Website: Batič Winery
Country Location: Slovenia
With an immense respect for nature, viewing themselves more as expert gatherers rather than heavy-handed winemakers, and paying special attention to local varieties and winemaking traditions, the Batič family makes wines that honestly reflect the land and vintage.
The people. Founded in 1592, Ivan Batič and his son Miha make wine based on over 400 of years of experience. This history supercedes what’s currently fashionable, and Miha was even forbidden from attending oenological school because his father feared it would cloud his brain. Not surprisingly, there is an undeniable faith in the supernatural and a keen sense of their relationship to it. Although they choose techniques like extended maceration at uncontrolled temperatures, indigenous yeast fermentation, and fermenting and aging in local Slovenian oak - nature and the heavens are the ones truly in charge.
The appellation. Slovenia is wedged between Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia with a tiny 40km stretch touching the Adriatic Sea in the southwest corner. Slovenia had its fair share of occupation, annexation and cultural influence ranging from the Roman Empire, Austro- Hungarian Empire, Germany, Italy, Croatia, and most recently, Yugoslavia. Slovenia became in independent country 1991.
The Vipavska Dolina (Vipava Valley) lies within the Primorje wine growing region of Western Slovenia right along the Italian border. The land enjoys both a Mediterranean and Alpine microclimate coupled with marl, clay, flysch and sandstone rich soil. Warm nurturing air flows in from the Adriatic and over the Friuli-Venezia Giulia plains while cool air rushes down from the Alps helping retain acidity and aromatics. Overall, the region is characterized by powerful mineral driven reds like Refošk, Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (as is also common in neighboring Fruili), and a host of fascinating white varieties like Pinela, Pinot Gris, Zelen, Klarnica, Vitovska and Rebula.
In the vineyards. The Batič family owns 19 hectares of vineyards in three villages (Šempas, Vogrsko, and Vitovlje) ranging from 60 meters up to 1495 meters above sea level - all Western facing. Despite this diversity, four dominant things characterize each parcel: vine density, wind, altitude, and soil heat.
The average vine density is roughly 12,0000 vines per hectare which forces roots to dig up to 15 meters straight down in order to reach nutrients and water. In addition to imparting a distinct mineral character, these deep roots also ensure consistent yields both in rainy and dry weather. Grapes are also trained to ripen at an average height of 0.5 meters. They are so close to the ground that ripening is not just the result of direct sun, but in large part due to soil heat. Only the Cabernet Franc is pergola trained because after generations and generations of experimenting, it just works.
Equally important, the Vipavska Dolina has a famed reputation for creating powerful thermal conditions ideal for parachuting due to the convergence of Alpine and Adriatic influences. The valley has been the host to the World as well as the European Parachuting Championships for years.
These thermal conditions (up to 10 meters/second) basically eliminate the presence of rot and a host of other vine diseases. In the higher altitude vineyards (1,300+ feet) no chemicals of any kind have ever been sprayed. In other locations where conditions would otherwise demands chemical application, Batič is instead the first winery in Europe to harness the power of fire and air with PCS (Physics-based Cropping System). Rather than attacking vine disease and pests with pesticides and herbicides, PCS blows air at 150 km/ h and at a temperature of 75 degrees among the vines. Pollination, natural funghi and a resilient canopy result leaving the vines with a strengthened natural immunity. Rather than fighting nature, they are mimicking what they already know nature does best.
In the cellar. The signature methodology of the Batič estate is knowing when and how to do nothing. Highly selective hand harvesting, extended maceration (particularly native white grape varieties), fermenting in open topped Slovenian wooden vats without temperature control, and only using indigenous yeast are the major means to this end.
While the rosé is made in stainless steal, all of the other wines see only Slovenian oak from primary through malolactic. All wines are bottled un-fined, often unfiltered, and in some cases bottled without additional sulfur (SO2). Lunar cycles and seasons are strictly observed and determine releases and bottling dates. If it’s too cloudy for example, wines will not be bottled because there is too much interference between the wine and the heavens.
Wine & Spirits Magazine recently published excellent reviews of Batič wines: Kudos for Kabaj, Kogl, and Batič