Twice named Slovenia’s Sommelier of the Year (2013 & 2015), Gašper Čarman has also been the man behind the popular eVino online wine shop and wine bar in Ljubljana for more than a decade. Several years ago he even began his own wine label, called simply Gašper, which aims to build a long-term friendship with wine drinkers and show that what’s in the glass is more important than the story.
How is Sommelier of the Year chosen?
The competition takes place every two years, and to be eligible you have to work as a sommelier and have finished a professional sommelier course. It’s divided into two parts. First, candidates have a written exam, and then there’s a descriptive tasting of two wines and you have to prepare suggestions for wine and food pairings. In the practical part, you have to show the skills of serving and wine decanting. The top three finishers then go on to finals, where each has to perform a tasting of two Slovene and two foreign wines, as well as the recognition of five spirits. Then they have to find faults in a wine list, and make proposals for food and wine pairings. And once more at the end they have to show the skills of serving wine and decanting.
What are Slovenia’s main export markets?
Slovene wine is popular in quite a few interesting foreign markets, including Great Britain, German, Italy, Belgium, the Nethererlands, Croatia, France, Austria, Poland, the USA and, in recent years, also China. Are there any producers who are more popular abroad than in Slovenia? Yes, that is definitely true in some cases. Some of our winemakers are really well-known abroad – there are Marjan Simčič, and then Movia, Burja Estate, Sutor, and Gašper wines are also well positioned abroad, especially in UK where you can find them in some excellent restaurants with one or two Michelin stars.
Who are some of the up-and-coming wine producers that we’ll be hearing about in the future?
There are some of young and talented winemakers, with a lot of courage and youthful enthusiasm and they are making some very good wines – Pasji Rep, Klemen Lisjak, Dolfo and Šumenjak to name just a few.
How is Slovene wine generally perceived in foreign markets?
Honestly? I think that overall Slovene wines don’t have the best image in foreign markets. There are some well-know brands of course, but in general we are not very known as a wine country. In my opinion that is a consequence of the uneven and poor work of Slovene marketing as a wine region. However, the visibility of Slovenia is growing, especially in the ontrade sector, where foreign sommeliers recognize the quality of our wines and find it interesting to offer them with foods, since Slovene wines tend to be extremely food friendly. I am also convinced that when we set up some kind of Wine Marketing Board (as they’ve done in Austria) it will be easier for all winemakers who would like to export wine. We have tradition, stories and quality on our side, we only have to take advantage of them.
Which wine region in Slovenia do you think offers the best overall wine tourism experience for visitors?
Goriška Brda is currently the most developed region, since they have perfect wine – but generally speaking, all regions produce top wines. There is excellent food in the restaurants of the both the Slovene and Italian parts of the Brda, and in recent years there has been an incredible upgrade of accommodation capacities, so nowadays guests can really expect a well-rounded and memorable experience.
Why do Slovenians drink so much wine?
It’s in our genes, probably. It’s part of our culture, and even part of our national anthem. Slovenes are smart, so why would we drink something else when we have such great wine – the most interesting, natural and mystic drink in the world.
When drinking wine, how important are things such as wine glasses, temperature, food, etc?
They are incredibly important. It is a big shame to open a nice bottle of wine and drink it in the wrong glass, or not at the perfect temperature. But the most important thing is always with whom you are having your favourite wine!