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A Bottle to Remember . . . Forever!

IMG_1564I recently had the good fortune to tag along on a distributor trip to the Vinska Klet Goriska Brda winery in the Brda region of Slovenia, just over the eastern Italian border. This is a beautiful wine country of hills, valleys and terraced vineyards, reminding me in some spots of the hills of Barolo and Barbaresco, or in other places of Tuscany. The trip was amazing, and I’ll put out several articles chronicling the experience and the wine. However I’m going to start somewhere I usually don’t, and that’s at the end. Why? Simply because what happened was so great, it needs to be first.

IMG_1558

Beautiful countryside

It’s our last night in Slovenia, and in fact late in our last night. We are back at the winery for some kind of farewell, but not sure what exactly that was going to be. We waited a few moments outside before being led in.

In one section of the winery a black iron gate had been opened, and three wine barrel tables

The Archive Vault

The Archive Vault

were set up inside with glassware and candles. On one small table a wine cradle and decanter waited. On all sides we were surrounded by something which would have made a good crypt. Old stone walls and a multi-chambered vaulted ceiling provided the enclosure. Webs hung everywhere. Also everywhere, stacked neatly in every niche, were rows of old bottles. None carried labels that could be seen. Most were obviously old, encrusted with the damp dust of decades. Our curiosity was peaked.

Getting ready to pick the bottle

Getting ready to pick the bottle

We were informed by several of our hosts that the oldest wine in the vault was from 1957, and that not every year was represented These are old Slovenian wines, made in a lighter style and not what you would normally think about when considering a wine that will last 50-60 years or longer. They also throw some out every year as a vintage spoils beyond recognition. Significant numbers of bad bottles are mixed with the good. It is a bit of a gamble when picking one up to open.

Our hosts consulted a sheet, mentioning some dates. They were, it turns out, looking for the oldest person in the group whose birth year was contained in the cellar. That, it turned out, was me. My responsibility was to pick a bottle of the wine from my birth year and hopefully not select vinegar. Such pressure! How awesome is this? It’s pretty awesome!

I went back with Silvan, Managing Director of the winery, to a section identified somehow as

Silvan holding the 1961 Merlot

Silvan holding the 1961 Merlot

containing the 1961 hoard. He warned me that some bottles may have recently been moved, and to avoid those. I picked one in the second row down, the bottom completely encrusted and looking for all the world as though it had been there forever. Silvan removed it, holding the candle underneath to show a clear, red colored wine inside with a good fill. It was very promising, but I fully expected that even if it poured drinkable it would quickly oxidize and spoil.

Carefully the bottle was transferred to Andrej, the winery’s Sales Director, for opening and decanting, all of which was handled skillfully. The wine still had a beautiful, lighter cherry color in the dark room. Glasses were poured and passed, and a good sniff revealed a wine with

Andrej pouring the wine

Andrej pouring the wine

fruit still prominent in the glass. At first a charcoal aroma, not a bad one, was very evident, but that quickly diminished. Unbelievably the wine was still fresh on the palate, with a little tannin, nice acid and balance. The fruit was still very much in play here, and rather than oxidize the wine actually opened in the glass, improving over the ten minutes that elapsed before it was gone. Everyone, I believe, was surprised. Everyone also thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to experience a very old library wine in a place like that. I will never forget it.

The bottle was apparently Merlot, with 10-15% from other varietals. They seemed to think Black Rebula was a good candidate. I don’t know what exactly it was, but it was amazing.

The 1961 Merlot was a memorable way to end a memorable trip. I’ll publish several more articles on the food, history and people of this part of the world, as well as the wines of Vinska Klet Goriska Brda. Suffice it to say they are all remarkable in their own right. I intend to come back with Cheri sometime.

While you can only get one of their library wines at the winery , you can experience some of the other outstanding wines from this producer. Try them. I think you will change your perceptions of where great wine and great wine value can come from.

To the wonderful people at Vinska Klet Goriska Brda I can only say, Garage Key! (Inside joke)

A votre sante!

3 comments to A Bottle to Remember . . . Forever!

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