WINE has been made in the region
of present-day Slovakia since ancient times but the country’s 40-year
totalitarian regime suppressed small, private winemakers in favour of
mass production, bringing a poor reputation to this traditional skill.
The fall of the communist regime and open borders has brought new vigour
to Slovak wine producers as well as more curiosity from wine amateurs
as well as connoisseurs. There are now plenty of small and larger
winemakers opening their cellars to more and more people who are
interested in learning about wines made in Slovakia. But winemakers say
Slovakia still has a lot of catching up to do to match the better-known
wine tourism destinations in Europe.
“Wine tourism in Slovakia is still only at its beginnings,”
Vladimír Mrva, a prominent winemaker and co-owner of the Víno
Mrva&Stanko winery in Trnava, told The Slovak Spectator. But he sees
a growing interest in wine in Slovakia. “Wine has become a phenomenon
in Slovakia and that is a positive feature. People are interested in
getting to know more about wine; they are actually hungry for more
Mrva explained that during the communist regime there were only
large wineries that were not interested in having wine lovers visit, and
there was little interest among wine drinkers in learning more about
Slovak wine varietals. He said the situation began to change after the
mid 1990s when a new law on wines was passed, part of which included a
wine classification system, as well as the fact that Slovaks were able
to travel more easily to traditional wine-producing countries in Europe.
“They saw that wine is not only a beautiful drink but also has its
traditions and history,” Mrva said. “They started to search for these
[qualities] in Slovakia and required this as well from Slovak
Wine routes and events
MVC’s most popular event is its annual Day of Open Wine Cellars and
its 12th edition was held on November 18-19. The region’s winemakers
opened their cellars on these two days and offered young as well as
vintage wines for tasting. A total of 130 cellars were open this year
and, as in previous years, the 6,000 tickets for the 2011 event sold out
“This year was exceptionally successful,” Anna Píchová of MVC told
The Slovak Spectator, adding that in spite of the growing interest as
evidenced by the tickets selling out weeks before the event, the
association does not plan to increase the number of tickets because it
wants to maintain the comfort of visitors and allow them to meet and
talk in person with the winemakers.
For those who did not have
a chance to attend the November event, MVC offers a similar event in
May, St Urban’s Day of Open Wine Cellars, which will be held for the 6th
time in 2012, on May 26.
The Tokaj Wine Route is another well-known tourist destination,
this one located in south-eastern Slovakia, in the historic Tokaj wine
region. This is one of the few areas in the world in which three
specific varieties of grapes can be successfully grown to produce the
naturally sweet wines of the region, according to the association that
sponsors the Tokaj Wine Route.
The Tokaj Wine Cellars Open Day is
held each year in September and this year’s event on September 17 and 18
drew thousands of people.
Slovak wine routes are visited most often by Slovak and Czech
tourists, but they also attract Austrian, Swiss, and French visitors as
well as Poles who have discovered the fine wines produced in Slovakia.
“Poles have discovered Slovakia as a wine-producing region,”
Píchová said. “They come here directly with the aim of tasting wines,
not only while transiting Slovakia and travelling somewhere else.”
Building wine tourism
“Wine is only one part of a visitor’s itinerary,” Mrva stated,
adding that since it is not easy to attract visitors to come to a region
they should get a whole palette of opportunities: where to go, where to
stay and eat, and what to see. “Now everybody is working on their own
and the offer is not coordinated.”
He sees the short, 15-year history of modern winemaking in Slovakia as part of the problem.
“This is too short a time for germination of a network of
facilities and preparation of an extensive offer as there is, for
instance, in Austria, not to mention wine tourism areas in countries
such as France, Italy or Spain,” Mrva stated.
Píchová also sees insufficient money as a problem, noting that
winemakers in Morava, in the nearby Czech Republic, had a promotional
fund of tens of millions of Czech crowns last year.
“We do not have such a fund,” Píchová said, adding that MVC must live on its own resources.
Nevertheless, Slovak wine-makers see a bright future in wine
tourism and are expanding their facilities and offers. In addition to
producing wines and arranging wine tastings, some are beginning to offer
accommodation, along with gastronomic and relaxation services. J&J
Ostrožovič, a producer of Tokaj wine, plans to build a golf course.
Víno Mrva&Stanko has also expanded its premises and now offers
wine storage and accommodation in addition to wine tastings.
“We were inspired by what we saw at wineries in Australia and New
Zealand, as well as in traditional European winemaking countries like
France and Italy,” Mrva said. “We saw that it is ideal and each
winemaker told us to let those who are interested in wine to come and
see where our wine is produced, to touch the barrels and to breathe the
aroma. This gives us the chance to explain our philosophy to visitors.”
This appears to have been a sound decision because Víno
Mrva&Stanko now gets between two and three groups of visitors a day.
Some visitors are those who are just ‘starting with wine’ and seek
basic information about wine varieties, how to select a wine to serve
with individual dishes, and how to serve wine. Other visitors are wine
connoisseurs with deep knowledge who, for example, ask for a vertical
degustation in which they sample individual vintages of a specific
varietal such as Cabernet Sauvignon and want a description and
evaluation of individual years.
Other visitors are wine merchants and sommeliers who want to know
more about the wine they sell or serve than is written on the bottle’s
Is rosé the future?
Mrva said Slovakia has diverse soil as well as different climatic
conditions and this means several kinds of wines can be produced well,
adding that the country belongs to the northern European wineproducing
region and that provides Slovak wines with nice, piquant acids that make
them very fresh and modern. He believes wines from southern regions,
which are more alcoholic, lack this quality and the current trend among
wine enthusiasts is to drink young and fresh wines. Mrva particularly
sees rosé wines as an excellent opportunity for Slovakia and several
rosé wines from his company have received prestigious prizes, with its
Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2009 winning the Champion prize at the 2010
Vinalies Internationales in Paris.
“If Slovak winemakers work on it, Slovakia can become a country of
rosé wines,” Mrva stated. “We have beautiful rosé wines that have won
international prizes. These wines can show the diversity of our wines.”
5 Dec 2011 Jana Liptáková