Sutor – Podraga, Vipava Valley, Slovenia

IMG_9904[1]Mitja Lavrencic works the soil in a small village called Podraga at the southern end of the Vipava Valley in Slovenia about an hour’s drive from the border town of Gorizia. This village is situated at the climatic limit for winemaking, which in turn leads to wines of great balance and complexity. The resulting wines are reminiscent in many ways of top quality white burgundy. The Lavrencic family has been resident in Podraga for a long time – a very long time. Records show that the family moved to Podraga from Dalmatia in 1499, and they have been farmers and winemakers ever since. Mitja took over from his father Edvard in 1991.

The domain has just three small vineyards all planted on flysch and all in Podraga. There is 0.7 hectare of Ravno Brdo planted with malvazija, 2 hectares of Jamce planted with chardonnay at the top (and also with merlot, pinot noir, and malvazija), and 1.5 hectares of Hrib planted with sauvignon blanc.

The age of the domain and the continuity from generation to generation would be admirable in anyone’s book, but the beauty of this domain is the superb quality of the wines. These wines are handcrafted with love and care, made from very low yields and with minimal intervention. To drink these wines is to sense the transfer of the quality of the soil and terroir into the glass. As we tasted through his full range of wines recently we were immediately convinced that these were wines of outstanding character and individuality with the qualities that we always look for: balance, complexity, depth of fruit and a refreshing or ‘moreish’ character that entices you onwards to the next sip.

Mitja makes a small range of wines. There is a malvazija (malvasia istriana), which is a semi-aromatic variety with a distinctive nose of flowers, dried herbs and peaches. There are often spicy or even almond-like notes on the finish. Mitja’s malvazija is made from extremely low yields – just 30hl per hectare – and bottled unfiltered. This is a gem of a wine.

There are also bottlings of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. The chardonnay is also made from very low yields and bottled unfiltered. It is typically quite a substantial wine with notes of apricots and peaches on the nose, it has a creamy texture with spicy fruit on the palate and a lick of acidity to keep things fresh. This wine is easily of the same quality as a premier cru from Puligny or Chassagne in Burgundy. In 2011, there were just 2200 bottles made – for the world. The sauvignon blanc is also very much a cool-climate wine with fresh flavors delivered with a buttery texture and a complex interplay between green, herbal notes and more tropical elements. The marginal climate restrains the usual aromatics of sauvignon blanc and renders a more deeply-toned wine.

There is also an intriguing blend of indigenous white grapes called Sutor White that is predominantly malvazija combined with rebula (ribolla gialla) and a red blend that is predominantly merlot with just 5-10% cabernet sauvignon. The red has a deep ruby color and displays notes of herbs, spices and red berry fruits. This is very much a food wine with good structure and tannins and a hint of clove showing at the finish.

These are wines that would please any drinker and especially those who wish to broaden their horizons and explore the extraordinary quality of wine emerging from Slovenia.

Mitja’s wines have won many awards and are to be found in some of the top restaurants in Slovenia and further afield including Noma in Copenhagen and the 3* Le Calandre near Padova in northern Italy. It’s a testament to the outstanding quality of this domain.

Wines available: Chardonnay, Malvazija, Merlot