasts the award-winning Prus winery (“Vinska Klet Prus”) near the village of Metlika. Not only has the proprietor be repeatedly named best overall winemaker in Croatia, but the winery has begun making an orange wine that has been named best in class. We were intrigued. I called ahead, and with some language difficulties, determined that an English-speaking tasting would be available. http://www.vinaprus.si/en/

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Google maps said the vineyard was only about an hour and half away, nestled right up against the Croatian border. The drive through mostly small towns and countryside was pleasant and uneventful and till we we reached a police roadblock just beyond the small town of Donja Teska Voda, about 2/3 of the way into our trip. Along with all motorists heading our way, we were directed into the parking lot of some sort of water park. Puzzled and afraid our wine outing was being thwarted, we were relieved to find a policewoman who spoke English and who explained that the road closure was due to a bike race and would only last 30 minutes or so.

We were getting hungry anyway, so we turned around and drove a few miles back to a roadside pizza restaurant with a nice hillside deck where we could watch the expected bike race. The restaurant owner spoke no English, but we managed, the weather was perfect, the pizza delicious, and the race fun and soon over as promised. In no time, we were back on our way.

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View of the bike race from the pizzeria deck

As we neared the Prus winery and the Croatian border, we saw many small vineyards interspersed among homes.

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The area is rural, not a chateau or Tuscan-style villa in sight. In a small village, we stopped at a building with a Prus sign out front, but were told in very basic English that the tasting area was further down the road and someone who spoke good English would be there. Sure enough, we came to a large Prus bottle/sign pointing the way to a chalet-style wood and stone winery, very pretty and modern.

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Just before the Prus winery. The church in the distance is probably in Croatia.
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The tourist shot in front of the winery

The owner’s son welcomed us and he was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about the family business. The winery is particularly known for its sweet white wines, which were very good, but we were most excited to try the “orange wine.” Orange wine derives its name from the color, not the flavor. It’s also know as “skin contact” or “contact” wine. The wine-making method is medieval in origin and is, basically, making white wine in the manner of red wine, leaving the skins of white grapes in contact with the wine for long periods of time. The result is a white wine that is high in tannins as well as orangish in color. Orange wines have become somewhat of a fad in the west in the last couple of years, getting write-ups in American newspapers and wine publications although not widely available in the U.S..

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Prus orange wine
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Glass-front barrel of orange wine shows the skins settled to the bottom.

April 3, 2016

 

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