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Interview Otmar Šturm: Posavje Stagnated for Many Years Due to Sweet Wines and Cviček

05. december 2022

"We produced wines that no one wanted to drink. ..."

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The Šturm family from Železniki in the region of Bela krajina has always been pushing the boundaries. Against the rules, they planted varieties that – thanks to them – have become a pillar of today's Bela krajina viticulture. It was Otmar Šturm Senior's "fault" that Yellow Muscat is the recommended variety today, whereas his son Otmar Junior, who took over the cellar at the young age of 21, can take credit for Traminer winning the right to calling Bela krajina its homeland. We talked to him about the future of viticulture in the winegrowing region of Posavje, about the curse of Cviček and about varieties that should be put to the fore.


"We originate from a region where Metliška Črnina, Cviček and Bizeljčan rule, so great wines, which are great for their poorness. I am not criticising, but that is just how it is from today's perspective. They excel in being thin, soft, drinkable wines," said Šturm in the beginning.


The Posavje region is divided into three districts. The Bela krajina district, where you come from, is quite different from the other two.


The greatest thing we have in common is that we belong to the same land. There is not much Alpine influence in Bela krajina, for example, we have warmer, even hot days. That is why wines are a bit different too. We have more premium class wines than Lower Carniola and Bizeljsko. The main varieties include Modra Frankinja, Kraljevina, Portugalka, Žametna Črnina. After 1970, the first international varieties started to appear, such as Yellow Muscat, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and later on Pinot gris and Traminer. Because of hard-working winegrowers, who put in great effort, we can say that Bela krajina is actually the home of Muscat within Slovenia.


Modra Frankinja
Kozinc
Slovenia
·
Dolenjska
·
Red wine
·
Dry wine
·
2016
·

€15.86
Deep, intense, purple color. Aromas of prunes and ripe cherries - "cherry brandy" - with notes of vanilla. Dry, rounded, full, with soft ripe tannins.14 days of maceration with controlled fermentation in the vinifier, 100 % malolactic. Maturation for 28 month on fine lees in barrique barrels.
Alcohol level
12,5 %
Colour
red wine
Country
Manufacturer
Region
Dolenjska
Structure
red wine
Sugar level
dry wine
Variety
Modra Frankinja
Vintage
2016
Volume
0,75
Contains
sulfit
Cviček 0,75
Martinčič
Slovenia
·
Dolenjska
·
Red wine
·
Dry wine
·
2021
·

€4.22
It is produced from grapes of both white (Kraljevina, Laski Riesling, Sylvaner, Zlahtnina, Ranfol, Lipna and other less known older varieties) and red vine varieties (Zametna Crnina, Franconian and Portugalka). Processing of different grape varieties can take place separately or together.Light, fresh and pleasant wine for every occasion. A variegated scent reminiscent of ripe raspberries, wild berries and other berries. It is characterized by a lower alcohol level and nice, accentuated acids. The aftertaste is relatively long, which is due to less loaded vines.
Alcohol level
10 %
Colour
red wine
Country
Manufacturer
Region
Dolenjska
Structure
light red wine
Sugar level
dry wine
Variety
Cviček
Vintage
2021
Volume
0,75
Contains
sulfites


The fact is that the Posavje region is the least developed winegrowing region in Slovenia in terms of wine production.


In the 1990s the Cviček big bang happened. It brought good things and proved what marketing can do. Credit for that goes to winemaker Zdravko Mastnak and former Krka managing director Miloš Kovačič, who supported everything. On the other hand, the entire region was given a negative sign, because everything revolved just around Cviček. At the same time, it was hard to compete with such a giant as Cviček. But buyers are changing, and their demands are growing. And today Cviček is not enough. That is why we can detect growth in cultivating varietal and more quality wines. Semi-dry and semi-sweet wines are also slowly sinking into oblivion. One has to adapt to the modern taste of a drinker, which means dry wines. And varietal. Those that carry the mark of the terroir.

Is Cviček the only reason that Posavje has always been lagging behind Primorska and Podravje?


Various wine tasting events caused the majority of the damage because they favourised sweet wines. So, the more sugar there was in wine, the better the grade. Winegrowers were, of course, blinded and told themselves they got a medal so they would produce even more sweet wine. But the buyer was looking for something else. In Posavje, we thought we were self-sufficient. We produced wines that no one wanted to drink. Then the Cviček big bang happened, soviticulture and the wine production stagnated. Only now are light dry wines, such as Cviček and Metliška Črnina slowly being abandoned.


The largest number of the most recognisable winemakers come from Bela krajina. Why is it so?


One thing are natural features, while the other thing is that some of us people from Bela krajina have been attending international wine tasting events in Ljubljana for a long time.

Today, native or local varieties are sought. What can Posavje offer here?


