Viticulture and winemaking in Slovenia has existed since the time of the Celts and Illyrians tribes. Who began cultivating vines for the production of wine between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, long before the Romans introduced winemaking to the France, Spain and Germany.
Slovenia has more than 25,000 wineries producing approximately 70-80 million litres annually from 16,500ha of vineyards. About 70-75% of the country's production is white wine, with almost all of the wine being consumed domestically with only a small amount exported. Under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, privately owned wineries had a considerable presence, but steadily declined following the empire's fall and the foundation of Yugoslavia.
By the end of the WWII, co-operatives controlled nearly all of the wine production in Slovenia and wine quality was low as the emphasis was on the bulk production. The exception was the a few small privately owned wineries in the Drava Valley region which continued to operate.
In 1967, the government established the PSVVS (Business Association for Viticulture & Wine Production) which established chemical analysis and testing practices for quality assurance and issue seals of approval for wines which meet these standards - prior to being released onto the market.
The quality ranges are as followed:
• Namizno vino - Table wine
• Deželno vino PGO - Country wine
• Kakovostno vino ZGP - Quality wine
• Vrhunsko vino ZGP - Premium quality wine
Slovenia wine labels include the sweetness level - ranging from suho (dry), polsuho (medium-dry), polsladko (medium-sweet) and sladko (sweet). The designation Posebno Tradicionalno Poimenovanje (PTP) is applied to a traditional Slovenia wine from a specific region.
In 1991, Slovenia was the first Yugoslav republic to declare independence. While the wine industry experienced some decline following the turmoil of the Yugoslav wars, the region's strong ties to the West allowed the industry to recover. Today the Slovenian wine industry the most advanced and well developed of the former Yugoslav republics; is starting to gain interest around the world.
Slovenia has three main wine regions: the Littoral (Primoska), Lower Sava Valley (Posavje), and Drava Valley (Podravje). Slovenia has a diverse geography, providing a wide variety of microclimates. The region is bordered to the north - by the Austrian Alps, to the west Italy and the Adriatic Sea, Hungary to the east and Croatia on the southern border. Many of Slovenia's vineyards are located along slopes or hillsides in terraced rows on the Julian and Karavanke Alps and the Pannonian Plain. The Drava and Sava Rivers are major influences in the Drava and Lower Sava Valley’s. Historically vines were trained in a pergola style to optimize yields. With an emphasis on higher quality wine production, this has encouraged vineyards to change to Guyot style vine training.
While wines were historically aged in a variety of sized Slovenian or Slavonian wooden casks, recently there is more use of smaller French oak barrels. In Littoral, dessert wines are made in a passito style with the Brda region specializing in wines made from Verduc and Pikolit. In the Drava Valley region, botrytized wines are produced from Laški Rizling, Renski Rizling and Šipon and classified in a similar way to the German system based on sweetness ranging from: pozna trgatev (Spätlese), izbor (Auslese), jagodni izbor (Beerenauslese), ledeno vino (Eiswein) and suhi jagodni izbor (Trockenbeerenauslese).
Slovenia’s inland wine regions Posavje and Podravje are known for their white than red wines. Laški Rizling (known in Austria as Welschriesling) with Šipon (known as Furmint in Hungry) and Chardonnay are the most common varietals of Podravje - as are Traminec (Gewürztraminer) and Rizvanec (Muller-Thurgau). Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio/Gris) is also planted widely, as is Beli Pinot (Pinot Blanc) and Radgonska Ranina. In Primoska, the region's is notable for Refosco, Tokaj (Tai) and Rebula (Ribolla). Also red Bordeaux varietals are now popular in Slovenia, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and even the ancient Carménère, being used to make quality Primoska reds. Along with plantings of Pinot Noir (Modri Pinot) - and Sauvignon Blanc.