In a sentence
A weekend in the great outdoors, with sun, fresh air, bikes, and a lot of wine.
We are always on the lookout for lesser-known (to us) wine regions, so when we were invited to Slovenia by our friend the winechap, on a trip with a wine focus, it was an immediate yes. We weren’t sure what to pack, or to expect – which was a nice change. Bit of an adventure.
Staying at the base of the Pohorje mountain in Maribor (a popular ski resort), our time at the ‘soon to get a glossover’ Habakuk hotel definitely felt like an outdoorsey getaway. By day it was thermal spas and hikes up the ski hill; by night it was blueberry schnapps and wine saunas. So far, so local. Slovenia, they say, is the only European country that combines Alpine with Mediterranean. We’d say it felt more Alpine, but overall, it definitely just felt special.
We were here to go on a wine hunt and from the moment we arrived, we were all about the wine. We saw the ‘oldest vine in the world’, a wall of wine queens (a pageant we can get behind – these are ladies who know their grapes), more barrels than you could shake a stick at and heard vivid stories of how the cellars were used in WWII. Our highlight, however, was definitely a day we spent wine’ing around on electric bikes. After a local pizza (pork scratchings) and light tasting, we headed out to visit three additional vineyards, biking through the hills until we arrived at each picturesque, family-run spot where we were offered amazing views, charcuterie, several wines to try, and other points of interest (goats). If you aren’t familiar with Slovenian wine from the Maribor region, the focus is white (as in, 90%), but they do have some Pinot Noirs (we loved the sparkling ones). And if you aren’t familiar with electric bikes, they are basically like scooters, meaning you can cruise up the hills without breaking a sweat. Which is helpful after a couple of ‘tastings’.
On the first night, we had a dinner at a place called MAK. A quick Internet search before basically let us know that the food sounded pretty good, but the experience that followed was worth the trip alone. Residing in what (we think) looked like a house on the side of a highway, this gastro haunt had no more than 6 tables, and the decor made you feel like you were in someone’s home. The chef, David Vracko, trained at Noma and recently returned home to takeover his parents’ restaurant; his quirky demeanour (which we got to know via his introduction of each course) definitely added eccentric flair (#UJloves) to the proceedings. And then there was his cooking. Nine courses of – you guessed it – Noma calibre. A highlight was definitely his lethal coffee with pear liqueur and his disco cellar where guests were invited for afters, complete with vinyl and wine in the walls. This was our kind of spot. #wineraveinthewinecave.
We’d definitely come back in the summer as the Alpine options – walking, hiking, biking, gondola riding, and something that looked a bit like crazy mouse’ing, with concerts and other special events – would make a good weekend, anytime. The scenery here, all mountains and lakes, sea and rolling hills, is truly spectacular.
Ptuj was definitely our favourite town. Here’s where we found quirky bars, cobbled streets, old semi-standing monuments, cute boutique hotels and our favourite tasting spot, the Kobal Winery’s showroom. Make sure you try and buy a C’est Bon: it is! (sorry).
Things to Note
Again, Slovenia (in the Maribor region) has a white wine focus: good to know. They also produce really great pumpkin oil, so be sure to bring some home. There are not a lot of shops – we were told that ever since the hypermarkets came into town, the town centres have really suffered (they felt empty/abandoned) – so don’t lose your bag. When the bars cleared out at night at 12ish, we wondered where everyone went. We now hear that most bars have ‘cellars’ underground where people retreat to for the afters, so keep your ears out.
Sleazyjet flies to Ljubljana in just over 2 hours from Stansted. Maribor is approx. 1.5 hours from Ljubljana.http://www.hotel-habakuk.si/en/