There are no shortage of activities to do while in Slovenia. Whether you’re skiing one of their numerous snow-capped mountains or enjoying an espresso in the perennially sunny Slovenian coast, you can really have your pick. But one thing you should definitely add to your agenda is a visit to the Istrian region in the south of the country for a glass of wine一or maybe even a whole bottle!
Slovenians have been producing wine since way before the Romans even considered spreading the art of winemaking throughout Europe. With 22,300 hectares filled with vineyards (btw, a hectare is a way of measuring land, like an acre or square feet─basically it means there is a whole lot of land covered in grapevines), over 28,000 wineries, and upwards of 80 million liters of wine produced annually they have definitely been able to develop and perfect the process. Now some winemakers are returning to the traditional ways of making wine. Rather than using techniques that are taught today , which all too often encourage the use of pesticides, antibiotics, and additives, they’re embracing the more natural approaches of their ancestors
Such is the case at Rodica Winery, a certified organic vineyard run by the Rodica family in Slovenia. At Rodica, the family choose to ignore the usual system of spraying plants and using additives to ensure the flavor of wine. They found that when left to their own devices, the grapes would create incredible flavors year after year.
The European Union has very specific regulations when it comes to making organic wines. These include how grapes must be grown, which additives are allowed (a very short list with mostly natural products), and specific production techniques all of which ensure safe, sustainable, and organic wines. Rodica not only complies with these regulations but actually falls well below the maximum limits in each category.
How exactly does Rodica produce organic wines? For them, location is key. Rodica is perched on the top of a small mountain in the Istrian region of Slovenia. Here, the vineyards grapes are exposed to an ideal growing climate. The grapes get plenty of sun throughout the year so that even when it rains, the land dries quickly and decreases chance of disease. Because of this, the family does not need to spray their grapes with pesticides or antibiotics, and instead uses more natural remedies like copper to target only the affected parts of unhealthy plants instead. They also use natural forms of fertilizers, often returning the macerated grapes from the season’s pickings back to the soil around the plants to work as a form of fertilizer. In fact, almost every part of the plant that is discarded is used to supplement the soil with nutrients.
That’s not all that keeps Rodica’s wine well within the requirements of organic production. In the aging process the Rodica family leaves behind sediments in the wine which act as a natural protective barrier and helps to balance the oxidation and reduction processes. This allows Rodica to use only the smallest quantities of sulphates in order to ensure the best and most natural flavors in their wines. These wines comprise their Classic and Prestige collections. Similarly, their Reserve wines have only the slightest additives, which are only applied when the wine is being bottled. They have often skipped this process altogether, letting the wines take their own course into maturity. This is the basis of their Nature line of wines, a selection which creates wildly unique wines every single season.
At the moment, Rodica only offers tastings through reservations. The family-based staff will walk you through the history of the vineyard, explaining the processes they use to create their wines. You’ll be able to indulge in an array of delicious wines, which you can sip on their balcony overlooking a breathtaking view of the Istrian valley below. We tried wines from all of the collections, each of which are delicious, complex and full-bodied wines that went perfectly with the snacks our host provided. Since the vineyard is surrounded by other organic farmers, you’ll be treated to a spread of organic cheeses, olives, and even prosciutto if you’d like.
If you’re spending time in Slovenia, or even if you’re in the northern region of Italy, Rodica winery is a must-visit. You’ll walk away from the family with a full belly, a new in-depth knowledge of winemaking, and maybe a bottle of wine...or five.
Ever tried organic wines? Let us know what you think and which brands are your favorite in the comments!
All images courtesy of Zala Gomboc.