Liter-ally, the Only Way to Start the New Year

Silvo Crnko
Silvo Črnko

In classic post holiday season fashion, I’m just now writing the January newsletter on the 10th. January feels like you need to pop the clutch going up a hill in order to get things going again. No push button start to this month. It’s also a time when the pendulum starts to swing the other way in terms of drinking. While of course a champion of all things sparkling, aged, sweet, fortified and so on throughout the holidays, now I crave a solid and refreshing table wine – ideally in liter form. On a practical level, wines like this not only help us atone for some perhaps overextended purchases, but also mark the return to casual dinners and that end of the day glass or two. Keeping this in mind, here are some liters to help transition into the New Year.

Ironically, the smallest country in the portfolio has our largest selection of liters – Slovenia. About an hour’s drive south of Graz, the heart of Austria’s Styria, and just north of the Slovenian city of Maribor, we find Silvo Črnko (Chair-n-ko). This is an impossibly fertile region littered with apples, hops, pumpkin seed oil and wine at every turn. Silvo and his daughter Tamara also tend livestock for meat and cheese, mill their own grains, and have a deep pickled and preserved operation. Appropriately, their Jareninčan liter goes with everything. The Jareninčan (Yerra-neen-chan) is an all estate field blend of mostly Laški Rizling (Welschriesling), Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Rizvanec (Müller-Thurgau), but there are a host of aromatic grapes like Gewürztraminer and Yellow Muscat that are often blended in later. Crowd pleasing, well farmed, and delicious.

Jernej Martinčič
Jernej Martinčič

About a 2 hour drive due south of Črnko in the Dolenjska wine region is father and son France and Jernej Martinčič. This is one of the most unique wines in the portfolio hidden away in a liter. The name Cviček (Zvee-Check) is basically Slovenian for “very sour wine.” Also notable is that it’s always a blend of native red and white varieties (Kraljevina, Laški Riesling, Sylvaner, Žlahtnina, Ranfol, Lipna, Žametovka, Franconian, Portugalka etc in this case…) that cannot exceed 10% alcohol and must be dry. The color looks like something in between a Poulsard and cherry juice. If something can be sour without been green and be structured at 10% alcohol and dry, then I’m not sure what else it could be other than Cviček. Served like a chillable red and don’t be shy throwing meat and fat at it.

Jernej Martinčič
Tamara Glavina

Keeping with the 2 hour drive theme, head east towards the Slovenian port city of Koper just south of Trieste to find Santomas. The estate is run by 5th and 6th generation father and daughter Ludvik and Tamara Glavina. Virtually the entire production is devoted to all things Refošk. While certainly related to Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso in nearby Friuli and Teran in nearby Kras/Carso, there are clonal mutations that have taken place over hundreds of years. The incessant “Bora” winds keep the acidity fresh and yet there’s enough growing season for ripe fruit. This is one of those reds where you can throw it at a smoked pork shoulder or have it with anchovies. Personally, it’s a dead ringer for a chilled house red in a rocks glass that you just keep ordering as the conversation gets louder.

Jernej Martinčič
Birgit Pfneisl

Last but not least, are the Pfneisl sisters Birgit and Katrin who can be found south of the Hungarian town of Sopron and just south west of Lake Neusiedl in Austria’s Burgenland. We also work with Pfneiszl (look for the “z”) which are their Hungarian wines. In short, the family originally fled nearby Sopron to escape Communism but then returned in the early 1990s to start anew. In any case, the Blaufränker and Zweigler liters are two special projects we pull from the Austrian side. Reductive grapes by nature, these are both aged in large oak tanks until ready to drink. Certified organic fruit that could easily go into a 750ml, but there’s something so convivial and inviting about these two wines that a liter is the smallest feasible vessel.

All in all, good wines to jumpstart us into the New Year and to sincerely thank you for all of your support in 2018.