Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Unique Refosk Grape of Slovenia in the Fairytale Port of Koper


Sept. 2011 - Our first port of call was Koper, Slovenia. It was delightful to wake up in the morning on Royal Caribbean and have coffee on the balcony while we watched the shoreline of Slovenia come into view. Koper is a small city and there is no need to pay for transportation from the ship. It is only a five minute walk into the charming old town - albeit you do have to climb a hill.

The city has cobble stone streets, an old castle with high walls, a beautiful old church which we ducked inside to attend part of a mass, and a lovely town square that was set up with a small farmers market on Sunday morning. Most of the shops were open for the ship tourists, and there were some good sales on shoes and clothes. A small play with two donkeys was taking place in the square and I found the town charming and delightful -- rather like a scene from a fairytale.

After shopping for an hour we went to a pub called Isrska Klet Slavcek Pub to taste the locals wine. This was a recommendation of the local tourist office. I have found in my travels around Europe that the best place to get good wine advice is by stopping by these offices with the sign of "I". In Italy some of them even host wine tasting! In Koper they were very friendly and recommended this pub as the best spot for local wines. This is how I was introduced to the Refosk grape.

The pub owner was also the wine maker and he provided a tasting of three local wines for less than 2 Euros. The first was a bone dry malvasia with a subdued nose -- not the normal floral aroma - and a refreshing high acid finish.

Next was the Refosk grape which makes a red wine which is only grown in this part of Slovenia--no place else in the world, according to our host. It had a ripe red berry nose, high acid, no oak, and a medium body. It reminded me very much of a barbera, but when I voiced this opinion out loud, I upset our host who told me once again that it was only found in this region and it was not barbera. He said it was similar but different and was also known as teran and refosco. I really enjoyed it and would buy a bottle if I found it again.

We ended with a sweet muscat which had the typical floral grapey nose. It was semi-dry and also had a high acid. This was my mother’s favorite wine.

This was our second trip to Slovenia. We had visited three years ago and drove through the mountains in a rental car staying at a remote village high in the hills on our way from Croatia to Austria. It was an equally wonderful visit, and Slovenia seems to me like a perfect jewel of a country hidden away in the mountains with magical unspoiled villages and friendly people.

I really enjoyed our two hours in Koper, but after our excursion we headed back to the ship to relax for the rest of the day. We were both still jet-lagged from our long flight from California to Venice where we boarded the ship the night before. So we took a nap, lazed the pool, and then got ready for another great dinner and entertaining night on board the ship.