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WINE DICTIONARY

slovenska

VINA

IN THE WORLD OF WINE GROWING

Slovenia is considered a small country (20,273 km²) with a rich selection of its own wines, good domestic consumption, an appreciation for foreign wines, and the not yet fully tapped possibilities for export. Even the most thoroughly collected data are clouded by the fact that small home-adjacent vineyards and their crops do not need to be registered; the proverbial Slovenian desire to own your own vineyard cottage or a vineyard atop a hill only increases the total wine-growing area by a fifth and the number of winemakers by a tenth. Aerial photographs of cultivated land show 19,300 hectares, while official statistical data records only 15,973 hectares. Integrated production includes 8,500 hectares and organic production 400 hectares of vineyards; some of these follow the rules of biodynamic farming. There are 27,802 registered winemakers, while more than 3,000 supposedly produce wine solely for family consumption. The majority of winemakers sell wine on tap, as there are only 2,300 wineries which officially also bottle their wine.

When calculating wine consumption per inhabitant, statisticians take into account the estimated yield of all vineyards and wineries, supposedly around 80 million litres. Slovenian winery owners export a little over eight million litres of wine, the majority to Germany, Austria, the USA and Bosnia and Herzegovina; importers of the 9.4 million litres of wine into Slovenia include Macedonia, Italy, Germany, and Hungary. By taking into account all these quantities, we can extrapolate that the average Slovenian consumes a good 40 litres of wine, placing us at an impressive fifth place globally.

Slovenia is mainly a land of white wines. Still white wines represent almost two thirds of all production (63%) and winemakers may choose between 52 different recommended and permitted varieties. The production of still red wines accounts for 27%, with 17 recommended and permitted varieties. The production of reddish wines (rosés) meanwhile accounts for 10%. The only grape variety which has the honour of being permitted in all wine-growing regions is the cosmopolitan Chardonnay. Numerous indigenous varieties which are more prevalent among white grapes than red ones, have a characteristic narrow territorial affiliation. Refosco growing in the Brda region or Ribolla flourishing in Slovene Istria are almost a sign of heresy, even though they may contribute to some excellent wines.

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PODRAVJE

THE NORTH-EAST

is home to the largest Slovenian wine-growing region, Podravje. It has 6,780 hectares of vineyards and 12,537 winemakers. Their market share is estimated at 38%. The estates are fragmented and on average measure only a little over half a hectare. The region has two wine-growing districts, Prekmurje and Slovene Styria. The vineyards mostly contain white varieties, chief among them the Welschriesling (25%) and the Rhine Riesling (9%). Most recently, the Furmint variety is becoming increasingly popular and many experts think it has a great future. The Sauvignon variety proves the region is suitable for producing enchanting wine bouquets, a fact especially borne out by the Gewürztraminers and the Muscats. The ever present Chardonnay also has its adherents here. A region once known for its semi-dry wines is increasingly confident about its fresh dry wines, while its flagship wines are the so called predicates. It is here that the first Slovenian sparking wine was produced over a century-and-a-half ago. It is here that the oldest vine in the world is still growing and producing grapes; for over four centuries, it has been delighting new generations of wine lovers. Today, the descendants of this Žametovka or Kavčina črna variety grow on every continent and in numerous places around the world, that are linked to winemaking and wine.

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POSAVJE

THE SOUTHEASTERN PART OF THE SLOVENIAN VINEYARDS

is represented by the Posavje wine-growing region, together with the Bizelj-Sremič, Lower Carniola, and White Carniola districts. Despite a long tradition of winemaking, the region is only recently starting to awake from its (excessive) hibernation. Now, year in and year out, it surprises us with new achievements. The pillar of the region is the Lower Carniolan eccentric – the Cviček wine. The other two districts also have their fair share of eccentrics: predicates, sparkling wines, orange wines, etc. The 2,703 hectares of vineyards are cultivated by no less than 10,710 winegrowers, indicating the estates are quite fragmented. Here, wine most often plays a social function, rather than a market-oriented one. The Posavje wines have a 19% market share. The red varieties – Kavčina and the Blaufränkisch – take up almost half of the vineyards; however, when it comes to whites, the dominant varieties are Welschriesling and Königstraube.

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PRIMORSKA

THE SOUTHWESTERN PART

belongs to the Littoral wine-growing region; with its 6,490 hectares of vineyards and 4,555 winegrowers, it has a 43% slice of the market share. This region has the largest average vineyard size in Slovenia (1.42 hectares); thanks to the Slovene Istria and the Karst Region, Refosco dominates the list of grapevines with a 20% share. It is followed by Merlot (14%), Malvasia (11%), and Ribolla (10%). Some wine-growing regions, on the other hand, rely more on the old indigenous varieties (Vitovska, Zelen, Pinela, and Klarnica). The character of these sunny wines is lightened by the proximity of the Alps and the seaside, meaning that in addition to having a full body, they also have a pleasant bouquet. No wonder some aromatic varieties have met with considerable success (Muscat and Sauvignon). The region is known for its dry still wines, while the winemakers cleverly steer between a fresh style and wine matured in oak barrels or barrels made from some other wood; recently, they have even started using clay amphorae. Early vintages give many winemakers the basis for making daring sparkling wines, which are often made using indigenous varieties; they also do not shy away from drying grapes in small crates and using them to produce natural sweet wines. The challenge offered by the 21st century is how to return to the 19th, when winemakers "cooked" white whines following the example of the maceration of red grapes. For the time being, amber or orange wines are mainly a niche market, which keeps growing with each passing year, making it almost – a household product.

