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An 880-year-old wine story

 

“I thought I’d seen it all ..."

“First, let’s go to the cellar," says Danilo Flakus, the director and the main oenologist of Dveri-Pax, with a slightly cheeky grin. Large stainless still vats sit in the first cellar.

From the cellar, the path takes you through a 150-year-old chestnut-lined avenue. After a short stroll through the avenue, a view of a completely renovated manor from 1573 opens up. A thick 100-year-old linden tree – the symbol of Slovenian identity – dominates the courtyard. Well-maintained tables and benches are placed underneath it. Can you imagine a sunny day in the shadow of the mighty tree with a glass of cold sparkling Furmint in your hand?

The Dveri-Pax Winery in Jarenina near Maribor is among the leading wine producers in Slovenia by both quality and size. On 73 hectares of their own vineyards, 350,000 bottles are bottled annually. 80 per cent of the wine is white and 20 per cent red, which is a lot for a winemaker from Štajerska.

The wine-growing tradition at the Dveri-Pax Estate dates back to 1139 when monasteries took most credit for the development of wine-growing in Slovenia. The tradition was broken before World War II and resumed as Dveri-Pax in 2002. For the owners, Benedictine monks from Admont Abbey, who measure time in centuries, this is just a “blind spot” in an otherwise long success story. In the Middle Ages, wine was the main source of their income. The Benedictine monks from Admont Abbey were thankful for everything the estates in Jarenina and its near and far surroundings had given them through centuries, so they decided to overhaul the manor from 1573 to make it one of the most beautiful wine spots in Slovenia.

At the estate, a copy of the deed of donation from 1139 proves that they were engaged in wine-growing at the estate even back then.

Dveri-Pax Vineyards
Photo: Ciril Ambrož, Dveri-Pax Archive

From the garden to your plate

The manor is also home to a restaurant and a wine bar, but before entering the manor, Flakus points to the right, to a large garden: “In season, we produce most ingredients by ourselves, so there are practically zero metres to the kitchen."

The way to the wine bar runs through the restaurant which is located in the former wine cellar. Low vaulted ceilings in combination with modern lighting create a festive but relaxed atmosphere. Place settings on white tablecloths on mighty oak tables are arranged almost as precisely as the barrels in the cellar. Chef Igor Šagi, whose cuisine is based on local ingredients and modern techniques, was a breath of fresh air in the restaurant. Visitors will tell you that you will experience one of the finest culinary experiences in Štajerska in the manor’s vaulted cellar from the 16th century, where wines used to age 200 and 300 years ago. Samo Simonič and Urh Jakop are in charge of service. They know everything about Dveri-Pax wines, and you can also talk to them about local history. They will help you pick wine from a wide selection. It is difficult to highlight only one among the nine wines they produce, but if you visit Dveri-Pax Wine Cellar, the tasting of Furmints is a must. Their Furmint comes from the vineyards around Jeruzalem , and opens the door to foreign markets for them, including Great Britain, the USA, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Furmit from the Benedict line may be paired with local meat products or sushi in Tokyo. The Ilovci Furmint, which is matured in wood, requires slightly more intensive flavours. The latest hit is a sparkling DP Furmint Brut made from 100 per cent Furmint. In 2019, it thrilled the tasters at Decanter World Wine Awards with its bubbles and was awarded the gold medal .

If you are up for an international variety, let us mention that Tony Laithwaite, a well-known British wine merchant and the founder of Direct Wines, was fascinated by Chardonnay during his visit in 2015. “I’d offer it to the buyers at my London shop, saying “Would you like a Burgundy wine but don’t want to spend too much? Try this one.” Another London merchant, Mark Savage MW (Master of Wine), is captivated by Dveri-Pax’s Pinot Noir wines. Oz Clark, a famous television presenter and wine writer, said about him: “I don’t think Mark Savage could buy a dull wine if he tried.”

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