Lessons from Slovenia: A Visit to the Jakončič Winery

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Mare /e/monti, the Italians would say, meaning sea and hills. Exactly that feeling and atmosphere in Jakončič winery, within reach of the sea and yet among wonderful hills – in the Goriška Brda area – where the soil is full of minerals, where lemons, tangerines and kiwi grow – but also – most importantly – wonderful grape vines from which the Jakončič family makes fantastic and awarded wines.

Their oldest vineyards are not over half a century old, with grapes that become the already famous Carolina – dry (white and red) wine, but also sparkling wines, cuvees, sweet wines… all excellent and special. The younger brands, fresh and fruity, under the Jakončič label, are playful and drinkable. The soil is mainly marl, but there are also rocky terrains where they grow Sauvignon Blanc. They also have Chardonnay, Malvasia (for the coupages), Tokaj which is here called Jakot, Grey Pinot from which they make an orange wine. From the reds they also have Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. To date in these hills above Gorica 100.000 bottles have been produced, beginning in ancient 1847, the year when Mihael and Carolina Jakončič planted their first vineyard on the Kozana location. It was a time when many new roads and railroads were created, new markets opened, a time when no one even imagined phylloxera, wars and hard times – which the Jakončič family fought with and – luckily – successfully. The hills were historically part of Austro-Hungarian Empire, Italy, Germany, Yugoslavia… only to be part of Slovenia today.

The head of the winery is now Aljoša Jakončič who can surely take pride in the past, but also recent recognition. At this year’s 14th Decanter World Wine Awads, among 16 thousand wine samples rated by 244 judges, he won two great awards. A gold medal went to Carolina Bela 2012 (95+), while another gold medal and platinum award for the best Slovenian wine in a prestigious category – Carolina Rebula 2013. This was the first time a Rebula achieved such success.

Aljoša Jakončič is a great wine enthusiast, passionate wine maker, likeable guy and excellent host in a well equipped winery and cellars and wonderful house with a terrace and “million dollar view.” He said of his success: “Carolina is our family pride and we are very happy the Decanter review recognised it. It’s an excellent award, while the platinum award for the Rebula is especially important. Rebula has always been slightly underrated as a sort so we tried especially hard to change that perception. Today it is loved even the pickiest ones, while we are happy to be present with our wines in the best Croatian restaurants. All together around 60 restaurants and bars. In the world we are present in 12 countries – Malaysia, Japan, The Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Albania, Montenegro, Great Britain, Belgium, China and United States. We must be doing something well.”

Their good work has been agreed on by the top notch connoisseurs Jelena Šimić-Valentić, Željko Suhadolnik, Ivo Kozarčanin, Vitomir Andrić as well as the female part of the journalism group that visited them -Martina Miličević and Tanja Božić. “These are very serious, complex wines that showcase the Goriška Brda terroir,” wine journalists and sommeliers said. With Aljoša Jakončič, our host was his right hand Matjaž Zgradišnik, who proved to be a very skilled cook and treated us to an excellent lunch joined with wines from the Jakončič cellar, some of older age. Lunch was a reward for our diligent and fiery participation in the harvest. It was short, but busy and – sweet.

We returned the wonderful reception with freshly baked bread, great cheese and homemade “šalami” – as it is called here. There is a real competition among Goriška Brda wine makers – in creating the best “šalami”, while the one from Jakončič gained ovations of excitement and left little room for homemade prosciutto. We visited the cellar where wines ages in wooden barrels and “eggs.” Experts rated: Carolina Bela which ripens several months in wooden barrels of 600 litres, is a mix of Chardonnay, Rebula and Sauvignon. It has a golden-yellow colour, is dense, with excellently balanced acids and barely sensible aromas of yeast. Serious, layered, harmonious wine.

Carolina Rebula varies from yellow to golden colour. It is fresh on the nose, with a developed scent of yellow flowers. Dry in the mouth, juicy, with pineapple aroma, full bodied. The body is full and elegant. The wine is ripe, elegant, with plenty of potential. Sparkling wines are another story. Under the Mosaic name, the rose is made from red and white Pinot, while the white brut from Rebula especially impressive. The Jakončič family makes them since 1995. In any case, the visit to Jakončič was a real treat for all senses, with Croatian wine makers following suit – respecting tradition, advancing technology, loving and playing with grapes and believing in indigenous sorts – they will surely not go wrong. Personal favourites: Mosaic Brut and Carolina Bela – are already in the fridge.


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