If seeking a wine adventure off the beaten path, Slovakia is certainly the place to discover and explore. This small country of majestic mountains, gothic churches and dramatic castles has an exciting wine industry, with a dynamic generation of producers reviving the old and experimenting with the new. There are strong trends for sustainability and authentic wines, including a cult natural, organic and orange wine scene led by family estates. The quality and diversity of this lively wine country has already attracted Michelin-starred restaurants to list Slovak wines, and producers are keen to share their visions with a wider global audience.
Slovakia has around 10,000 hectares of vineyards in production and 692 registered winemakers. It lies close to the northern limit of commercial winegrowing. At about the same latitude of northern Burgundy, Slovakia has a distinctly cool, continental climate, ideal for the production of fresh whites, bright rosés, cool-climate reds with a winning combination of fresh acidity and fruit, and lusciously sweet wines. Vineyards are divided into six wine regions in the country’s warmer south, typically on south-facing sites in the mountain foothills. The Small Carpathians, home to nearly half of Slovakia’s producers, sit on the lower slopes of the eponymous mountains, with well-drained soils over granite. South Slovakia is the warmest area, covering lowland plains and soil terraces north of the Danube and suiting later ripening varieties. Nitra includes limestone and ancient sediments on the southern slopes of the Tribeč mountains; its long dry autumns and cold winters make ice wines possible. Central Slovakia is cool but dry, and the region’s volcanic slopes suit aromatic whites. East Slovakia’s sunny vineyards lie over volcanic bedrock and are particularly good for Pinots. Slovakia’s Tokaj is divided by a national border from Hungary’s Tokaj, defined as one region in 1737. Wine styles are similar to its neighbour, produced from the same grapes, though regulations differ – Slovakia still makes 3 and 4 Putňový Tokajský výber (equivalent of Puttonyos and Tokaji Aszú).
Global and local
Slovakia grows a huge diversity of grapes adding to the richly colourful picture of diversity. It shares typical Central European grapes with its neighbours, but local terroirs give them their own Slovak character. Among the most relevant are Frankovka modrá (Blaufränkisch), Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Furmint (mainly in Tokaj, but also in the south), Svätovavrinecké (St Laurent), Müller-Thurgau and the Pinot family. Intriguingly, Slovakia’s several unique local crosses developed to suit the country’s marginal climate and show promising quality and character. Among the reds, Alibernet, Dunaj and André are most important and can be surprisingly rich and full-bodied, but it’s also worth discovering Hron, Neronet and Nitria. Aromatic, tropical-driven Devín, Pálava and Muškát Moravský are the most planted local whites, with Milia, Noria, Breslava also showing potential.
A place of many wines and terroirs, Slovakia will reward visitors willing to discover its viticultural diversity, meet its family of passionate producers and taste the delicious logical gastronomy, all in the embrace of beautiful nature.
The British wine trade will have a chance to explore the world of Slovakian wine at an event
on January 18th 2023 at 67 Pall Mall, London