Hoping to out-obscure your friends with the wine this Christmas (I always am)? Then Slovakian wine could be the way to go. It’s a little-known fact that Slovakia has a history of viniculture predating the Romans, but where can you buy Slovakian wine in the UK? Not many places, it seems. Google Slovakian wine UK and you’ll get lots of results for… Slovenian wine. Close, but no cigar (Hungary is in the way, for a start).
In addition to Hungary, Slovakia also borders Poland, Austria, Czech Republic and Ukraine, and the south of the country is where most of the vineyards are. This region is on a similar latitude to Burgundy and southern Germany — but with a grape profile far more similar to the latter.
I’d never tried Slovakian wine before receiving the pictured-above samples from Planet 9 Wine, an importer based in West Sussex, UK. As you’d expect from its cool-climate location, most of the most commonly cultivated grapes in Slovakia are white (including Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau), so I was surprised to receive three reds and a rosé (pictured above). No white Slovak Christmas for me then.
I’ve tried three out of the four so far, kicking off with one of the Velvet and Wild reds (pictured on the right, above). At only 12% volume, its lightness isn’t a surprise… but its fruity sweetness is. There’s a touch of blackcurrant and a a hint of strawberry in there, but the dominant flavour is cherry. Cherry drops, to be precise — with a background of menthol eucalyptus. In other words… cherry flavoured Tunes! Similar in body to a pinot noir, this is a red that’d benefit from 15 minutes in the fridge, and it reminded me of some of the wines I had in Romania a few years back. Whether or not it “helps you breathe more easily” (remember the Tunes ad slogan?), I’m not so sure.
The Cabernet Sauvignon rosé (second in line, above), is my favourite of the three. It’s not dissimilar to some of the rosés I had in Bandol, Provence, last spring. And as Bandol is one of the world’s most renowned rosé-producing regions, that’s quite a compliment. There are further strawberry notes here, but it’s drier than the Velvet and Wild, and this is the one I’d recommend to pair with your Christmas turkey.
Finally, I tried the Alibernet red (third in line, above). In contrast to the other two, it’s deeply rich both in colour and taste. The blackcurrant/menthol flavours are still there, but this time balanced with oak and spice, with a slightly tangy aftertaste. Of course, if you’re having red meat, this is the one to go for.
All the labels are written entirely in Slovak, which adds a satisfying touch of mystery to the experience if you ask me. If you’re ready to plunge into the Slovakian wine world, contact Terry at Planet 9 Wine. He’s passionate about his products and will be glad to offer advice.
Planet 9 Wine is also on Twitter: @planet9wine