Slovenian Wine Festival: Hectolitres of Wines and Crowds of Visitors

Two days, 106 winemakers, over 400 wines and the Union Hotel packed in the last weekend of November. This is how the traditional Slovenian Wine Festival and Culinary Fest were held in Ljubljana.

On the threshold of the festival, the capital of Slovenia was wrapped up in the holiday hullaballoo that reached its peak on Friday, 25 November — the event-opening day. All tickets to the festival were sold out very quickly, and hundreds of people lined up on Friday to enjoy good wine and delicious food. The winemakers barely had time to serve the guests of the festival, who repeatedly held out hands with empty glasses. Young, vintage, aged and elite wines — Ljubljana enjoyed a full variety of wines in this weekend.

The Slovenian Wine Festival celebrates its 19th anniversary. In 2016, it gathered the largest number of participants over the past 5 years. Despite the growth in the number of such events, the organizers do not fear the future decline in attendance due to the increased competition. Participants and guests of the festival readily list the advantages of the festival: a convenient location, an interesting entertainment program and a wide range of wines and snacks.

Ordinary wines made the major part of the wine assortment, but the guests of the festival also had an opportunity of tasting some spicy wines that this year managed to receive the international awards, for example, Jakončič (2 gold medals at the Decanter tasting contest) and Istrian from the Veralda wine cellar (the world’s best red varietal wine according to the Decanter).

On the eve of the festival, the expert jury evaluated all the wine brands and awarded such brands as Zlata radgonska penina Selection 2012, Prestige extra brut 2011 (the Istenič wine cellar), penina Floridia 2012 (the Sanabor wine cellar), malvazija maceracija 2013 (the Rojc in Poljanec wine cellar), bel pino 2015 (the Valter Sirk wine cellar), rebula R (the Bizjak wine cellar), rizling izbor 2011 (the Kmetijska zadruga Krško wine cellar), Pullus 777 2015 (the Ptujska klet wine cellar), šipon 2008 (the Kupljen wine cellar), merlo 2011 (the Krapež wine cellar), barber 2011 (the Brič wine cellar), and A’Gjupk 2012 (the Bovin wine cellar).

This year, the Wine Festival was held in parallel with the Culinary Fest, which traditionally brought together some of the best chefs in Slovenia. This year, it has changed its concept — the guests could enjoy dishes using the system of “bons” (bonuses) in the Theatre of Flavours (Gledališče okusov). The cooks also worked in pairs — Luka Košir (Grič) joined forces with Tomaž Bevčič (Rizibizi) to cook two meat dishes: a bull baked in black cumin seed oil and a ham hock with red wine also called “pata negra” (“a black leg”). The guests were treated with the Alexandar wine from the Macedonian Bovin wine cellar.

Desserts were prepared by Naser Gashi (La Ganache) and Siniša Borič (Restavracija 1552), and the wine was represent by the Kupljenov šipon brand.

On Saturday, Janez Bratovž (JB) invited his Croatian colleagues — Marka Palfija (Mundoaka, Čakovec) and Jeffreyja Vello (Portrait, Dubrovnik) to cook “a pig in three ways”. The three of them were cooking dinner at the JB’s restaurant and the Janez Bratovž’s son-in-law Jure Štekar (Rebula 2015) watched out for wine.

Jorg Zupan from the Ljubljana Atelje restaurant (former Smrekarjev hram) and the master from Styria Marko Pavčnik (Pavus, Laško) joined their forces for the final event of the festival. Zupan expertly cooked trout fillet with mashed Jerusalem artichoke and fish cream soup with black garlic, and Pavčnik served trout smoked in beer with radish and caviar. Both fish dishes were complemented with the Prestige extra brut 2011 wine from the Istenič wine cellar.