The Column with Simone B. Michielen: What to drink in Slovenia?

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Writing this column might be a bit of a risk, but I am going to do it anyway. Different cultures, different (drinking) habits! Coming from Spain our experience was that drinking was always accompanied by food. Lunch, dinner, I have to admit sometimes even breakfast, we tried them all, or just as a drink with a tapa of choice. Good times! Almost always wine, and we loved the Spanish variety and taste.

Culture shock! When we arrived in our beautiful Slovenia, the first thing we learned is that water is not to be drunk. Still famous words often used in our valley but with a source up our valley not true at all. Anyway, drinking beer was what especially the guys did and with all the hops around, you can’t even be surprised. But the amount! There were times I was scared to walk the dog on a Friday evening, as some people were driving home in their cars just because they were not able to walk anymore. Yes, read that again… Let me be straight, I also love a good beer and had my share of a little bit too much now and then, but if your only goal is to get drunk as fast as possible, bad idea.

Our new friends gave us a warm welcome, without a doubt. But served a Cviček made us ask ourselves what went wrong in this country. It took a few years and a lot of imported wine from Spain to find out that it wasn’t Slovenia nor our new friends, the problem was us! We didn’t know anything about Slovene wines and after tasting our first, more fitted to our taste glass of wine, we went on tour. Luckily these trips synchronised with more export which motivated wine makers to make slightly different wines. At least, that is how we experienced it. By now my knowledge is a lot better. Thanks to the sommeliers who paired the best Slovenian wines with the food I was able to eat in the best Slovenian restaurants, but also thanks to the guests I guided, among them wine clubs and connaisseurs who led me to the finest producers and wine cellars across the country. I know, I was the guide, but I learned as much or maybe even more by visiting these passionate wine makers. But I will never get used to Malvazija, Refosk or Cviček. My fault, probably.

The knowledge made me an ambassador wherever I come. I bring a Slovene wine when I am invited by friends, I talk about Slovene wines when I eat in a restaurant abroad and ask why I can’t find any on the wine list. I bring as many as I can when I travel across Europe to present them to business partners, friends and restaurants. I just experience one problem, where can people buy these wonderful wines? Playing hard to get is a good thing for a woman, but not for wine! Especially not when it is as good as ours. I brought a bottle to be tasted by a famous Dutch wine and culinary writer, his first remark was: “I can’t write about a wine people can’t buy”. Ouch!

I have a plan. It is too much to tell here and now, but if you know about high-end wines being exported within Europe already, please let me know.