You have to love a winemaker who recognises when refreshment comes first. I won’t ever forget a 2013 visit to Uros Klabjan‘s small estate in west Slovenia. For mid-May, the weather was unusually hot. We drove high up onto the Karst plateau for an outstanding view over the region, and Klabjan immediately produced a chilled bottle of a delicious young Malvazija and four glasses from the depths of his 4×4. Our thirsts were slaked, and friendship assured.
This isn’t the only reason I make a beeline for Klabjan’s wines whenever I see them. Uros is a warm, convivial character refreshingly devoid of the ego that some cult winemakers unfortunately develop. Furthermore, his wines are outstanding examples of the taut, structured style from this part of Slovenia.
Despite being on the edge of the Karst region (Carso in Italian, Kras in Slovene), Klabjan is properly in Slovenian Istra, a sub-region that unfortunately tends to be ignored at the expense of its neighbours Goriska Brda and Croatian Istria. With a focus on the region’s indigenous varieties, Malvazija Istarka and Refosk, Klabjan has some wonderful ungrafted vines in a valley which narrowly escaped being bulldozed. A nearby motorway bridge reduced the size of his estate by a few hectares.
Uros has an old, traditional cellar where he works mainly with wood, apart from a few stainless steel tanks which are used for the “white label”, young Malvasia. It’s not hard to sense the man’s enthusiasm when you taste here. We dart around a bewildering number of different vintages and barrel sizes, marking how differently the same wine ages in each case.
Klabjan’s wines can be quite lean in their youth, a quality which I find very typical around the Karst, but given a year or two’s ageing they really start to blossom and express themselves.
Malvazija Black Label 2012 (the current release) is built for the long-haul, with 10 days of skin contact to strengthen it for the ride. The aromas are charming and floral, with nutty apricot fruit and a pleasing earthiness adding complexity. There’s plenty of depth and interest, but what really makes the wine sing is the lively intensity. This is a wine that grabs you by the hand and whisks you along, before settling down into a superbly elegant, stoney finish.
Talking of refreshment, it’s worth taking the time to eat in Uros’s grandmother’s restaurant in nearby Dekani. A bottle of white label Malvazija is just perfect to wash down the superbly fresh, simply presented seafood, and if it’s a nice day there are few better places than the restaurant’s garden to sit back and enjoy life.
Klabjab’s wines are distributed in the UK by Pacta Connect.