Recently we have been talking about two big wineries in Slovenia, Marjan Simčič and Movia, both moving many bottles per year within their ample wine catalogs. Today we will go not far from them to find a small family winery located in the village of Gorjansko, only about 5 kilometers from the Adriatic Sea. As my loyal reader knows, the Karst is a rocky limestone plateau between the Vipava River Valley and the Bay of Trieste, also known as Carso-Kras in the Italian side of the border. Similar landforms around the world are called karst, named after Slovenia’s Karst region. The landscape is rocky and wild, but for those living here is home. Here is where the sun dwells. In the back we can find the Pre-Julian Alps providing shelter from the cold coming from the mountain range behind. The Adriatic Sea provides a cool breeze protecting the vineyards. From the north, the fierce Bora wind blows down to the sea with a massive power. Here oaks grow among the boulders, and also dogwood, smoke tree, winter savory and wild rose. Moreover, forming this unique soil formed in the Pleistocene era and rich in sea sediments, is the terra rossa, the local red soil that supplies its magic to the wine.

In this Slovenian wine country, we find today Vina Čotar. A small family wine cellar with a beautiful story. The family owned a restaurant back in the day and they started producing their own wine for their customers in 1974, only one red and one white table wine. Slowly, the business transitioned from food to wine, devoting more time to the cellar and less to the restaurant, which in time turned into a reservation-only catering service for groups. Nowadays Vasja’s sister Vanesa runs the restaurant and they only open on weekends.

In 1990 they bottled their first vintage, that of 1988. Branko Čotar was the responsible for the changing to winemaking and now his son Vasja is at the helm, but still producing the wine following the same methods of their ancestors. This means the Čotar are cultivating the vineyards in an environmentally friendly way, following the organic farming principles. Oh, and they do not add sulphites to the wine. No industrial yeasts or enzymes are used either.

The family owns 7.5 hectares of vineyards spread around the village of Gorjansko. In them, they have planted autochthonous and international varieties: whites Malvasia, Sauvignon and Vitovska, and reds Refosco (Teran), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The proportion of the planted red and white grapes is around 50/50. The vineyards ae trained in the single Guyot system and the yield is 3,500 to 4,000 kilos per hectare.

The wine cellar is dug into natural rock in such a way that the wine moves down into the cellar by gravity as it goes from grape to wine and bottle.

The fermentation takes place without cooling and without added sulfites, in barrels of 225 to 2000 liters of capacity, in the underground cellar. As tradition says, the white wines are produced following the mold of the red wines. Thus, the reds stay macerating on the skins for ten to twenty days while the whites macerate on the skins from four to ten days, depending on variety and vintage. The same vessels used for fermentation are used for ageing. White wines age two to three years, red wines four to five years.

They produce six single-varietal wines with the aforementioned grapes. They also produce a semi-sweet white wine called Sladkominka made combining Malvasia berries of different vintages. There is also a red blend called Terra Rossa using Teran 40%, Merlot 40% and Cabernet 20%. Črna Penina is a dry red sparkling wine made with Teran following the Méthode Traditionelle. All the wines are Kras DO.

On average, they produce 25,000–30,000 bottles, depending on the year.

Recently we participated in a Malvasia wine tasting and the Čotar Malvazija 2010 was the selected wine to represent Slovenia. It was a delightful wine, very well structured. A fine wine very pleasant to enjoy, proving it was a good choice. A wine worth being recommended either for enjoying it in a wine tasting or in the quiet peace of home accompanied by any meal selection.

Soon we will talk to Vasja Čotar about his wines and winemaking philosophy.

Photos (c) Vina Čotar

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