Wojciech Bońkowski
Wine & tea writing

Slovenian Wine Festival 2013

Rojac and Sutor: two world-class producers from Slovenia.

Moreish Slovenia

Greetings from Slovenia – a neat, efficient, fascinating country.

Vernaccia: patient progress

After years of patient progress, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is now one of Italy’s best white wines.

I got caught

Opened a bottle, tasted the wine twice, made a tasting note, gave it 87 points… then I realised it’s corked.

Sutor: a Slovenian star

The most drinkable wines of 2011 so far: a Sauvignon and a Merlot from Slovenia. Why? They’re so moderate. The perfect antidote to jammy Shiraz or Parkerized supertuscans.

Čotar Malvazija 2003

Following the trail of the recently reviewed amphora wine, here’s another roughly in the same style. This time from Slovenia: Čotar Kras Malvazija 2003. The economic situation of Slovenian wine is of course vastly different from that of Georgia. This increasingly affluent country bordering Italy and Austria has one of the highest wine consumption per capita figures in the world and so finds no difficulty selling its produce. The jump in quality since the political change of 1991 has been dramatic and there are many wines, white and red, that can rival any Western equivalent.
More importantly there many terroir-oriented producers that are making some of the most individual wines in Europe today. This originates in a happy combination of soil, climate, indigenous varieties and more or less ‘natural’ winemaking. People like Edi Simčič, Marjan Simčič, Movia, Santomas, Rojac and Jakončič are now offering stunningly powerful and multilayered white wines oozing with minerality and ageworthy structure.
Primus inter pares might well be Branko Čotar from the spectacular limestoney vineyards of the Kras appellation. His red wines can sing with earthy sap and red fruit freshness given sufficient bottle age (they’re quite extracted) while the white Sauvignon and wild indigenous Vitovska regularly pack in enormous fruit concentration and reverberate with mineral flavours. 
My favourite wine from Čotar, however, is the Malvazija. There’s something in this classic north Adriatic variety that lends itself well to the idiosyncratic winemaking here: Malvazija is a touch oxidative but its skins hold a lot of mineral and citrus fruit treasures, and so skin contact and a long ageing reveal plenty of the grape’s natural complexity and dimension (it’s a bit the opposite of Sauvignon, where the same technique effectively removes all varietal character). Čotar’s Malvazija can be surprisingly long-lasting, too, and I was amazed by how fresh this 2003 is tasting. Whites wines from the ‘ devil’s vintage’ should have been drunk up since long, and even the reds are fading. Čotar’s Malvazija seems to be only entering a long plateau of drinkability. The full orange, cloudy colour announces that this is no ordinary cold-fermented white wine, and the intensity of flavour is just remarkable. So is the complexity, too. There a wide panorama of flavours ranging from fresh peach and apricot to baked bread, but the most intense impression is one of saltiness. This is one of the saltiest wine I’ve tasted, and so its minerality is really very direct.
There are wines which aren’t easy to put into words but whose flavour is unique and unforgettable. This is one of them. 
Source of wine: own purchase. 

Two decades of freedom

It began in Poland

A famous 1989 poster by Tomasz Sarnecki.

Today’s a big day for Poland. Two decades ago, on Sunday 4th June 1989, the first free elections since World War II were held, resulting in a landmass victory for Solidarity and effectively putting the Communist regime to an end. Other countries of the ‘Eastern bloc’ followed suit. Five months later, the Berlin wall was demolished, and two years later, the USSR ceased to exist.

In this day of pride and satisfaction, we look back at that amazing summer of 1989 and what we’ve been able to achieve since. Among many far more serious things, we can enjoy a boundless diversity of wines, buy tea directly from Taiwan on the internet, develop private breweries and buy the latest music CDs in a range of high-street shops. Many things wouldn’t exist without Poles going to the polls two decades ago, including this blog.

Between 8 and 8:20pm today, all across Poland people raised a toast to our happy past and, hopefully, auspicious future. Chez Bońkowski, it seemed suitable to do so with a wine from our Slovenian brothers-in-freedom. The Dveri-Pax Eisenthür 2005 is a wine that couldn’t have happened two decades ago. Slovenia was still part of a country called Yugoslavia, where wine could only be bottled and sold by state-controlled cooperatives. Now this historical estate in Slovenian Styria (it was founded in the 12th century as a Benedictine abbey) has been reprivatised and with a large investment, vineyards have been renewed and a new state-of-the-art cellar established. The first wines were released in 2002 and Dveri-Pax quickly confirmed its rank as one of the leading wineries in Slovenia.
This 2005 Eisenthür single vineyard wine is a blend of 70% Sivi Pinot (local name for Pinot Gris) and 30% Šipon (local name for the Hungarian Furmint), and weighs in at 12.5%. A little capricious at first, it really gains from some airing, showing a very clean minerality from the strong volcanic terroir. It is quite Austrian in style (back in 2005 the winery’s consultant was Erich Krutzler from the famous
red wine estate in Burgenland, now making wine at Weingut Pichler-Krutzler) with ripe green fruit and a clean, zesty style. It’s not a great wine, showing a bit of dilution and underripe greenness – but bear in mind 2005 was a fairly difficult vintage in this part of Europe, and the wine is fairly balanced with a good sense of place. Even its imperfections seemed to fit in today’s mood of Central European celebration.