Winemaking started in Slovenia started when the region was settled by the early Celtic and Illyrian tribes in the 4th century and has continued to this day. Slovenia has around 28,500 wineries, producing around 90 million litres a year from the country's numerous vineyards.
Approximately 75% of vineyard production is white wine and almost all of the wine produced is consumed domestically, with only a small proportion being exported. However, Slovenian wines are considered of excellent quality and more wine is now being exported and this trend looks set to continue.
The wines of Slovenia come from 52 different types of vines, of which 37 are white and only 15 red. The main white wines are: Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon; the native popular wines are Rebula and Zelen. In terms of red wines, Slovenia produces mostly Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Wine Growing Regions
Slovenia has three main wine regions (Primorska, Posavje, and Podravje) which are divided into districts. Below we have summarised each region and some of the important districts and sub-districts within each region.
This wine growing region borders Italy and has the warmest climate of the main Slovenian wine-producing regions. It's the biggest region and accounts for nearly 50% of Slovenia's total wine production. The region is mainly a producer of white wine but also produces a red wine which is known throughout Slovenia – Teran.
The wine-growing region of Primorska has four wine-growing districts. The districts of Istra and Karst produce mainly red wines, and Goriška Brda and the Vipava Valley produce mainly white wines.
The region is known for its hot, dry summers, mild winters and strong winds which mean it has a very similar climate to California in many areas The Vipava Valley district is the region which is actually referred to as Slovenia California and is one of the most famous in the country for producing wines of an excellent quality and distinctive flavour.
This wine growing area is the smallest of the three regions in terms of vineyards and total wine produced. The region is located in the south-east of the country.This region vineyards (unlike the two other wine producing regions in Slovenia) is known more for its red wines than its whites. In addition, the region is also famous for producing Cviček which is a wine made using both red and white grapes.
Until recently the region was considered the one which produced wines of inferior quality compared to the other two regions, but today the region has a growing reputation for producing some excellent wines. Cviček is the most famous wine of the region and has been produced here for over 250 years. Cviček wines made up of 70% red and 30% white varieties. The wine has a lower alcohol content (just 8-9% ABV) but this has not stopped this light-tasting wine becoming one of the most popular in Slovenia.
This area covers the east and north-east of the country. Podravje is the biggest of the three main wine producing regions of Slovenia in terms of size, but second to Primorska in terms of production.
The region is subdivided into two districts: Prekmurje in the north-east, and Štajerska covering the rest of the region. This is a region of white wines and 95% of all production is white wine.
The main wines produced from the vineyards here are sparkling white wines which are considered the best in Slovenia as well as a number of excellent desert wines. The region is also home to the oldest wine-producing vine which is located in Slovenia's second biggest town Maribor. The vine has been active for over 400 years and is still producing wine to this day.
Districts and Sub-Districts
There are certain differences in wine production within the 3 winemaking areas described above and this means the regions are divided into specific districts, and then each district is divided again so each district has several sub-districts and you will find each has its own distinctive character and unique-tasting wines.
If you are visiting the regions, you can check out the numerous districts and rent accommodation near many excellent wineries so you can see the local sights and then relax with some excellent company and enjoy a warm Slovenian welcome.
Visiting the Vineyards of Slovenia
When the autumn harvests are over, Slovenians celebrate an unofficial national holiday which is St. Martin’s Day, on November 11. The holiday is named after St. Martin, the saint who, according to Slovenian folklore, was responsible for turning water into wine. The Feasts of St. Martin which take place on the holiday are a great time to enjoy delicious food and some great wine!
For such a small country, there are some excellent wines to be found in Slovenia and wine-tasting excursions or holidays can be a great way to discover the wines of Slovenia. Slovenia has a wide variety of wines and around 70% of all wine produced is considered premium wine, so try them and you will be surprised at the variety and quality of wine on offer here.