To be fair, our trip to Slovenia was laden with agenda and that was to discover the country’s wine!
Europe as a whole produces a lot of really great wine (even in the UK though beers, ales and spirits are more our thing) and a lot of popular countries like Italy, Spain and France get all the praise for their wine though it’s worth noting that there’s fantastic wine outside of these countries.
As with a lot of things travel related, (as cliche as thing might sound) venturing off the beaten track is often where the best travel experiences lie.
On this trip, we ventured off to a country neither of us had visited before Slovenia, in particular – the city of Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city.
The agenda was plain and simple – we would search the width and breadth of this city (and it’s surrounds) for the best wines on offer. It probably comes as no surprise how much we like wine (I’m actually sipping on a glass as I write this) so this was one trip we were definitely looking forward to.
First things first though – hotel check-ins at the Hotel Habakuk where we got welcomed with glasses of bubbly and charcuterie… (Not at bad start so far… 😉 )
The sun was still shining, albeit about to set, so we wasted no time and piled into the waiting taxi for the first of two things for the evening – wine tasting, swiftly followed by dinner.
Wine tasting happened to be a few minutes away from the hotel at Vinag wine cellars, smack in the middle of Maribor.
Before you get to the juicy stuff though, you get to go on a little around the cellars.
Soon enough, you start to really appreciate how much wine history there is here! Some of it dates as far back as the 19th century…
Almost forgot to add, this is actually a very ‘wallet-friendly’ place to visit too – its €3.50 for a tour and €5 if you want a tour and wine tasting (my educated guess is you’d go for the latter option).
Me: “I wonder how easy it would be to take these barrels back home with me…”…. (Seriously, imagine having one of these in your house? Farewell sobriety!)
Before long though, the wine tasting started! Carafe after carafe of delicious Slovenia reds. Now here’s my admission of how much of a terrible student I am. I started paying attention properly at the beginning but partway through – I found a delicious red that I refuse to part with (or spit out, like you should in wine tastings) and proceeded to get merry!
With a smile on my face and a skip in my step, I happily headed off to dinner at MAK restaurant where a tasting menu was waiting with our names on it!
I’d love to tell you everything we had but our actual menu didn’t have the name of a single one of the meals. Apparently, that’s the chef’s trademark – he loves to surprise you as you eat so you know to expect quite a number of courses but he won’t tell you quite how many in advance or what they are until the meal is sitting right in front of you.
There were interesting pieces of salmon, savory little macarons, spicy chicken, fish dishes and even snail caviar as the night went on…
One thing I do remember VERY well is how delicious it all was! Even the ones that I wasn’t sure of when I heard it described to me (e.g. snail caviar) turned out to be quite the treat! I love experiences like this though – I genuinely feel like I leave them realising that there’s so much more amazing food out there in the world to try – a though which makes me very happy indeed! 🙂
This was probably the point in the meal where I just gave up on trying to remember what I was eating and just focused on enjoying it! Okay fine, I’d had quite a few glasses of rather fantastic wine by this stage so I let myself get carried away with the merriness – its not like I had any other plans for the evening after all 😉 .
By the time I went to bed, it was with full tummy and a huge smile!
The next morning, we woke up to sunshine and clear skies, always a nice recipe for a day tasting wine, and headed off to see Maribor in the sunshine!
Okay, fine, we maaaaay have taken a wine-tasting detour…
…and headed to The Old Vine.
The Old Vine is rather quite aptly named as this is officially the oldest wine vine in the world (at least 375 years old but likely over 400 years old). I’ll admit though, when I was initially told this, I was a bit skeptical but there is an official Guinness Book of Records award to confirm this so this is a great way to see a piece of history!
The wine from the old vine however is not particularly great but due to the prestige behind owning it, the wine retails is worth upwards of £5,000 and is usually gifted to dignitaries and notable celebrities.
Before long, we jumped into our first round of wine tasting. Thankfully, you don’t have to drink the wine from the old vine and can try much younger (and more delicious) wines.
Sidebar: On this day, I had at least 5 glasses of wine by noon and pretty much remained sozzled for the rest of the day!
After an hour at the old vine, we moved on to the countryside to carry on our wine tasting, starting with the bubbly stuff… (at this point it’d pretty much moved from wine-tasting t0 wine-drinking for me).
Lunch (or was it brunch?) came in the form of different pizzas – my favourite being the unexpectedly delicious pork crackling pizza. As much as pork crackling is loved back at home in Blighty, I’d never been a fan… until now. Turns out, when it’s freshly out of the oven, pork crackling is a thing of beauty!
Fuelled by pizza, we moved on to a part of the day I’d been looking forward to – cycling from vineyard to vineyard in the Slovenian countryside.
And no, not because we would be cycling (I have no idea what it feels like to be excited by physical exercise), I was excited mostly about the wine but a LOT by the fact that we would be using electric bicycles to explore the countryside!
Cycling is a nice way to take in the sights at your own pace but considering how hilly the countryside was, there was no way I could have done this on a regular bicycle. Okay, fine, I could but I wouldn’t want to 😉 – I came to drink wine not exercise after all! 😉
The Slovenian countryside, by the way, is absolutely picture perfect! Nothing but rolling hill, cows and cute little farm houses as far as the eye can see.
Not a bad place to ‘cycle’ through, right? (Yes, the bicycle was doing all the work but I’m gonna take all the credit).
It must have taken twice as long to get to our very first vineyard but given how beautiful it was here, I’m pretty sure we can be excused…
…before long though, we made our way uphill to our very first vineyard stop.
But more on that later… 🙂