After Germany, the US is the second most important foreign market for Slovenian-produced wines. Slovenian vineyards lie in the absolute center of the European winegrowing area and cover just over 15,000 hectares of land. The Slovenian winegrowing regions are as ideal for growing wine as, for example, the Burgundy and Bordeaux regions in France. A mixture of climate effects and the soil in Slovenia produces a greater diversity in the selection of wines that are available. Due to their quality, these place among the best in the world.
Slovenia is geographically positioned in the far north of the Mediterranean and in the far south of Central Europe. It lies at a point where the Alpine, Mediterranean, Pannonian and Dinarian worlds meet. Because of its geographical position and other natural treasures, Slovenia is a country with a long tradition of winegrowing and winemaking.
Slovenia is chiefly a land of white wine
The winegrowing region of Slovenia is divided into three regions and nine winegrowing districts. Due to the differences in the soil, climate, and different approaches to cellaring, each winegrowing region has its own selection of wine varieties. In addition to the established international varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Merlot, there are also the indigenous or domesticated local varieties, such as Rebula, Sauvignonasse, Zelen, Vitovska and others.
There are approximately 30 thousand registered winemakers in Slovenia, producing between 80 and 90 million liters of wine annually. Of all these wines, 65 percent are white wines and 35 percent red. Slovenian winegrowers get to choose between 52 recommended and approved varieties of wine. The most extensively produced is Laški Rizling (14 percent), followed by Refošk (9 percent), Chardonnay and Sauvignon (each with 8) and Malvazija (6 percent).
In 2015, Slovenian winemakers exported over five million liters of wine - mostly medium and high quality wines, while importing more than double that amount (14 million liters). But because Slovenian imports involve mostly low quality wine, the export and import figures balanced out at just over 14.4 million dollars. Most Slovenian wines are usually sold to Germany, the USA, Croatia, the Netherlands, Bosnia and Herzegovina and, in recent years, to the Czech Republic.
Slovenian winemakers among the best in the world
The largest proportion of excellent and world famous Slovenian winemakers is located in the Goriška Brda wine region, which lies in the far west of Slovenia, on the border with the Italian region of Friuli. The region is home to the Movia, Marjan Simčič, Edi Simčič, Kabaj, Ščurek and Klet Brda wine cellars. The most recognized among these remains Aleš Kristančič (Movia), who was the first Slovenian winemaker to become successful on foreign markets following Slovenia’s independence in the early 1990s.
Wine and Spirits magazine, one of the most influential wine publications in the world, has placed the Movia wine cellar among the top one hundred wine cellars in the world eight times already. In 2007, the best of the world’s wine connoisseurs, including Robert M. Parker jr., placed Kristančič among the 12 most influential wine personalities in the world.
Movia recently caught everyone’s attention again when James Suckling, one of the most influential wine critics in the world, at the end of last year awarded an unbelievable 97 points (out of 100) to Lunar, produced out of Rebula and Chardonnay. This is the highest grade any Slovenian wine has ever received from him.
The US presents the second biggest market for the Movia cellar (after Italy). As much as a third of its annual wine production is sold there. Exports mainly consist of domesticated local varieties, such as Rebula and Sauvignionasse and of biodynamically produced wine such as the Lunar and the Puro sparkling wine.
Puro is a sparkling wine for which Aleš Kristančič doesn’t use the process that arrests fermentation - he doesn’t remove the sediment with all its microorganisms - but instead lets the consumer do so upon opening a bottle. Puro is still considered a specialty in the world of wine, as is its younger brother among still wines - the Lunar. Both of these are bottled without the use of sulfur.
The expansion to foreign markets demands big investments
Among those who sell most of their wine on the US market is the winemaker Aleks Simčič from Vipolže in Goriška Brda, who turned his father’s name, Edi Simčič, into a trademark and managed to successfully spread it across the world. It’s a boutique wine cellar, where 60 thousand vines are cultivated on 12 hectares of land, while producing 40 thousand bottles of wine per year.
On average, almost two thirds of Aleks Simčič’s wines are sold on foreign markets - in terms of quantity and consumption, China is the biggest consumer following the USA. It’s a fact that the Slovenian domestic market simply can’t handle large quantities of high quality wines, such as those being sold under the Edi Simčič trademark. In such a situation, producers are forced to seek markets abroad. “It’s a fact that trademarks are harder to establish in foreign markets. At the same time, we can ask ourselves what kind of a challenge does working on a longterm project without it having a chance to be internationally successful present? What’s the motivation for younger people when they are told they will be farmers who will sell all their goods at home and never travel anywhere? So, foreign markets are very important even for the sake of motivation alone. It’s also hard to think of just one type of industry where you can market your products all across the world despite being small. That of course is possible in the winemaking business,” explained Simčič. But in order to expand to these markets, big investments are required.