I’ll never forget my first taste of Slovenia’s orange wine: it came with a story, a master storyteller and its very own TV show.
Slovenian friends who are wine enthusiasts brought me to Vinoteka Storija on a hipster street in the pedestrians-only old town of Ljubljana at Trubarjeva Cesta 17. The original shop was fictional — part of a wildly popular TV show called Ena Žlahtna Štorija (A Golden Story). It is a cross between a situation comedy and a telenova, concerning the misadventures of a wine-making family in the Goriška Brda region along the Slovenia-Italy border. The show is only in Slovene without English subtitles, but you can enjoy this video of the cast singing the song selected by viewers to conclude season 5.
Sommelier David Šinigoj, who bears an uncanny resemblance to CNN Parts Unknown Host Anthony Bourdain, was brought in to advise the producers and actors on the accurate portrayal of typical wineries in the area –including skills like the proper way to open a wine bottle and how to hold the glass. Renovating a former dress store, the native of Nova Gorica brought the fictional TV wine shop to life in the capital. If you enjoy visiting California’s Napa Valley, here’s your chance to enjoy the wines from the comparable region of Slovenia without leaving Ljubljana. Goriška Brda has already become a favorite spot for wine lovers from all over Europe.
By law, wine stores cannot offer food or charge for tastings, so visitors should expect to buy at least one bottle at Storija. At prices ranging from 10 to 200 Euros, there’s something for every budget and wine preference. And the sommelier’s expertise is free. Having grown up alongside some of Slovenia’s top winemakers, David knows wine but he also is quick to assess his customers. His selections were spot on target.
Slovenia’s Orange Wine
No, it’s NOT made from oranges!
Orange wine is produced with white grapes using the technique for making red wine, allowing for enough contact with the skin to create the orange color. Each winemaker seems to put a different spin on it. For me, David selected a complex orange wine made from the klarnica grape. The 500-year old variety is named for a young widow who first grew it on a vine to conceal her home from prying neighbors. The winemaker Mansus creates the flavor by aging the wine in three different types of wood barrels. Other varieties are aged in terra-cotta amphorae, a technique that goes back thousands of years.
I also learned how to open a wine bottle like a professional sommelier. You know that “pop” that you usually hear when pulling out a cork? It’s the mark of a true amateur. Here’s a video of how it should be done:
Here’s a rundown on the wines we tried, courtesy of my friend Tina — an accomplished sommelier in her own right. Click on the names to learn more about how they are made.
MANSUS DIMENZIJE KLARNICA 2013 (orange wine).
FORNAZARIČ RUBINO – (red)( merlot+cabs blend).
SIRCA KODRIC JERINA (red: teran + merlot + cabs).
My visit to Storija was the beginning of an epic friend-guided tour of Ljiubljana’s wine bars and tasting rooms, which ended 12 hours of later, including a much-needed pause in wine-tasting to have dinner.
With authentic food of the Prekmurje region near the Hungarian border, these dishes were very filling and large enough to share. The Gujzina restaurant on the Mestni Trg also had some vegetarian-friendly options. The perfect way to fortify yourself for… more wine tasting!
Touring the Wine Bars
Ljubljana’s wine bar trend started with the tasting room of the famous brand Movia, located next to the City Hall on the Mestni Trg in the Old Town. The sparking wine we ordered came with a show: the proper uncorking of the bottle underwater to remove the sediment.
Celebrity Vibe at Soba 102
Opened by popular Slovenian singer Jan Plestenjak, Soba 102 is a glamorous downtown Ljubljana spot where you might spot celebrities doing media interviews. It’s a bar and full service restaurant that also offers more than 80 — mostly local — Slovenian wines. Check out the autographs from numerous Slovenian singing stars on your way to the WC.
During our visit the wines were the star of the show. We started with Rose Kobal Wine from Štajerska region, served in a cute mini-bottle perfect for two to share. We also tasted Merlot Krapež from the Vipava Valley and then an outstanding red melange called “Duet” by one of Slovenia’s most famous winemakers, Edi Simčič. And of course, more Zlata Penina Rose Radgonske — sparking rose to end the summer evening.
Wine Bar Šuklje
By now, English speaking reader, you might be stressing over the proper pronunciation of these new tastes with new names. Don’t worry: we’ve saved one of the best for last. I visited this warm and welcoming wine bar on a wintry Friday in January. Even though it’s on a part of Ljubljana’s river walk that can be touristy in the summer, you’re likely to find it packed with local wine enthusiasts for a special tasting event. Just say “Shook-lee-eh.”
During my visit, a French winemaker was holding a tasting of Trudon champagne — an artisan sparkling wine from the region most famous for names like Dom Perignon. Frankly, the sparkling wines I’ve tried in Slovenia compare favorably with anything I’ve tasted from France! We followed up with a few favorite reds from Slovenia, paired with small plates of cheese, quiche and pršut. A fun evening for two — only 25 Euros. It’s the kind of place where the waiter will get to know you and take a personal interest in making sure you have a great time.
Many thanks to the team for guiding me on this epic wine-tasting crawl of Slovenian wine — without ever leaving Ljubljana. And there’s even a secret wine cellar beneath a popular bar where you can visit seven Slovenia wine regions in one evening. I’ll review that in another post and add more as I discover them. Wine tasting in Ljubljana will make you want to plan a longer trip to the Slovenia’s Vipava Valley and Goriška Brda — to write your own golden story.