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A visionary from Bela krajina

 

Pushing boundaries and creating excellence

Only an hour and fifteen minutes’ drive from Ljubljana, Slovenia's smallest wine-growing district Bela krajina, named after birches or the prevailing whiteness of limestone that gives the basic mark to the stony Karst surface, is hidden in south-eastern Slovenia.

The Šturms have been pushing boundaries and showing Bela krajina ‘s wine potential since the onset. The first vines located in Vidošiči above Metlika were planted by Otmar Šturm in 1968. A thousand vines of Yellow Muscat. It was not permitted to plant this variety in Bela krajina at the time, while today, this very variety, albeit scarce, constitutes the best achievements of white wine. Thanks to considerable efforts of the Šturms who have shown the way. The story of Traminer, which the Šturms have named the forbidden fruit and is possibly the most infamous wine from Bela krajina, is similar. Why the forbidden fruit? They were not permitted to name it Traminer in 1993, as it was not permitted to plant this variety in Bela krajina at the time. Resourceful Otmar Šturm registered it as a blend, and later, as the wine won medals at various competitions, Traminer became a permitted variety in Bela krajina.

The Šturms always offer something new. If quantity and particularly cheap and simple white and red varieties were more important than quality during socialism in Bela krajina, Šturm was the first in the region to be aware of the potential of Blaufränkisch and to bottle it independently. Today, Blaufränkisch is the flagship variety among Bela krajina’s varieties, and undoubtedly has the greatest potential.

“A lion that imitates a lion is not a lion but a monkey,” says Otmar Šturm Jr., a self-taught man who did not attend oenology schools. He points out the significance of tradition, family, and the environment. He does not copy other people, but makes the best with his own knowledge, and the knowledge of his tradition and natural features. A thousand vines in 1968 grew into four hectares of their own and four hectares of rented vineyards. They produce between 40,000 and 60,000 litres of wine annually.

Wine Cellar
Photo: Marjan Močivnik, Šturm Archive

Wine-growing Bela krajina in miniature

Innovation is not a thing of the past. Each new vintage corroborates quality.

At Šturm’s, you can taste the whole of wine-growing Bela krajina in miniature. From light-bodied, fresh wines to full and complex orange wines, and excellent predicate wines. At the beginning, Ana, a sparkling wine made with the classical method, refreshes your taste buds. Wines are divided into three collections, i.e. the white, blue, and the gold collection. The white collection includes wines from younger vineyards with emphasised varietal character. Tasting the indigenous white Kraljevina is a must. The blue collection represents selected positions, perfectly ripe grapes, and more complex wines, among which indigenous Blaufränkisch and Yellow Muscat stand out. The golden label is attached to wines of the highest class produced only a few times in a decade whenever nature facilitates excellent conditions. The gold collection includes macerated white and predicate wines, such as ice wines and Trockenbeerenauslesse that are at the level of the best German predicate wines.

The Šturm’s wine cellar is located at their homestead below St Ana. Otmar and his wife Lidija extend the hospitality characteristic of Bela krajina. The aroma and flavour of Bela Krajina pogača and superb local meat products pair with (more than) a glass of Metliška Črnina. By previous agreement, a genuine Bela krajina feast with delicious roast lamb or piglet will await. The Šturm’s wine shop Grajska klet is located by the road through Metlika, at medieval Metlika Castle, which is managed by Šturm’s daughters, both trained sommeliers.

Bela krajina is a less known wine-growing district, but has a lot to offer. Superb wine and culinary experiences may be enriched with a visit to the idyllic Kolpa River . To learn about gastronomy and culture, a visit to the traditional Bela krajina wine festival Vinska vigred in May is a must.