I’ve mentioned before that I was fortunate enough to spend nearly a year living abroad and roaming Europe’s numerous wine regions. If you told me one of my wine stops would be in Bratislava, Slovakia, I likely wouldn’t have believed you, but once I was there tasting the wines, this country’s wine regions are now on my radar!

One of the benefits of traveling around Europe by car is that you can take your time, get off the beaten path and visit new sights not necessarily on the average tourist’s agenda. This time it just so happened I was traveling from Budapest, Hungary, which I was pained to leave, back to my home-base in Poland, and Bratislava, Slovakia was on the route right at lunch time. It was a Saturday afternoon and the town was relatively quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of Budapest or Krakow. Trams and buses went by, and some locals walked the streets, but it was certainly a noticeable contrast. I made my way to the Old Town and Hlavné Námestie (Main Square) to see what I could discover on this brief side trip and much to my surprise, the Old Town was filled with quaint streets, restaurants, shops and even a wine museum!

Bratislava is a very pretty city with an old European vibe in the square and a dynamically changing metro area. Remember, that Eastern Europe only came out from behind the Iron Curtain in 1989, after which followed a deep economic crisis. This is a young democratic region that is still very much in the midst of transition, but that’s part of its absolute charm and fascination to me. I only stayed long enough to have lunch at Kaffee Mayer and wander the Old Town, but it was well-worth the detour. My children were entranced by the handmade wooden puppets and we meandered our way through this cobblestone district only to be delighted at the charm of every new block. I imagine as time goes on, Bratislava will gain in popularity for tourists visiting Vienna and Budapest. It almost felt as though we happened upon it at the beginning of a new era and I’m happy we did. It was like discovering a lesser known treasure.

A Taste of Slovakian Wines in Bratislava

As for the wine…I was very pleasantly surprised, impressed in fact. Having just spent two weeks developing a palate for Hungarian wine, Slovakian wine was strikingly different. It had nuance and elegance that I wasn’t expecting.

At the wine museum tasting, I was offered a tasting of 12 different wines, including whites, rosés and reds and many of them were much to my liking. The young gentleman at the museum (which was empty except for my family) was very informative and helpful providing us with a brief overview of Slovakia’s wine regions, maps and terroir. Even if the town had not been as scenic, this would have made the stop worthwhile.

Winetraveler Tip: Since I’ve been to Bratislava, a few new wine bars and tasting options have appeared on the scene, including: Wine Not?, Viecha, the Grand Cru Wine Gallery and The Taste. Check them out for a range of Slovakian options as well.

Bratislava Slovakia

I barely scraped the surface of this Eastern European city, but with that said, I’m happy to have made its acquaintance. Which is why when I recently met Michal Kosorín who is revitalizing vineyards in Svätý Jur, outside of Bratislava, I knew we had to chat more in-depth. Unfortunately, the proximity of Jur to Bratislava has made it an attractive area for suburban development and hectares of vineyards have been bought for residential sprawl. However, Michal has been slowly acquiring these forgotten vineyards with the express intention of transforming them into functional wine producing sites.

Michal acquired his first vineyard of Welschriesling in 2017 and added another a year later. He is now committed full-time to making wines from this almost forgotten winemaking region. He has currently restored one hectare of vineyards without the use of herbicides and has another two lots ready for revitalization before the next season.

A Brief History and Overview of the Svätý Jur

Of the six Slovakian wine regions, Svätý Jur sits in the Malokarpatská wine region, north of Bratislava, making it easily accessible from either the Budapest or the Bratislava airports. Here, vineyards are planted on the slopes and plains of the Lesser Carpathian mountain range and in locality Záhorie.

The first written mention of the Svätý Jur sub-region dates back to 1209 AD. For centuries this region remained a strong viticultural area with vineyards accounting for around 700 hectares. However, during Communism, much like elsewhere in Eastern Europe, quality winemaking was replaced with quantity winemaking. The local state-run collective reduced the number of vines and only worked approximately 450 hectares, while drastically reducing the quality for which the area had been known. Today, the wine culture is once again maturing and quality is the center of focus; yet, only 200 hectares are being cultivated in the region.

Slovakian Wine Classification & Grape Varieties

We can find Slovakian wines classified in compliance with European wine legislation and according to origin, maturity level of the grapes and the winemaking technology used. The majority of grapes grown are white including Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot blanc and Riesling. The red varieties, account for around one-fifth of the vineyards and are mainly represented by Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent and Cabernet Sauvignon, which flourishes in the warmer parts of the country.

For the Malokarpatská in particular, the climate is continental and the soils are silty sands spanning 132 specified sub-regions. Grapes here typically achieve higher sugar content making full-bodied wines with intense flavors and marked acidity. Many of them will be suitable for aging. Grüner Veltliner is the most widely planted variety with Welschriesling and Müller Thurgau following next (and even some Romanian Feteasca Regala!) For red varieties, St. Laurent, Blaufränkisch and Cabernet Sauvignon can be found.

Lotrowin

For Michal Kosorín and his Lotrowin project, he has several goals. His first goal is to revitalize his vineyards organically and free of herbicides. He also hopes to gradually increase the area of vineyards under cultivation in the Svätý Jur. The core of his vineyards are rented for 15 to 20 years in order to secure the profitability of planting the new grafts. It is also important to Michal to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the region and make Bratislava and Slovakia as a whole more attractive for wine tourism.

For more information you can find Michal on Instagram @lotrowin or listen to his story on YouTube below.

Or, perhaps you want to explore the burgeoning city of Bratislava and its surrounding wine regions yourself. As a fellow Winetravler and wine lover myself, I can tell you it’s an area to keep an eye on. And if you happen to visit, reach out to Michal and see if you can take a look at his vineyards. No doubt, he and his father will be out dutifully working the vines.


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Kristy Wenz
Wine / Travel Writer & WSET III Candidate at Winetraveler
Kristy Wenz is a Wine & Travel Writer for Winetraveler. She is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover and avid traveler. She first developed a passion for wine travel at random in Southern California. Since that first experience, Kristy has explored wineries in over 20 states from coast-to-coast as well as multiple European wine regions. When she's not writing about wine, wine traveling or updating her cellar in Vivino, she can likely be found sipping a Cab Franc from her travels while cooking dinner with her family.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristy Wenz is a Wine & Travel Writer for Winetraveler. She is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover and avid traveler. She first developed a passion for wine travel at random in Southern California. Since that first experience, Kristy has explored wineries in over 20 states from coast-to-coast as well as multiple European wine regions. When she's not writing about wine, wine traveling or updating her cellar in Vivino, she can likely be found sipping a Cab Franc from her travels while cooking dinner with her family.

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