VOCABULARY

WINE is an alcoholic beverage obtained by fermenting must. When the word is not preceded by a particular adjective, it is a synonym for grape wine, although it can be made from other fruit as well (apples and pears), as well as from grains (rice wine). According to the guidelines, which apply in most countries, the alcoholic content of grape wine must be between 8.5 and 15 volume percent of alcohol.

GRAPES are the fruit of the grapevine (lat. vitis vinifera), which best grow in temperate climates. Its original homeland is the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps the Asia Minor region, or possibly even Europe. Today, it is cultivated even near the equator, where adequate conditions are found at high altitudes. Rising global temperatures resulting from climate change have even given Scandinavian producers a chance.

VARIETIES Through the millennia, man has cultivated several grape varieties, which differ in colour, taste, aroma, adaptability to various climatic conditions, and the way they are used (table grapes, raisins, winemaking, etc.). The field of botany concerned with the identification and classification of grapevines is called ampelography. The latest research into the grapevine's genetic code proves that the relative, i.e. the ancestor, of all of today's varieties is the Muscat. The days when relationships between the varieties was deduced on the basis of the leaves and grapes is a thing of the past.

VARIETAL WINE is produced using the grapes from a single grape variety; alternatively, the variety giving the wine its name must be the prevailing one (usually, at least 85%). Wines used to complement the end product must be neutral enough as to not change the varietal characteristics of the basic variety.

CUVÉE is a type of wine prepared by blending several grape varieties. These can be the simplest of local wines or the most sought-after superior wines, sparking wines, and predicates. In some wine-growing regions and when it comes to certain cuvées, the winemaker may only choose among the prescribed varieties; in other places, as is the case here, the winemaker has more freedom.

TERROIR is the set of various environmental factors, which affect the wine produced in a certain region. In addition to the weather conditions and soil composition, this can also include the proximity of the sea or high mountains and the entire ecosystem, as well as the local traditions which influence the selection of varieties and the way the grapes are processed. Vines from southern regions are not appropriate for northern locations, and vice versa. The selection is usually limited to varieties which, when they reach full ripeness (and a high sugar content), also have adequate acidity levels.

PDO or PROTECTED DESIGNATION OF ORIGIN provides information about the wine-growing region where a certain wine was produced. The 2007 Wine Law divided Slovenia into three wine-growing regions, which are further divided into several wine-growing districts (Podravje: Slovenian Styria and Prekmurje; Posavje: Bizeljsko Sremič, Lower Carniola and White Carniola; Littoral: Brda or Goriška brda, Vipava Valley or Vipava, Karst and Slovene Istria). The Wine Law further specifies the recommended and permitted grape varieties for producing wine with a protected designation of origin in an individual district and – sometimes – even subdistrict.

MACERATION is a step in winemaking which starts with crushing the grapes and ends with pressing them, when the grape skins and seeds are still in the must. They contain various substances, including colourants, which only the alcohol can extract. The process, which is a necessary part of producing red wines, is also used by some winemakers when it comes to white varieties; these wines are commonly known as ORANGE WINES. After maceration lasting a few hours, we get reddish wines called ROSÉS.

ALCOHOL in wine is usually expressed in volume percentage, where

12.5% vol. equals 100g of alcohol per litre of wine. The dominant form is ethyl alcohol, which – when present in larger quantities – gives a burning sensation; the rounded taste of a wine most depends on the glycerol (up to 8g/L), which is mainly produced during spontaneous fermentation (the fermentation temperature is not artificially lowered using cooling equipment and the yeasts used are not specially selected).

BALANCE is a key factor determining a wine's charm. Wine contains hundreds of ingredients, the most important being alcohol, acid, and tannins, while sugar is also important in sweeter wines. There is no magic formula; however, a wine containing 12.5% alcohol vol., 4g of acid, 2g of sugar and refined tannins would generally be considered harmonious.

UNFERMENTED SUGAR RESIDUE, together with the percentage of acids, is essential for classifying wines from dry to sweet. Wine is considered DRY if the sugar content is below 9g/L; however, the total quantity of acids has to be at least 2 grams below the level of sugars. SEMI-DRY wine has a reducing sugar content between 10 and 12g/L, while the proportion of tartaric acid is between 7 and 18g/L. SEMI-SWEET denotes wines containing anywhere from 13 to 45g/L of reducing sugars; anything above brings us to SWEET wines.

LIQUEURS or FORTIFIED WINES are obtained by adding alcohol to wine or adding it to only partially fermented must. The alcohol content ranges from 21 to 22% vol. This includes port wines, as well as some wines from Jerez, Madeira, and Marsala. The high alcohol content prevents the wine from oxidising and impedes acid bacteria, which is why these wines are known for their longevity.

