Darrel Joseph is an American-born international wine writer, judge and lecturer living in Vienna, Austria. His writing has appeared in publications including Decanter, Harpers Wine & Spirit, Wine Business International, Wine Spectator and Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book.
With his extensive tasting experience, and specializing in the wine regions of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, including Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and many Balkan countries, Darrel judges in international wine competitions in Europe, including the renowned Decanter World Wine Awards in London. In addition, he conducts wine masterclasses, presentations, tastings and lectures throughout Europe, and is also an editor and translator of numerous texts for wineries and wine organizations. Our full interview with Darrel can be found in the new edition of The Slovenia Book.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST BECOME AWARE OF SLOVENIA AS A WINE DESTINATION?
I heard about Slovenia’s wines back in the early 1990s, around the time I started to explore Austrian and Hungarian wines in depth. However, I began to cover Slovenian wine only around 10 years ago. Until then, I was preoccupied with the wines of Austria, Hungary and Germany. Then I began to spread out and look at other Central and Eastern European wine countries; Slovenia, being next door, warranted a closer look.
HOW IS SLOVENIA’S WINE INDUSTRY GENERALLY PERCEIVED BY INTERNATIONAL WINE PROFESSIONALS? HOW HAS THIS CHANGED IN THE PAST DECADE OR TWO?
Overall, if there is a perception of Slovenian wine, it is very positive. There are a number of top writers and sommeliers and restaurateurs around the world who have become familiar with Slovenia’s wines – some of the funky “orange” wines, for example, and indigenous grape varieties like Zelen and Pinela – and indeed they like the quality and individuality very much. This is pretty remarkable, considering that it wasn’t too long ago that Slovenia was barely heard of, especially when it was a state in Yugoslavia.
WHICH SLOVENIAN PRODUCERS ARE YOU CURRENTLY MOST EXCITED ABOUT?
Of course the producers in the western part of the country, like Brda and Vipava Valley in Primorska, are making the biggest splash in terms of wonderful wines with international appeal (Movia, Ščurek, Simčič and Batič to name a few). And they get a lot of attention for them. But it is important to point out that inland regions, especially Štajerska in Podravje, have wineries to keep an eye on, including Ptujska Klet, Lubaj, Verus, Hlebec, Conrad Fürst & Söhne, Miro Munda and, particularly, Kolarić. And the Marof winery in the Prekmurje region is highly impressive as well.
HOW DOES SLOVENIAN WINE DIFFER FROM THAT PRODUCED IN NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES?
This involves a lengthy answer, much too lengthy to go into here. So I will just make a few points. Slovenia has a few wine regions and these have their own terrier and climatic conditions. So, Croatia, Austria and Italy would be the first comparisons. Slovenia can distinguish itself especially by its “orange” wines – those long-macerated wines that can often exude orange peel and mandarin aromas and flavors.
HOW DOES SLOVENIA COMPARE TO OTHER, MORE ESTABLISHED EUROPEAN WINE PRODUCING COUNTRIES IN TERMS OF QUALITY AND PRICE?
In terms of producing high-quality wines, I would say that Slovenia can compete with most countries. It also has a good showing of entry level and mid-level wines. Price can be an issue in that many established countries are able to produce large volumes of wines that can be sold at consumer-friendly prices (importers getting them at a cheap price).