Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Slovenian Riesling

When planning a trip to the Balkans last fall, I anticipated tasting some new wines and possibly purchasing one or two bottles not easily found in the US, perhaps a red wine from Croatia and a white from Slovenia. The Croatian red wines I tasted, particularly those from the islands along the Dalmatian coast were quite good. However, prices in shops in Dubrovnik, where we spent much of our time in Croatia, were fairly steep. The wine-growing area near the city of Mostar in Bosnia-Hercegovina also had a good reputation. This city is well worth a visit but the single wine I tasted though fragrant was quite light and unexceptional.

So, with only a single day remaining on our vacation, we found ourselves on a city tour of Ljubljana with no wine in our luggage. During the tour I noticed a wine shop only a few minutes walk from Congress Square. When the tour was completed we dashed back to the shop. If the old Sherry-Lehmann (on Madison Avenue) were in Ljubljana instead of New York City, I imagine that it might look very much like this shop, Vinoteka Dvor. The sole salesman, who had a polite and precise manner that seemed typically "old world," asked me what I was seeking. Since I am a Riesling fancier who knows that Slovenia is reputed to make some fine wines from this varietal, it is easy to infer my response. The problem is that Slovenian wine includes two sorts of Riesling, Laski and Renski, of which only the latter is the grape that makes famous wines in Alsace, Germany, Austria, etc. Despite the large number of Slovenian wines and those from other countries in the shop, the salesman said that he only had two Renski Rieslings for sale, a dry wine from the Gaube winery and an off dry wine from Klet Bistrica. As my wife looked on, I said that I would take a bottle of each wine. Prices were so reasonable that I fear I would have brought back a bottle of every single Renski Riesling in the shop, no matter how many different wines were in stock.

A few days ago we invited four of our neighbors for dinner and served the 2007 Gaube wine with appetizers. Gaube is a fairly small producer who cultivates 20 acres in the town of Zgorna Kungota in northeastern Slovenia. First impressions of the wine were not auspicious. The bouquet seemed mute, lacking the various floral and fruit smells I associate with German or Alsatian Riesling. The acidity of the first sip or two was more noticeable than any flavor. But soon thereafter, the wine's fruit developed and it began to show a strong presence on the palate. It also had a lovely dry finish. The wine reminded me of some appealing Austrian Rieslings I've tasted. Although I had given our company warning that Slovenian wine was new territory for me and I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, everyone was pleased with the Gaube wine. Needless to say, the 2005 Klet Bistrica Riesling is likely to be consumed soon.



Robert M. Oliva, ND, LMSW, MA said...

Very nice post, Eric. I wish I were there for dinner. One day we will share some great wines once again. Mary would have loved to venture into new territory with you.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bob. We, too, wish you and Mary could have been with us.