The dramatically beautiful ‘land of a thousand terraces’ that encompasses Slovenia’s Brda and Italy’s Collio is a single wine landscape divided by a political border. Now in its fifth year, the Brda Home of Rebula conference continues to bridge this border by bringing together 13 wineries from both countries to showcase the incredibly versatile and exciting Rebula grape. Suited to a variety of styles – from fine sparklings, to fresh classic or more complex, oak aged and skin- fermented expressions – Rebula can now be found on the best wine lists around the world and consistently wins accolades in international wine competitions, not least the Decanter Wine World Awards.
Sense of place
This year, sustainability and terroir have been key topics, with Brda’s dry-farmed vineyards playing strongly into these themes. As elsewhere, lack of rainfall has been a problem, with the last significant rains falling in December 2021, until August storms arrived. At the peak of summer, the only green plants across the region were the vines, namely the deep-rooted old Rebula, able to find water despite no irrigation.
The opoka soils which underlie all the best vineyard sites are also important, directly shaping the mineral character of the region’s wines and the vines’ resilience to increasing natural challenges. Opoka fractures easily, allowing vines to easily root down 10-12m, and its silt particles, rich in nutrients and minerals, dissolve in the rain and flow to the root zone. Terraces have been a necessity since Roman times, allowing growers to farm steep slopes, retain water and minimise erosion. This is still the case, as space and water availability remain a central issue. This challenging topography also requires all work to be done by hand, an aspect that shapes the character of local viticulture and winemaking, in which man and vines live harmoniously according to nature’s cycles.
‘Sustainability is in our DNA,’
said one winemaker. Sustainability covers several pillars, from environmental concerns to economic and social resilience. Brda’s vineyard area has been stable for decades as people make a sufficient living from grapes and wine, and indeed the terraced slopes mean handwork is a valuable necessity. In terms of ecology, the vineyards are dotted with small woodlands and patches of wildflowers, filled with butterflies and bees. These provide ecological niches for endemic species and help moderate the climate in both summer and winter. In the vineyard, most producers work sustainably with several also certified organic and/or biodynamic.
Even in a warming climate, Rebula has significant advantages in its ability to resist drought and ripen at moderate alcohol, while keeping good acidity. The special nature of Rebula was highlighted, during the last edition of the Brda Home of Rebula conference, by a rare opportunity to taste the 1957 vintage. The best bottles were amazingly alive, vibrant and still clearly showed the characteristic flavours and freshness of Rebula. Truly a unique demonstration of why Rebula should be the flagship grape of the Brda and Collio region, fundamentally suited to the natural and human challenges ahead. A mere 30 mins from Trieste airport or one hour from Venice’s, it’s easy and well worth seeing this beautiful landscape for yourself while exploring its many walking and cycling trails.
Newly-released Rebula wines to try
Klet Brda Rebula Quercus 2021
Inviting apple blossom and meadowsweet aromas. Good weight and silky texture, with notes of cut pear, supported by vibrant acidity. A benchmark for the classic, fresh style of young Rebula, named after the oak (quercus) forests that used to blanket the local hills.
Dolfo Rebula 2021
‘Dry, extremely dry’ is Dolfo’s motto, to express the region’s natural minerality. This young Rebula does exactly that; with its gently fruity but dry style, marked by hints of orange and honeysuckle. The palate is crisp, with salty, citrus notes and a mouth-watering finish.
Moro Rebula Margherita 2020
Sustainably managed, terraced vineyards provided the fruit for this appealing wine. Aromas of white peach, meadow flowers and wild herbs. Orange zest on the palate, with a touch of golden plum. Mineral, wet stone texture and good length.
Zanut Rebula 2019
Naturally fermented, hand-harvested fruit from 29-year-old vines. Aromas of orange zest, apricot and wild thyme. Lovely freshness on the palate, with peach fruit, orange oil and a twist of Mediterranean herbs. The finish is all about texture – salty and savoury.
Gradis’ciutta Robert Princic Sveti Nikolaj Rebula 2019
A truly cross-border wine from Slovenian grapes vinified in Italy. Creamy peach, lemon zest and acacia flowers on the nose. Sleek and elegant, with notes of tropical fruit, pear and subtle spice, supported by fine acidity and zesty texture.
Medot Rebula Golden Époque 2020
Hand-harvested at very low yields from an old vineyard. Aged on fine lees in oak. Shows enticing aromas of quince and acacia blossom, subtle vanilla with ripe pear fruit. Fine and elegant with focussed fruit, citrus acidity, and a long finish. Flavours of papaya, apricot, dried fig and wild thyme, supported by firm acidity, saline notes and a subtle tannic grip.
Jermann Brda Rebula 2018
Grapes from Brda, fermented and aged in large oak casks in Italy. Elegantly scented with lemon blossom, summer meadow herbs and apple crumble. Refined and graceful, with bright acidity, notes of Asian pear and mandarin. Lingering finish with a saline grip.
Ferdinand Rebula Época 2020
Poached pear, meadow flowers and a touch of basil on the nose. 24 hours of skin contact then fermentation in barrels have added texture and layered complexity to the fine, vivid golden plum and quince fruit. Vibrant freshness, with a vein of lemon zest and salinity on the lingering finish.
Ščurek Rebula Up 2020
Natural vinification in barrel with five days of partial skin contact has given texture, complexity, and an expressive bouquet of apricot, dried peach and tangerine. The fruit is ripe and generous, with a juicy core of pineapple, peach and salted lemon. Lovely harmony and length, completed by a fine, mineral aftertaste.
Klet Brda Rebula Superior Bagueri 2019
Hand-picked from the cooperative’s best terraced vineyards, then fermented in large oak and barriques for layered, velvety texture. Fine vanilla, white peach and honeysuckle notes are followed by intensity and refinement on the palate with a saline, mineral backbone, supporting flavours of lemon, Asian pear, and pineapple.
Edi Simčič Rebula Fojana 2019
From a single vineyard of 40-year-old south- facing vines. Classic fermentation and ageing in French oak gives a superbly graceful wine, with inviting aromas of apple blossom, acacia, golden plum, ripe pear, and a subtle scent of rosemary. Glorious, with fine silky texture, mouth-watering vibrancy, and wonderful finesse.
Erzetič Orbis Rebula 2018
Five types of wood and organic grapes go into this gorgeously harmonious wine. Scents of summer meadow with sweet spice, yellow plum and melon fruit, with subtle toasty nuances. Mouth-watering acidity balances the creamy texture. Fine fruit notes of pear and lemon zest followed by a long mineral finish.
Marjan Simčič Rebula Opoka Medana Jama Cru 2019
Grapes from 67-year-old vines were fermented for 16 days, on the skins, in concrete eggs. Amazing aromatic expression of orange blossom, spice, wild herbs, and peach fruit. The palate is intense, sapid, very pure and bright, with ripe peach notes, orange zest and spice, underscored by a mineral core and superfine tannins.
Kristian Keber Brda 2019
An intriguing field blend of local grapes, fermented naturally on the skins for two weeks. Rich amber with a bouquet of Mediterranean herbs, dried apricot, candied peel and bitter orange zest.