January 29, 2018
Like the rest of Slovenia, variety in climate and geography is also characteristic of the Lower Sava Wine Growing region, consequently dividing the area into three distinctive sub-districts: Dolenjska (Lower Carniola), Bela krajina (White Carniola) and Bizeljsko-Sremič.
Lower Sava Wine Growing region, marked in green: above and below Novo Mesto: Dolenjska (Lower Carniola); east of Dolenjska: Bizeljsko-Sremič; to the south towards Metlika and Črnomelj: Bela Krajina (White Carniola)
Although the region, the only one where red varieties prevail, is mostly known for its lighter wines and wine blends rather than varietals, it is a historically important region where some of the most distinctive wine products of Slovenia originate, and which is also capable of producing bigger wines that come close or to the level of those originating in the Littoral, especially in Bela krajina (White Carniola) district, where hill range of Gorjanci blocks the colder winds from the north while the plains in the south allow entrance of the warm winds from the Adriatic Sea.
Dolenjska (Lower Carniola)
Although the world's oldest vine of the variety called žametovka grows in Maribor, that is in Styria (Štajerska) of the Drava Wine-growing region, the plant originates from Dolenjska, and as such plays an important constitutive part of Cviček, a regional wine that is perhaps as much typically Slovenian as Kraški Teran of the karst region.
Cviček, a light red colour wine, is a blend of red and white varieties, with about half consisting of aforementioned žametovka, then up to 20% of Modra frankinja (Blue Franconian) and the remaining part taken by white varieties including Kraljevina and Laški Rizling (Welschriesling). By some accounts the wine got its name from “being (too) sour”, yet Cviček remains very popular among the local and visiting drinkers, perhaps precisely due to its simplicity and the lower levels of alcohol it contains. As this wine is very much on the dry side of the spectrum, it also pairs well with meat and dried meat dishes served with cabbage and potato.
Bela Krajina (White Carniola)
As mentioned earlier on, because of the hill range of Gorjanci, which stop the air from the north entering Bela Krajina and hence draws an important distinction between Dolenjska from Bela Krajina, the vine development is faster in Krajina than Dolenjska.
This district has drawn attention with its novel wines at least twice in the recent past, according to the Slovenian WIne Society first with rosé wine in 1981, and then with the first ice wine in 1985. Bela Krajina thus became a region known for producing interesting wines, including young Portugalka (Blauer Portugieser).
The sub-Pannonian climates of Bizeljsko, in the last few decades mostly known for its sparkling and sweet wines, entered the history books due to the year 1880, when the phylloxera louse was recorded in Bizeljsko. The disease, believed to be brought to Europe together with American self-rooted vines, decimated the European varieties to the point that they had to be saved by grafting on the resistant American vine varieties.
Self-rooted vines are still popular in Slovenia, and despite the fact that the law bans them from being turned into wine on an industrial scale (since it is believed that such wine contains high levels of methanol, instead of the much safer ethanol) they remain popular among the local population, especially the red variety called Isabella and white Šmarnica, among other things because of their resistance to rain. With proper treatment and mandatory testing on methanol, you might be even lucky enough to find and buy some, such as this bottle of sparkling Isabela we found in no other place but Vinoteka Štorjia:
Isabella sparkling, produced in Styria (Drava Wine-growing region)
Predicate (sweet) wines of KZ Krško, Sremič