The bright side of wine – Today we will sunbathe and laze in the quiet Piran Bay, and tomorrow we will go to the other end of Slovenia, to Dolenjska. Our friends Lojze and Tina from Vesela gora (Happy mountain) invited us to their vineyard for the harvest.
The bright side of wine
Autumn has already stepped boldly into the country. The nights under the mountains where we live are already cold. The days are no longer hot either. A short trip to the sea is relaxing. We don’t care if there’s no wind. We sail anyway. Ariki’s speed is half a knot per hour. Just right to drink the last bottle of wine left on board in peace.
In vino veritas – THERE IS TRUTH IN WINE – this saying is well at home in Slovenia. Vine grows in the east, south and west of the country. Wine-growing hills are criss-crossed with wine roads bringing a visitor to wine cellars and local culinary offer. Slovene wine, alredy well known by the ancient Romans, is today world-famous.
Wine-growing areas in Slovenia
Famous wine growing regions are Podravje (the Drava region) comprising the south slopes of the Pohorje Masiff, the Slovenske Gorice between Ormož and Ljutomer, Maribor and the Haloze Hills.
The Bizeljsko-Sremiš wine region in Posavje (the Sava basin) is also famous for its wines. Žametna Črnina (a kind of dark grape) is tipical of Bela Krajina, and Dolenjska is the homeland of Cviček (souerish wine). The best Cviček comes from Trška Gora near Novo mesto.
Vineyards lend special charm to the litoral landscape in the Vipava valley, and the gently rounded hills of the Goriška Brda are virtually unimaginable without vineyards.
Kraški Teran from Dutovlje and Tomaj and wines from Koper district are also very much appreciated.
A small family vineyard
There are many small winegrowers in Slovenia. Such as Lojze and Tina. Their vineyard has 800 vines planted, which yield about 1000 liters of wine per year. They drink a lot of it at home, some sell it. So much to cover the cost. There is no earnings. For many such people, viticulture is not a profession, but a continuation of a family tradition and, above all, a way of life. This is the real bright side of wine.
The biggest holiday in the vineyard
The harvest is their biggest holiday. On the day of the harvest, family, relatives and friends gather in the morning. Everyone comes, from the youngest, to the oldest. Landlord Lojze awaits them with a glass of homemade brandy, and housewife Tina with a sweet snack.
Then the master deploys the people. The strongest will carry the grapes from the vineyard to the vineyard cottage. He designates all other adults as pickers. Each grape picker gets scissors and a bucket.
The youngest are given the task of making sure that no one in the vineyard suffers from thirst.
Housewife Tina goes to the kitchen and Lojze to the basement.
The grape pickers in the vineyard began to work. First a simple upper part of the vineyard, where the vine grows on five terraces. The conversation between the pickers runs all the time. It’s fun. Jokes and funny stories are told. Some are just competing with each other over who will say the funniest.
Grape picking is a meticulous job. Each cluster must be inspected separately. Everything that is rotten, moldy, damaged must go away. Only the best grapes can make good wine.
The grape pickers load the brackets quite well. Sometimes, if the grapes are pressed a little, it also exceeds 40 kg. It’s really not easy with such weight on your back to navigate a steep bank downhill.
Zidanica - a vineyard cottage
Zidanica (a vineyard cottage) is called a house set next to a vineyard. In some places there are on the top of the hill, Lojze has it under the vineyard. The pure truth is that it is much easier to carry an empty grape basket up a hill than a full one. That’s why a smart landlord has a vineyard cottage below.
The most important part of the vineyard cottage is the wine cellar. In the lobby is a large old wooden press. Upstairs is a small hallway, large kitchen and a room with a bed. Just in case. Usually no one sleeps here. When the work is done, everyone will go home. We too.
The first grapes began to come from the vineyard to the vineyard cottage. The bearers of the grapes shake it into a mill that plucks the berries and separates them from the stalks. Juice and berries are collected in a large 500-liter wooden barrel, and the stalks come out on the side.
The wine is diluted with mineral water
Every time the porter brings the grapes, he gets a glass of spritzer. Yes, people from Dolenjska usually do not drink pure white wine but dilute it. Half is wine and the other half is mineral water. This is a real national drink in Dolenjska and Štajerska region. After all, in many wine-growing places you don’t even get a beer.
Work in the vineyard is progressing rapidly. The upper 5 terraces have been grape picked. Now there are pickers in the lower part of the vineyard, where is very steep.
This year the grapes have yielded well. It is healthy and beautiful. Therefore, pickers do not have to waste time cleaning clusters. The porters, however, barely have time for a glass of spritzer. The work is really progressing very fast. No one is here for the first time. Everyone knows what his role is. Everything goes like a well-oiled machine, even though no one runs the work.
About Dolenjska - Lower Carniola
The fog in the valley finally cleared and all the majesty of the view was revealed. In one of his books, Matjaž described this Dolenjska region as follows:
Dolenjska is like the softness of an enchanted song and such are its people, too. Its low hills scattered with castles , country crisscrossed by green rivers, streams and forests, and facetiousness and hospitallity of the locals can be met at every step.
1000 liters of wine and homemade food
The grapes are still coming. There is now a tube in the large 500-liter wooden barrel that flows the must into large barrels via a pump and filter. The pomace that remains in the barrel is pressed by Lojze into an old traditional wooden press. The flywheel was made new, from concrete. He used a plastic barrel for the mold.
With this press, the last juice is squeezed out of the pomace. They will make brandy from them.
The barrels are being filled, landlord Lojze is satisfied. The harvest is excellent. The must has enough sugar. It is already 1000 liters in barrels, but it is still flowing. Wine from such a must will be very good. But it takes time. For the next two months, Lojze will devote all his attention to the process of making wine. It is his efforts and great knowledge that give the wine its final stamp. This is also the bright side of wine.
From the kitchen in the cottage comes pleasant smells. Mistress Tina frys domestic chickens and roasts stuffed pork breast. These are festive dishes that come to the table only on the biggest holidays. This is also the bright side of wine.