Italy. France. Spain. These are the regions everyone’s minds jump to when someone says “European wine country.” However, wine regions can be found in even the most remote, tucked away parts of Europe that would make you think “there?”. These are often places experimenting with organic, biodynamic, and natural wines. Natural wine is “a term used to describe wines that are farmed organically, typically using practices like biodynamics, and made without adding or removing anything during the winemaking process. This means no fining or filtering and no adding of acid, sugar or any other components. Below we will explore what natural wine is, who makes it, where it comes from, the debate around it, and where you can find it here in the US.”
One such up-and-coming wine region with longstanding roots in Slovakia. Nestled between Austria to the east and Hungary to the south (both well-regarded wine regions in their own right), Slovakia is perfectly positioned to make wines in a similar style to their neighbors. Here, they mostly focus on cooler-climate varietals like Grüner, Welschriesling, and Blaufrankish, grapes that can withstand large diurnal swings and colder temperatures in the evening.
The Slovakian wine map can be divided into 5 distinct regions, as follows:
- Malokarpatská vinohradnícka oblasť - "Little Carpathians Wine Region"
- Južnoslovenská vinohradnícka oblasť - "South Slovak Wine Region"
- Nitrianska vinohradnícka oblasť - "Nitra Wine Region"
- Stredoslovenská vinohradnícka oblasť - "Central Slovak Wine Region"
- Východoslovenská vinohradnícka oblasť - "East Slovak Wine Region"
- Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj - "Wine Region of Tokaj"
The most well-regarded region is Tokaj, which is importing a significant amount of wine into the United States from both Slovakia and Hungary (mostly Hungary). While Tokaj is mostly known as a sweet wine, which comes from fermenting grapes that have been affected by botrytis, they are also making a number of world-class dry whites from grapes like furmint.
Many producers that are beginning to garner local attention are those experimenting which natural wine. Natural wines are a way for these producers (often younger) to revert their winemaking styles from that of what their parents may have been doing, to something simpler that better expresses the natural qualities of the grape and the location in which it was grown. As such, there’s a burgeoning scene of young, authentic natural winemakers in the Tokaj region of Slovakia that are just waiting to be discovered.
Because of its small size, the Tokaj region of Slovakia can be easily covered in a car over the span of a week or so. This means many tastings, affordable accommodations, and easy vacations (Slovakia does use the Euro, unlike their Hungarian neighbors). Here’s a guide of the Tokaj wine region of Slovakia.
Next time you’re thinking about hitting the wine trail for something a little different, check out Slovakia - you just may be the first person to stumble upon the next big thing!