May 3, 2018
Osmica (Eight) is a wine selling tradition that dates back to the 9th century when Charlemagne introduced several laws with regard to the production of wine, including the right to sell one’s own wine. The habit of (tax-free) wine sales by farmers survived through the Middle Ages and was written into law by the 1784 Habsburg (Austrian) decree granting wine producers the right to sell their surplus wine tax free over an eight-day period. This eight-day tax-free window to get rid of the surplus wine and make space in barrels for a new vintage is where Osmica (Eight) got its name from, although eight days once a year have now become ten days twice a year under Slovenian law.
Osmicas have been mostly preserved among the Slovenes living in Karst and just over the Italian border, although they can also be found in other parts of the Slovenian littoral. The difference between Slovenian Osmicas and the ones around Trst (Trieste) is that Italian law forbids serving cooked dishes at such events. Due to various factors, including a strict ban on drinking and driving, food has become an important element of Osmicas in recent decades, which incentivised wine producers on the Italian side of the border to run their Osmiza as a form of farm tourism, which allows them to serve wine and cooked meals throughout the year. It is important to emphasize that the Osmicas in Italy are a cultural phenomenon cherished exclusively by winemakers of the Slovenian origin (source).
Whether it is due to this legal background or to the need to preserve cultural heritage, most of the Italian Osmicas (there were 104 counted in 2012) can be found in a small belt between Trst and Tržič (Monfalcone), while on the Slovene side of the border they are rather scattered in the areas between Istria (Koper) in the south through Karst and Vipava Valley to Goriška Brda in the north of the Slovenian Littoral.
Traditionally Osmicas are also marked by a street sign pointing to the location where the event is held, alongside a branch or bunch of Common Ivy called fraska.
Photo: Betta27, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Besides the home-produced wine, an Osmica also offers other produce of the house, such as various beverages, cold meals, homemade bread, typical local dishes, sausages, unpeeled hard- boiled eggs, pickled vegetables and similar rustic delights. The staff dealing with the guests at Osmicas are also traditionally “home grown”, since the law prohibits anyone who is not a family-member of the farm owner from being hired for such events.
Japanese travel piece on Osmica De Kus (Germani Sonja) in Trst (Trieste)
This domestic touch makes an Osmica a rather different event from a usual countryside restaurant, where you come, eat, pay and leave. The main purpose of visiting an Osmica is in spending time together, which is also implied in an old name for such gatherings in the Upper Vipava Valley, that is Trifa, from “zu treffen” in German or “to meet” in English.
One word of advice, do call first to reserve some tables if visiting in a large group. In addition, you might want to bring a guitar or other instrument with you, as Osmicas really are events for meeting people, spending some time together, and even singing a few songs in the evening, while in some places there are beds so you can spend the night if the evening progresses in a pleasant way.