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The Republic of Slovenia used to be part of Yugoslavia, and has been an independent state since 1991. Viticulture here underwent rapid and very positive developments beginning in the 1990s. Even today, however, the long history of being part of the Austro-Hungarian empire can still be felt, particularly through the Austrian federal state of Styria, which borders Slovenia in the north. The regions in the east, on the border with Hungary, as well as in the west, on the border with Friuli-Giulia-Venezia in Italy, have been wine-growing regions for at least two thousand years. The climatic conditions are characterised by alpine, continental and Mediterranean influences. A period of short, heavy rainfall in spring is followed by a warm summer and a long, predominantly sunny autumn, which makes for a late harvesting season, providing ripe grapes and corresponding wine quality. The total vineyard area is more than 24.000 hectares, split up among 40.000 grape growers. Most of these owners produce wine only fortheir own consumption. Annual production is around 0,7 million hectolitres of wine. The most important white varieties are Beli Burgundec (also known as Beli Pinot = Pinot Blanc), Chardonnay, Laski Rizling (Welschriesling), Malvazija (Malvasia), Sauvignon Blanc, Tokaj (Tocai Friulano), Ranina (Bouvier), Renski Rizling (Rhine Riesling), Rizvanec (Müller-Thurgau), Sipon (Furmint), Sivi Pinot (Pinot Gris), Sipon and Traminec (Traminer). The most important red varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch), Modra Porotugalka (Blauer Portugieser), Modri Pinot (Pinot Noir) and Refosk (Refosco). Slovenia is divided into three wine-growing regions::
PODRAVJE (Dravia): The largest and most important region, located in the east, bordering on Austria and Hungary. It has a total vineyard area of 9.813 hectares. It is located between the Mura and Drava rivers, the centre of wine production is Maribor. The region is further divided into two wine-growing districts: Stajerska Slovenija (including Haloze, Ljutomer-Ormoz, Maribor, Ptuj-Srednje Slovenske Gorice, Radgona-Kapela and Smarje-Virstanj) and Prekmurje (including Lendavske Gorice-Goricko). Mainly white wines are produced here which are similar in style to those produced in moire northerly regions. The best known of these is Sipon, made from the grape variety of the same name. Probably the best-known producer, considered to be a pioneer, is Radgonske Gorice (300 hectares of vineyards), producing excellent wines and sparkling wines. Interesting small climatic zones can be found around the communes of Jerusalem (Kog, Lahonci), Svecina (Witschen) on the Austrian border, Plitvicki, close to Radgona (Radkersburg) and Meranovo on the Bahern close to Maribor. The popular Austrian archduke Johann (1782 1859) owned a large property in Meranovo. Here the great doyen had a house built, and had an experimental vineyard laid out by French oenologists.
POSAVJE (Save district): this region is located along the border with Croatia, and has a total vineyard area of 7.700 hectares. It is sub-divided into three wine-growing districts, Bela Krajina (White Kraina), Bizeljsko-Sremic and Dolenjska (Lower Kraina). Mainly white and rosé wines are produced here, the best known is the rosé blend Cvicek (PTP).
PRIMORSKA (Adriatic coastal area): This region is often also called Primorje, and is located in the west, on the border with Italy. The vineyard area totals 7.055 hectares. It is further divided into the following wine-growing districts Gorika Brda (Goriska hills), Kras, Slovenska Istra (previously Koper) and Vipavska Dolina. Here, mainly red wines are produced from the Refosk (Terrano = Refosco variant) grape variety. Indigenous white varieties include Rebula (Ribolla), Pinela, Pikolit, Vitovska and Zelen. Probably the best-known Slovenian wine is the famous Kras Teran (PTP), which is grown on a special iron-rich soil. This may well be a successor of the Pucinum wine mentioned in ancient times by the Elder Pliny (AD 23-79). The Vinakoper wine co-operative on the Adriatic coast works around 500 hectares of vineyards, making it one of the largest wineries in the region. A winery with a long tradition, the only one allowed to produce wine privately even under Socialist rule, is Mova.
With a few country-specific exceptions, the wine laws in Slovenia are very similar to those of all other EU member countries. Each bottle must state the total number of bottles produced of that particular wine, or the volume in litres, together with the official approval number. Table and country wines account for around 30% of annual production, and a high proportion of around 70% is accounted for by quality wines of various levels. In terms of sweetness, the law defines the following categories: suho (dry), polsuho (off-dry), polsladko (semi-sweet) and sladko (sweet). The individual quality categories are:
Namizno Vino: basic table wine, no specific requirements.
Deelno Vino: Country wine from a specific wine-growing region, such as Podravje.
Kakovostno Vino z geografskim poreklom: Quality wine with a geographical designation. Both the vineyards and the grape varieties are prescribed. A minimum score of 16,1 out of a possible 20 points must be achieved at the official tasting.
Vrhunsko Vino z geografskim poreklom: Top-quality wine with a geographical designation. Apart from the basic conditions, the following strict regulations apply: harvest must be declared and notified, no chaptalising and no other substances may be added. No de-acidification. Production as well as maturation in barrel and in bottle must take place in the region of origin. A minimum score of 18,1 out of a possible 20 points must be achieved at the official tasting.
Vrhunsko Vino Pozna Trgatev: Top-quality wine equivalent to Spätlese/ late harvest. The harvesting may only start a minimum of ten days later than the main harvest.
Vrhunsko Vino Izbor: Top quality wine equivalent to Auslese/ special late harvest. Only selected grapes turned brown by the sun may be used.
Vrhunsko Vino Jagodni Izbor: Top-quality wine equivalent to Beerenauslese. Only the ripest and sweetest berries may be selected.
Vrhunsko Vino Suhi Jagodni Izbor: Top-quality wine similar to Trockenbeerenauslese. The minimum requirement is a sugar level of 32% in the grapes, using the Babo method of measuring must weight.
The following additional special classifications may also be used, provided the requirements for quality wine (Vrhunsko Vino z geografskim poreklom) are also complied with:
PTP (Priznano Tradicionalno Poimenovanje): recognised traditional designation. Legally prescribed for wines produced in a specific region using traditional methods. Currently used for Kras Teran and Cvicek.
Arhivsko Vino: Archive wine. Can be used additionally to designate wines that have matured in barrel for a minimum of two years, plus another two years in bottle.