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Grapes less known ...


There are thousands of different grape varieties grown in vineyards around the world that are used to make wine. Almost all belonging to the same species: Vitis Vinifera. Think of the varieties as dog breeds, they are all dogs but can be so different. Not just in appearance but also in temperament, adaptability to different climates, susceptibility to disease and bred for different kind of work. The same accounts for grape varieties. Most people know just the usual suspects; chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir etc etc. But that is just the beginning and there is so much more! Like dog breeds, varieties can be very indigenous. Below a list of the most seen varieties in the Primorska region

Malvasia Istriana

A grape that is grown a lot around the North Adriatic. This Istriana malvasia is very different from grapes named malvasia in other parts of Europe.

It gives fruity and floral (acacia) aromatic wines with medium acidity, body and aftertaste. The alcohol can be high. It is very much loved in this area and is made in many wine styles. It can be quite heavy when macerated but in some places made in an elegant fresh style.


Rebula (Ribollo Gialla in Italy) is a very important grape variety in the Brda region. The grape has been grown here since at least the 13th century. Directly on the other side of the border in Italy the grape is also well used and known as Ribolla Gialla. These two places are the only regions in the world were these grapes are important.

Wines of these grapes are made in many varieties.

Fresh style: they are light bodied, high in acidity with floral notes. Lemon, peach, apple and beeswax are aroma's and flavors that are described. Mainly the wines are drunk this way but these wines are also made in a very matured way or aged in oak. Because of its acidity it is also used to make good sparkling wines with second fermentation on the bottle. Last but not least there is a good number of winemakers that ferment these grapes on the skin to make an orange wine.


Zelen is a white-wine grape variety that is both indigenous to and exclusively found in the Primorski wine region of western Slovenia. The variety, named for its green appearance prior to filtration (zelen is Slovenian for "green") makes a wine that is light, crisp and herbaceous.

The low-yielding grape variety thrives in the windy Vipava region, where the harsh climate means that growers must use indigenous grape varieties that have proved resistant to the winds, rather than more-fashionable international varieties. This has led to a small upsurge in popularity for the Zelen variety, and plantings are increasing steadily in the region.

Wines made from Zelen can be vinified either in stainless steel or in oak. It is often left to age on its lees, which provides some complexity, giving nuttier flavors to the otherwise crisp, fresh wines. Sometimes Zelen is used as a blending component with better-known varieties such as Ribolla and Malvasia, contributing acidity and a grassy component to the wines. 

Wines have been made from Zelen for hundreds of years, although the grape variety nearly disappeared in the 20th Century. In the early 2000s, a group of Slovenian producers banded together to reinvigorate the grape variety, forming the Zelen Consortium. This group hopes to improve the profile of the variety, as well as providing quality control.


Pinela is a white local, or autochthonous wine grape, grown almost exclusively in Slovenia’s Vipava Valley district and (possibly) in Italy’s Friuli where it’s called Pinella. (The absolute verdict is still out though on whether these are the same grape.)

First mentioned in 1324 in the Catalogo delle varietà delle vitis del Regno Veneto, a listing of grapes in Veneto in the eastern Italy, it nearly disappeared in areas of present-day Slovenia where it was particularly susceptible to frost, mold and rot. It does best in lean marl soils at altitudes higher than 150m above sea levels with ample sun. 

Often used in blends, it began to appear more widely in varietal bottlings about two decades ago. Pinela wine is light lemon or yellowish in color, with a gentle floral and peachy bouquet and ample citrus notes on the palate with a medium finish. It’s dry, moderate in alcohol, generally crisp and fresh and at its best in its youth. Currently about 50 hectares (123 acres) are being cultivated in Slovenia’s Vipava district. 

A limited number of winemakers also produce it as an orange-style extended skin contact wine.

The village of Planina nad Ajdovsčino, in the center of the Vipava district just north of the Karst plateau, is generally acknowledged as the area where the best Pinela is produced. A festival celebrating the grape takes place there each Easter Monday.

If it is the same grape in Friuli, note that it’s also called Pinello, Mattozza, Pinla, and Vipaka.


Another name less heard. Also the other names used for the grapes might not ring a bell: Friulano or Sauvignon vert. The grapes can produce different wines, most lean and dry, much depending on the region where it grows and the control of the yield.

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Vitovska is a rare and ancient greenish-gold variety that is found predominantly in Carso in the northeastern Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Its name is of Slovenian origin and small parcels of the variety are still planted in Slovenia today, mostly in the Primorski (the Slovenian Littoral) regions of Kras and Vipavska Dolina (Vipava Valley).

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Teran - Refosco

Kraški teran, the deep ruby red wine made from the refošk grape that does particularly well in the area’s terra rossa, or red earth. Refošk is a fairly typical red in the primorje, or seaside area of western Slovenia, but only wines made of refošk in Kras can be called Teran. Use of the name has long been a bone of contention between Slovenian and Croatian authorities and winemakers, especially those on the Croatian side of the Istrian border who produce the same wine in their local terra rossa. Slovenia meanwhile has long claimed exclusive use of the Teran name. To confuse matters even more, refošk is not the Italian varietal Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso; there it’s simply known as Terrano.

see also: winefolly



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