When it comes to SPARKLING WINES, everything depends on the sugar added to the expedition liqueur after disgorging (the Traditional Method) or before bottling (the Tank Method). When marking sugar levels, most of the world uses French terminology:

MAGNUM is a term used for bottles with twice the content of a standard bottle of wine, i.e. 1.5L. The idea of making larger bottles supposedly comes from the Champagne region. This region also provided the names given to all larger volumes. These are often taken from the Bible: JEROBOAM (3L), REHOBOAM (4.5L), METHUSALAH (6L), SALMANAZAR (9 L), BALTHAZAR (12 L), NEBUCHADNEZZAR (15L), SOLOMON (18L), SOVEREIGN (26.25 L), PRIMAT (27 L), MELCHIZEDEK or MIDAS (30 L). Re-fermentation according to the traditional process usually takes places in bottles and magnums, while bottles of smaller and larger volume are usually filled with the final product. The weight of a full Melchizedek is 65kg, meaning an empty bottle weighs 38kg. Manufacturing such a bottle is challenge in and of itself, since it needs to be able to withstand the weight and pressure of the wine it contains.

THE TRADITIONAL METHOD is a process used in producing sparkling wine using secondary fermentation within the bottle. The winemaker adds a LIQUEUR DE TIRAGE to the wine, containing the selected yeasts and sugar (24g/L); the wine is then poured into bottles and plugged with a crown stopper. After the fermentation ends, the bottle is under 6 bars of pressure; disgorging drops the pressure down to 3.5 bars. Champagnes are matured in bottles for at least 18 months; vintage champagnes are matured even more.

THE TANK METHOD or CHARMAT is a process of producing sparkling wines using secondary fermentation in special reinforced steel tanks called autoclaves. The usual re-fermentation time is shorter, has less unknowns and costs, making these wines (as a rule) suitably cheaper.

DISGORGING is a process for removing lees from the bottle, applied during the Traditional Method of producing sparking wine. Before this, the lees are directed into the throat (or gorge in French) by gradually turning and tilting the bottle (REMUAGE). The part containing the lees is frozen; when the crown stopper, which up until that moment closed off the bottle, is removed, the ice plug flies out of the bottle like a projectile. In the past, remouge was done fully by hand, the master winemakers using special drilled racks called PUPITRES; before that, they used sand! Today, the bottles are shaken and turned using gyropalettes.

EXPEDITION LIQUEUR is the final mark the winemaker bestows on the sparkling wine. In addition to sugar, it can contain various wine blends, wine distillates, and herbal or fruit liqueurs, making its formula the best kept secret of champagne and "champagne" cellars.

BARRIQUE is a kind of barrel usually made from oak, which is according to some especially suited for maturing wines, owing to its volume (225L) to surface ratio. It belongs to the standard French cooper class; it is known for having its staves heated with fire during bending, meaning it gives off a taste of roasted wood, noticeable in the wine matured in such barrels. French (and almost all other European) coopers use split wood, while Americans use toasted wood. Wood can be toasted to varying degrees, from light and medium to strong.

OAK is the most common type of wood used for making wine barrels. The quality of the wood depends on the type of oak and the tree's habitat. French oak is more suited for smaller barrels, while Slavonian (and Slovenian) oak is valued for making larger barrels. A quality barrel can only be made using wood that had been naturally drying for a long period of time.

CORK is the bark harvested from a special type of evergreen cork oak, which is used for making stoppers. Despite an increasing range of alternatives (silicon, glass, crown and threaded caps), they remain an indispensable part of high-end and especially aged wine.

DECANTING is basically any process of pouring wine, where the precious beverage is separated from the sediment or LEES, which is mainly composed of dead yeast. Aged bottled and any unfiltered wine can also have sediments; if we want to get rid of them, we need to carefully pour the wine into the decanter or a suitable glass jug. Some swear by the opacity of unfiltered wines, turning the bottle on its head a few times before opening it, mixing the sediment in the process.

PREDICATES or MEDITATION WINES are wines made from overripe grapes. Winegrowers leave the grapes in the vineyard, where the berries are attacked by noble rot, which feeds on the water and glucose in the berries. Depending on the sugar concentrations obtained on the day the grapes are pressed, we are left with BEERENAUSLESE or TROCKENBEERENAUSLESE. If the grapes are exposed to a few days of extremely low temperatures, which freeze the water in the grapes, we can produce ICE WINE. Bunches dried on straw (or in small crates) are used to produce STRAW WINE or wines made from dried grapes, i.e. raisins.

  • BRUT NATURE or PAS DOSÉ (also DOSSAGE ZÉRO) contains less than 3g/L of sugars;
    • EXTRA BRUT contains less than 6g/L of sugars;
    • BRUT contains less than 12g/L of sugars;
    • EXTRA SEC or EXTRA DRY contains anywhere from 12g/L to 17g/L of sugars;
    • DEMI SEC contains anywhere from 17g/L to 32g/L of sugars;
    • SEC or DRY contains anywhere from 33g/L to 50g/L of sugars;
    • DOUX contains more than 50g/L of sugars.

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