20 Nov 23
Slovenian Wine & Walking
One of my favourite travel moments this year was with a local winemaking family, Sandra and Matej Bizjak and their young son Max, whiling away an afternoon in a charming and rustic cellar door and vineyard situated in the Vipava Valley amongst the karst hills of Slovenia. We had arrived for what we thought would be a quick stop at Santei wines tucked away on a back road in one of Slovenia’s premier wine-growing regions, on our way to the Adriatic Coast. Our hosts Sandra and Matej were formerly a biologist and a mathematician and no doubt brought that meticulous and scientific approach to their wine-making. They also paired that with the Slovenian passion for local produce, sustainable methods and an appreciation for a local, ‘grassroots’ style that respects nature.
They had started Santei in 2008 to ‘offer wine-lovers a new, organic, natural and unforgettable wine experience’ with their range of bio-dynamic wines and spirits and I have think they have definitely succeeded in those ambitions. Living on the Mornington Peninsula and having run a wine tour company I’m pretty familiar with cellar doors but for me, it’s the warmth of the people that makes for a memorable experience – not how fancy or expensive the estate is.
After enjoying a wonderful lunch that they prepared as we sat in the barrel room, we moved outside and began to sample their wines in the warm Slovenian sunshine. Can anything beat the mellow, languid feeling of a long summer day sat in the sunshine with glass of wine in your hand and good company to share it with? Our intention was to have just one glass but that soon dissolved as they plied us with yet another glass of their excellent wines (we eventually tried the whole range – and then the spirits!). But above all, it was the warmth and good humour of our hosts that made a pleasant stop into a wonderful afternoon of great conversation, laughter and connection with this lovely family.
Throughout our time in Slovenia we met local people who had a real passion for what they did: producing meals from food they had grown in their own gardens, wines and cordials they had made themselves, honey from their own beehives. These encounters had a simplicity and authenticity about them that is often so lacking in the age of mass tourism, and reminded me of earlier decades of meeting locals while travelling.
It’s always a beautiful thing to experience such connection and generosity from people you’ve only just met who live on the other side of the world from you. Such moments in travel are priceless and can’t be bought, only hoped for and experienced for what they are. When they happen, they remind us of why we travel in the first place.
Sansei wines can be found at https://www.santei.si/en/