Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno
New & Hot element on Slovak winemaking scene
(author: Juraj Konecny)
Although not well known on global wine scene, Slovak winemaking has gone through many changes since the fall of communism nearly three decades ago. State cooperatives dissolved into many small and a few larger wine houses, focusing on quality rather than quantity and supported by heavy financial investments into the industry. Independence opened new avenues giving winemakers the freedom to choose a preferred method of production. The majority (including all the big players) inclined towards technologically refined wines produced mostly with selected yeast using shiny new hi-tech equipment.
One of the newest Slovak winemaking communities “Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno” (“Vína spod Vulkánu Sitno”, in Slovak) chose a completely different approach to viticulture and vinification. Three boutique vintners from Tekov region - Pivnica Čajkov, Pivnica Brhlovce and MarvlaTindo, work mostly with local varieties historically grown in the region for centuries (Feteasca Regala, Blaufränkisch, Dunaj, Gruner Veltliner, Devin, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling). Aiming to unveil the full potential of their wines, they combine unique terroir of local vineyards on volcanic soils and re-discovered traditional winemaking techniques with emphasis on as little intervention in the cellar as possible. Probably the only experimentation is with the lenght of skin or lees contact, time of harvest and possible blending.
The official announcement of the Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno came on the 2nd of June 2016, when the three met with another similarly minded and well-established group of natural winemakers from Strekov region called Autentista Slovakia. The three vintners presented their points of difference making their wines what they are.
The vineyards are set on the northern part of the wine growing regions of central Europe at the foothills of Štiavnica Mountains with its peak – Sitno. Local volcanic soils consisting of tuff and andesite create unique conditions for grape growing with optimal drainage and water retention due to porous stones, which support vines in hot summer droughts. There is no lack of nutrients, especially magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron and sodium.
Due to multiple lava outbreaks in the past, there are many microclimate differences in the region. This enables the vintners to observe, learn and experiment with the most suitable varieties, harvest times and yield management. Ján Záborský, the winemaker and owner of Pivnica Brhlovce states, that; "Our wines are from the northern border of wine-growing in Central Europe. We have quite substantial differences in the weather between each vintage. Therefore, the key to understanding our wines is to know the character of the individual vintages."
Winemaking should not be a race for gold medals. Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno have no goals like this. Uniqueness is not approved in wine competitions, but by our customer’s loyalty. As Marek Uhnák, the owner and winemaker from Pivnica Čajkov states: "I am not pursuing success in contests, point scoring or medals with my wines, nor am I simply searching for the best wine. With time I came to realize that the real gold is the character and personality of our unique region, which cannot be forcefully injected into the glass.” Vlado Kuny from MarvlaTindo winery concludes, that; "It is important to let nature and time speak, because to be a witness of the process is more than to be its director."
Selected wines from the three winemakers;
Pesecká leánka 2015, Pivnica Čajkov
This winery is known for producing one of the best Feteasca Regala (Pesecká Leanka) wines in Slovakia. It is an indigenous white aromatic variety historically coming from Romania and successfully cloned in the mid 20th century in the nearby town of Pesek (Slovakia). As with all their wines, Pesecká was fermented spontaneously on its own yeast and matured for six months on fine lees in inert vessels. The 2015 vintage generated a juicy, lively young wine full of varietal fruit character and slightly sweet apricot finish.
Blaufränkisch (Frankovka modrá) 2013 Rustikal, Pivnica Brhlovce
Yet another historically famous variety of the volcanic region, this wine comes from an 8 year old vineyard with tuff subsoil. Twelve months maturation in neutral oak barrels, followed by 6 months in stainless steel provides this Frankovka with typical savory, spicy and herbal notes. Although it can be enjoyed now, this wine is intended to be aged and cellared.
Cuvée Albína 2014, MarvlaTindo
This is the flagship cuvée of this vintner, whose grapes come from an old family vineyard cultivated using organic processes. The blend consists of three varieties, Feteasca Regala (Pesecká Leánka), Pinot blanc and Gewürztraminer. The must ferments spontaneously and separately without interventions and only afterwards the right proportions are blended to maintain the desired house style.
Two groups of Slovak artisan winemakers; Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno & Autentista Slovakia and guests in front of Pivnica Čajkov's ancient winery in Nemcinany
Zsolt Sütő from Strekov 1075 winery chcecks aspect of local vineyards in Cajkov with volcanic sub-soils
Used barriques filled with Blaufräkisch in Brhlovce resting in winery cut in lava stone
In front of the Pivnica Brhlovce winery in Brhlovce, UNESCO protected heritage
Part of the winemakers meeting was pairing of local foods with Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno
Jan Zaborsky from Pivnica Brhlovce explained his vision on the positioning of the new vintners group
MarvlaTindo winery - common attitude about winemaking process intervention in the cellar between Autentista Slovakia and Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno - less is more
Bandy Matyas from Matyas winery compares his and MarvlaTindo's Feteasca Regala. The influence of soil, cliamate, aspect and clone can make a significant difference
Autentista Slovakia in the heat of “inspection” (after home made liver paté combined with structured orange Pinot gris left macerating on skins for 1 week from Pivnica Cajkov)
Discussion followed on and more common practices were defined, no selected yeast, no additives except of small amounts of SO2 to be used..
Marek Uhnak, Pivnica Cajkov winery (one of the 3 members of Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno)
Vlado Kuny, MarvlaTindo winery (one of the 3 members of Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno)
Jan Zaborsky, Pivnica Brhlovce (one of the 3 members of Wines From Under the Volcano Sitno)