Recently, Modra Frankinja and Portugalka have become native here. Kraljevina is a native white wine. And we also have Yellow Muscat, which gives incredible results. Well, Pinot Blanc and Zeleni Silvanec thrive nicely too. Pinot Noir also has potential, but it requires knowledge, which is for now scarce in Posavje. Another important segment is sparkling wine. We have wonderful features for sparkling wines, particularly in the Dolenjska region and Bizeljsko. There is Istenič, who was way ahead of our time, and Mastnak, then there is Slapšak and a lot of young winemakers. Things are moving, but too slowly.

If we focus on local varieties: it seems that Frankinja has gained momentum ever since it is officially Slovenian. What about Kraljevina?


The same way we had started with Frankinja, should have happened with Kraljevina as well. Of course, everything necessary must be taken care of in the vineyards first and the yield must be reduced. We should do the same thing with Kraljevina as the Brda and Vipava winemakers did with Rebula. But I would actually put Welschriesling in the first place. This is an excellent variety, but it has negative connotation, because in the past the wine was sold in the litre programme for low prices. That is why today nobody wants to drink it. But here it has excellent conditions. Like Frankinja among red varieties. In Bizeljsko, they have Rumeni Plavec, which is an excellent variety for sparkling wines.


When are we going to get more complex wines from Posavje?


First, winegrowers will have to reach an agreement about what they want, and then work needs to be done in the vineyards. First, vineyards must be planted in the right locations. In the second step, the yield will have to be significantly reduced. The green harvest is not enough. This happens quite often in Bela krajina, but a little less in the other two districts. But they jumped from Cviček to the so-called light fresh wines, which is very important. Now, we will just have to wait a bit for them make the next step and start to produce more complex wines, which are also suitable for maturation in cellars and then in bottles. However, one more thing needs to be known: Primorska has Italy on the other side, while here in Bela krajina, villages with 30 inhabitants lie across the border, and we have not found any positive role models there. And there are no buyers.

Is it really that hard to make it across the Gorjanci hills?


The connections are problematic. The fact is that we are in the middle of nowhere. Tourism also suffers because of that. We have to make ten times the effort to get someone to visit us.

What is wine tourism like in Posavje?


It is a show that needs to be performed. Rok Petančič from KŠTM Sevnica puts a lot of effort in Modra Frankinja. Hats off for him, because the entire region shall make progress because of that. This year, the Teden okusov Posavja (A week of Posavje flavours) event was set up seriously. This is where caterers, winemakers and other providers participate. We shall see what becomes of that. Here, in Bela krajina, there is classic agritourism, but no haute cuisine. It is not that we do not know how to do it, it is just that we cannot offer it to anyone. Of course, there are also Dobrote Bele Krajine (Specialities from Bela krajina) with caterers making a lot of effort here, and of course we should not forget the Vinska vigred (Wine spring) event in Metlika. In general, there are far too many salami festivals and their various spin-offs. Nearly every village has that. Just like quickly organised wine village parties.

Modra frankinja barrique
Šturm
Slovenia
·
Bela krajina
·
Red wine
·
Dry wine
·
2017
·

€15.80
Šturm je dvignil Modro frankinjo na neverjeten nivo. Znižal je pridelke na trto, pustil vinu dihati v lesenih sodih in rezultat je elegantno zrelo rdeče vino, ki nobenega ne pusti ravnodušnega. Kisline so mehke, pookus je dolg, kombinacija z rdečim mesom pa božanska.Za modro frankinjo modre kolekcije je značilna globoka rubinasta barva z odtenki vijolične. Poudarjena cvetica izraža pestre arome zrelih rdečih in črnih sadežev, ki se prepletajo s pikantnimi notami črnega popra ter pridihom po praženem in vanilji. Vino je suho, polnega telesa ter zaokroženega okusa, ki spomni na suhe slive. Zrele in uravnotežene kisline ter omehčani tanini napovedujejo popolnoma dozorelo vino v zelo dobri formi.
Alcohol level
12 %
Colour
red wine
Country
Line
Šturm Modra kolekcija
Manufacturer
Region
Bela krajina
Structure
full-bodied red wine
Sugar level
dry wine
Variety
Modra Frankinja
Vintage
2017
Volume
0,75
Contains
sulfites
Modra frankinja Turn Premium
Klet Krško
Slovenia
·
Dolenjska
·
Red wine
·
Dry wine
·
2018
·

€12.40
Great varietal intensity with a modern twist.Dominating over Krško, the Sremič vineyard grows vines that produce a sophisticated wine with a very distinct character. Once the wine hits your taste buds, it develops a velvety, scrumptios flavour full of minerality, and slowly transitions into a long pleasantly full finish. It’s designed to be beguiling and fully embraced.
Alcohol level
12,5 %
Colour
red wine
Country
Line
Turn Premium
Manufacturer
Region
Dolenjska
Structure
red wine
Sugar level
dry wine
Variety
Modra Frankinja
Vintage
2018
Contains
sulfites
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