Slovenia is a small European country with a long history of wine production. This is not surprising given its (borderline) Mediterranean location between the northern latitudes of 45 and 47 degrees, latitudes shared by Bordeaux, Burgundy and northern Rhone. The country is also bordered by four of Europe's most long-established wine producing nations; Croatia to the south, Hungary to the east, Austria to the north and Italy to the west.
Despite the cultural and political turmoil that has besieged the Balkan states over the past century, Slovenia has maintained its wine industry, one which has been particularly successful since the country gained independence from former Yugoslavia, in 1991.
Slovenia is largely landlocked, with only a few miles of coastline atop the Istrian Peninsula, just south of Trieste and the Carso DOC of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The Slovenian climate has a certain maritime tendency in the west, drawn from the northern Adriatic, while there are strong continental influences in the north and east, created by the Alps and Pannonian Basin. The topographical variation means it is hard to categorize Slovenia climatically, and its climate is often given the catch-all descriptor of 'sub-Mediterranean'.
This variation also gives wine producers plenty of choice when it comes to the location of their vineyards. While general climatic patterns are played out across the country there are, within these macro-climates, a range of more subtle variations that contribute to local terroirs.
Slovenia has three key wine regions: Podravje in the east, Primorska in the west and Posavje just south of the center.
Podravje is the engine room of Slovenian wine industry, producing roughly half of the country's national output. Its most densely-planted vineyard areas are located around the eastern town of Maribor, in the valleys of the Pesnica, Drava and Mura rivers.
Primorski is a coastal region, just across the Adriatic from Venice and Fruili. Since 1991, it has shown the greatest increase in quality wine production of all the regions, and continues to demonstrate its vinous potential in national and international wine competitions. Posavje is a less densely planted region, and has not yet developed the reputation that Primorski or Podravje have as quality wine producing regions.
The wine grape varieties grown in Slovenia show an Italian influence in the west, a Germanic influence in the east, and an increasing French 'international' influence in general.
Riesling (both Rhine Riesling and Welschriesling) are found in quantity in Podravje, as are Traminec (Gewurztraminer) and Rizvanec (Muller-Thurgau). Sivi Pinot (Pinot Gris) is also planted quite widely here, as is Beli Pinot (Pinot Blanc) and its local mutated form, Radgonska Ranina. In Primorski, the region's contact with Italy is manifest in the choice of grapes, notably Refosco, Tokaj (Tai) and Rebula (Ribolla). The latter is as successful here as it is in its homeland across the Italian border, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
The red Bordeaux grapes that have been globally successful over the past 50 years are also popular in Slovenia, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and even their ancient stablemate, Carmenere, being used to make quality Primorski reds. Burgundy's key duo Pinot Noir (Modri Pinot) and Chardonnay are also favoured, as are dry whites made from Pinot Gris (Sivi Pinot) and Sauvignon Blanc.