Explore the Slovenia wine region
Did you know that Slovenia is one of the major wine producers in Europe? Probably not. Who can blame you? A small country bordered with a giant wine producer like Italy could not stand the comparison. However, located near the Italian border, the Brda region has built up a reputation for doing some of the finest wines in the country. Let’s take a deeper look at one of the best wine tasting experience we had in our life! This guide will give the complete insights of where to eat and drink in the Slovenia wine region.
The Brda Region
Goriska Brda, located at the Italian border, is mostly cultivated with vineyards and orchards. The region is characterized by sparse small villages perched on top of rolling hills and miles and miles of vineyards. The panoramic roads connecting the vineyards and the villages are absolutely stunning. The typical wines in the area are Rebola and Friulano which is similar to Tokai.
The main town of the region is Dobrovo with its castle as one of its main attraction. However, we decided to stay in the small medieval village of Šmartno, a tiny picturesque village in the middle of hills and vineyards. In Šmartno, you can climb on top of the Gonjace tower to admire the scenery. This tower had been used by fascists soldiers during WWII, helping them monitor the mountains. Now, the tower is a monument of peace to the fallen soldiers of Italy and Slovenia during the world wars.
Psst: Goriška Brda is not the only wine region of the country, there is also Vipava Valley, Kras and Slovenska Istria near Piran.
Where to eat and drink?
Our first stop in the wine country was the Kabaj Morel winery . Located in the small town of Dobrovo, Kabaj Morel is the result of a marriage between Jean Michel Morel, a Frenchman winemaker and his wife Katja Kabaj. Together, they produce some of the best wines in Slovenia, in addition, to offer lodging and dinners at their restaurant. Unfortunately, we could not sleep at the winery because all the rooms were already booked. However, we had the privilege to try their restaurant and obviously taste their wines!
We were welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine. It was one of the best sparkling wine we have ever had and funny fact, they have been producing this sparkling for 2 years only! We enjoyed the bubbles with small bites along their magnificent views of their vines as the restaurant is located in a little hill so you can overlook all their land.
The particularity of Kabaj Morel is that they are using a skin contact maceration for all their wines giving the white wines an orange colour. The winery started its activities in 1993 and opened a restaurant in 2006. The restaurant offers only one menu, a 5-service which changes depending on the seasons. The food is fresh, locally sourced and prepared daily. The chef offers traditional dishes from the region with a modern touch. One of the wines we tasted were the Sivi Pinot with hint of green apple and a touch of floral scents. The other wine that we tasted was their full-bodied Rebula which matched perfectly with their dishes.
I suggest starting your oenophile day by going to the tourist information office in Dobrovo and ask for the flyer that lists all the wineries hosting wine tastings to the public. In this informational document, you will also have the opening hours and the addresses of the wineries (some of the wineries do not have a website). Unfortunately, the website of the region does not have all of this information. Plus, the office inside in the Dobrovo Castle, one of the sightseeing stops.
The next day we did 2 other wineries, as most the of the wineries are closed on Mondays, (We have very bad luck with timing our winery visits as we had the same problem in Bulgaria, sometimes you never learn from your mistakes). The first stop was Villa Mavrič. This is a small family owned winery producing white and red wines for 3 generations. We had the chance to taste 3 wines, a Rebula, a Sauvignonasse and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Verdict? We took 2 bottles back home! Pss: The bottles are only 4 Euros each.
Our second stop was Klet Brda winery. As we entered the winery, the owners explained to us that their wine tasting is based on a self-tasting concept which means no explanation on the wines you are tasting and… you serve your wine yourself! They have 10 wines in total, 2 sparkling ones, 3 reds and 5 whites. All these wines were available for tasting for the cost of 12 Euros per person for an open bar of very good Slovenian wines. Definitely, a must stop for one of the best tasting concept ever created!
As most of the wineries were closed, we decided to go to the other side of the border and taste some Italian wines. We drove for around 15 minutes to the neighbouring country and we stopped at the Strum Winery. The Strum family has been crafting wines for 3 generations and have recently switched to do organic wines. Our favourite was the Friulano and the Ribula Giallo.
Where to eat?
Kabaj is not the only place to stop have a bite. For lunch, we stopped at Hiša Marica, the restaurant has a beautiful terrace on the street. The restaurant offers traditional cuisine, based on seasonal and local ingredients.
If you are looking for an afternoon snack, I suggest heading to the house of culture in Šmartno. They offer great cakes and they also do Olive Oil tasting. The cafe also holds several art expositions.
Where to stay?
We recommend staying in Brda 2 days, this way you have time ti enjoy all the tastings and also have time to hike around. As mentioned earlier, we decided to stay in the small town of Šmartno. In this medieval town perched on a hill, we stopped our choice on the San Martin hotel . Located 2 minutes away from the centre of the village, this hotel offers a terrace with a breathtaking view of the hills and the vines. The rooms are very comfortable and each has its own balcony with a view on the valley The hotel is also known for its restaurant and their wine cellar. The wine list is spectacular as one of the most reputable sommelier of the region owns the hotel. A breakfast buffet with local products and yummy croissants is included in the room price. Also, the hotel is ideally located if you like hiking. In fact, it is located on the Alpe Adria trail Path!
Even if you are not staying at the hotel, just come and stop for a glass of wine, the view is worth it!
Or if you reserve in advance you could stay at the Kabaj winery as said before.
As with any wine region, the wineries can be sparse and distances can be a little treacherous. We suggest to take a car as it will make your mobility easier, however, be careful not to drink too much. If you do so, you can also bike. Since the Brda region is on the hills, biking might be a little difficult, especially after a glass or two ;)
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Disclaimer: we had a discount at the hotel courtesy of the Hotel San Martin. We enjoyed our dinner at the Kabaj Winery as their guests. A big thank you! All opinions are my own
PINT IT FOR LATER!