Kristina Mervič is a Slovenian winemaker who transpires passion for her work when you talk to her. And you get easily taken by her passion and her wines. Firstly, she is not a woman to put stickers in her bottles, stating that she is a natural wine producer, certified organic vineyards or biodynamic vision. On the contrary, she makes wines the way her father Boleslav did before her. In fact, in this side of Slovenia that back in the day was far from the Western world, the white wines were always made macerating the must on the skins and they did not add anything to the wine like sulfites or other chemical compounds because there was no money to buy sulfite or chemical compounds to add. It was just natural winemaking because it was the only possible way to do it.
In the heart of the Vipavska Dolina DO in Slovenia, and located in the small countryside village of Sempas, is where we can find Kristina’s winery JNK. The Vipavska Dolina, or Vipava Valley, is one of the main DOs in Slovenia, placed to the east of Goriska Brda and southwest to capital city Ljubljana. Kristina owns 3.5 hectares of vineyards, such a small property she has. The soil here is the characteristic Opoka: sandstone marl formed during the Pliocene period and rich in marine sediment and minerals. Vineyards are low as compared to other wine areas, between 100 and 300 meters above sea level. The average yield per plant is around 1.5 kilos per white varieties and 2 kilos per red varieties.
She has planted white varieties Rebula, Malvazija, Green Sauvignon (Friulano), Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon, and then she has Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. She produces single varietal wines with these grapes an also two blends: Sv. Mihael and Rdece.
One thing that gets your attention is the maceration time. Usually in nearby wineries the white wines macerate on the skins for a period ranging from 3-5 days to up to 30-45 days. Kristina keeps a short period that rarely goes over 8 days for every variety. The maceration period of the red wines, on the other hand, is usually larger than in other places, going to up to 40 days. Kristina likes to age her wines before releasing them to the market. First, she likes to keep the wines in oak barrels for one or two years, depending on varieties and vintages. Then a similar period in the bottle follows, thus her wines are on the market 3-4 years after harvest.
We had the opportunity to visit her and share a good quality time with her. Her father came by too and besides the wines and the conversation, we had the opportunity to share great homemade prosciutto. As you can imagine, many of the products they consume at home are homegrown and they only buy in the local supermarket the products they cannot produce.
The more we enjoy a glass of Ribolla Gialla or Malvasia the more we fall in love with them. Here in Slovenia they are called Rebula and Malvazija, and Kristina is a master producing wines with them. We tasted three white single varietals: Rebula 2009, Rebula 2004 and Malvazija 2012. The white blend was Sv. Mihael 2005 (60% Sauvignon, 40% Pinot Bianco, 20% Rebula and Malvazija), the single varietal Merlot 2009 and a red blend Rdeče 2006 (55% Cabernet and 45% Merlot). The wines were so amazingly perfumed, with a fine and elegant nose and really good in the palate. Wines really worth enjoying them while having a nice conversation. It is has to tell which one was more pleasant that the others. The Rebula 2004 had a nose that took you away from the very beginning, still at the top of its game and with long years ahead to give more pleasure. The Merlot was just incredible.
Kristina produces a small number of bottles every year and she keeps a good number of them at her cellar for ageing. Her place is worth doing a visit as she is very passionate about what she does and the wines are a great discovery.
Soon we will talk to Kristina about her wines and her winemaking philosophy.