Website: Kogl Winery
Country Location: Slovenia
Kogl is the name of the vine-covered hill the Cvetko family chose to establish a winery. The first written reference to it as a vineyard dates back to 1542. Their symphonic array of wines, are more aptly compared to music than food or drink.
The people. The hill of Kogl cultivates excellent wine, but also heritage, art, friendship and family. Originally built in 1820, as a vacation retreat, it is today the home of Franci Cvetko, his wife Zlatka and their children Luka and Spela. While beautiful wines have emerged from less than beautiful cellars there is something to say about a winemaker with a total sense of aesthetic, a sense the entire Cvetko family shares. Their home, winery and tasting room are combined into a single structure in a natural and functional way. Each year, on the surrounding lawn, flanked by sculptures of their own collection, they host a festival celebrating local art, music and wines.
After completing the enology program at the agricultural school in nearby Maribor, Franci Cvetko dedicated himself to the renovation of the home, winery and vineyards. Perched atop the hill, the large panoramic windows that face southwest towards the Drava River, are those of the tasting room. Here he conducts focused tastings of as many as 30 wines served in delicate stems design by a local glassblower. It is a spectacular sight. Naturally quiet Cvetko is especially so, when visitors taste Kogl wines as he does not want to disturb their impressions.
The appellation. The estate is located in the wine district of Prlekija, part of the Ljutomer-Ormož sub- region of the Podravje, in Northeast Slovenia, overlooking the township of Velika Nedelja. In Latin this means “Magna Dominica”, or “Great Sunday”. It has witnessed both great turmoil and prosperity. The Drava River just south marks the Slovenian border with Croatia, Austria is just 50 miles north and Hungary 10 miles northeast. Positioned at the gate of Western Europe, for most of region’s history it has been the pawn of Empires and marauding Barbarians. The Slavs, who drove out the Barbarians and settled here, are the ancestors of today’s Slovenes.
Ultimately, the region was united under the Austrian – Hungarian state of Styria. During this time the southerly Lower Styria or Steiermark became famous for its white and sweet wines. After WW I the Hapsburg monarchy was dissolved and Lower Styria split into the Austrian Steiermark and Slovenian Štajerska. As part of communist Yugoslavia, private production in Štajerska ceased and the greatness of the region was forgotten. Since Yugoslavia disbanded in 1991 and Slovenia became independent, small family producers have made great strides in reversing this tragic history. Savvy sommeliers are aware of the exceptional Sauvignon Blanc and other aromatic varieties of the Austrian Steiermark, those even savvier know this terroir continues across the border into Slovenia. 90% of the wines produced here are white, and typically bottled by grape variety. No single variety dominates. To find a vineyard planted to French Pinot Gris, Hungarian Furmint, German Riesling, Italian Traminer, a host of Muscat, and the local specialty Ranina, itself the offspring of a Pinot variety, would not be unusual. This diversity is the viticultural evidence of its long history as wine region. The wines tend to be varietal wines, aromatic and low in alcohol due to the cool gentle growing conditions. Characteristically, vibrant, mineral and best enjoyed in their youth. Cellarable examples do exist however, as well as some of Slovenia’s finest sparkling wines.
The vineyard. Millions of years ago Kogl was at the shore where the Pannonian Sea met the Alps. Temperatures rose, the sea receded and what remained were piles of non-carbonate sedimentary soils of mixed origin. Today these foothills of the Alps offer endless combinations of soil and microclimate in which to grow grapes. Conditions are ideal. The warm winds of the continental Pannonian plain to the east are moderated by the cooling effect of the southeastern spur of the Alps which also shields the area from the harshest northern weather.
Adding vines year by year, the Kogl estate, which encircles the hill, today occupies approximately 25 acres of sandy clay soil perfectly manicured and planted to Šipon (Furmint), Chardonnay, Riesling, Auxerrois, Muscat Ottonel, Yellow Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Laski Rizling (Welschriesling), Pinot Gris, Traminer, Pinot Noir and more. Each reacts differently to the cool, mild conditions, like ever-changing instruments that produce flavor and aroma rather than sound.
In the cellar. Only estate fruit is used. As the entire production takes place on-site there is virtually no time between harvesting, sorting and pressing the grapes. This is fundamental to the intensely fresh quality inherent to Kogl wines. The range of their production is astonishing and so includes many techniques, from barrel aging of their textured white blend “Magna Dominica Albus” to the riddling of their methode traditionnelle sparkling wines.
The majority of the production is their fresh white wines vinified in stainless steel. After a brief cold maceration, the juice is pressed off by a bladder press and fermented dry with selected neutral yeast. A brief stay on the lees will take place for some. After the wines have settled they are gently filtered, cold stabilized and bottled. This consistency and simplicity of method emphasizes the intricacies of the vintage in each variety.
The wines. Franci’s main line of wines is "Mea Culpa" or "my fault" with an ironic twist. What he really wants to say is: This wine is my creation and I take responsibility, and credit, for making it. The irony is further emphasized by his fingerprint on the label. This expresses both: a responsibility almost as if he has committed a crime and his signature. Depending on the vintage there are upwards of 12 wines bottled. Most are varietal wines, from the delicate Ranina to the sumptuous Pinot Gris, to the savory rose of Pinot Noir. Generally, the “Mea Culpa” wines are best enjoyed fresh within 3 years of their release. However, certain vintages and varieties have aged particularly well, most of all the rose of Pinot.
Small amounts of traditionally processed sparkling wines are made in both dry and off dry versions. Delightfully creamy but with a persistence only found in cool climate examples. Rounding out the selection is “Magna Dominica Albus” the premium house white. Made from an ever changing mix of aromatic varieties aged Sur lie in barrel, it is a full bodied, textured cuvée and possibly the finest wine of the estate.
Read the informative report about a visit at the Kogl Winery on the Schiller-Wine-Blog.
Wine & Spirits Magazine recently published excellent reviews of Kogl wines: Kudos for Kabaj, Kogl, and Batič