The relaunch of Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch) in Slovenia from a turreted former Hungarian hunting lodge just across the modern-day Hungarian-Slovenian border. A winemaker who took over the running of his family’s vineyard and winery when he was just 18 years old. Exceptional white wines not released until more than three years after the harvest. A winery using old world wine-making traditions, yet owned by a large food conglomerate.
This is the Marof winery in the village of Rimavska Sobota in the Prekmurje region of Slovenia. It is one of the biggest family winery in Slovenia, with 35ha of vines in three locations, now owned by the food conglomerate Panvita. The modern glass and concrete winery with state-of-the-art technology stands in the shade of a grandiose Linden tree, shoulder to shoulder with a Hungarian hunting lodge, built in 1905 by the Szapáry family along with agricultural buildings and a winery.
The winemaker and sub-owner, Uroš Valcl, produced his first vintage at his family’s winery in 1999 and took over the running of Marof in 2009. Uroš’s aim is to produce pure wines where you can feel the grapes and the finesse of the basalt and tufa soils of the area. He is lucky in his raw ingredients, as the majority of the vines are 20 to 30 years old and the soil has a high mineral content, which even makes the water on the estate smell of phosphorus and sulphur, he says. The cru Chardonnay is kept on its skins for one year, quasi an orange wine, however not oxidised as he wishes to keep the Chardonnay character, despite the changing primary aromas. All the whites receive between 4 hours and 1 day of skin contact. The very concentrated fruit undergoes natural sedimentation and only a little filtering.
They are now ‘relaunching’ Modra Frankinja. He explains that in the 60s for some reason, people in Slovenia suddenly stopped drinking red wine and Slovenia became very much a white wine country. Modra Frankinja was historically produced here, so the owner decided they should relaunch it.
Laški Rizling (Welschriesling) is the mainstay of the winery. However, as well as producing a light, easy-drinking basic wine, Uroš also produces a Breg and a Cru version. The Cru is produced from old vines from the best single vineyards and is quite a different animal from the notorious Laški Rizling from Jeruzalem, shipped in bulk to Britain in the 60s and 70s. A wine with a wide spectrum of flavours, but needing a few years to develop some depth, ‘it is like a child, you have to wait for it to grow up’. So, not a wine for competitions, where judges have 25 seconds to evaluate a wine, so no time to measure up the real value of a wine.