'Because we were part of the Iron Curtain, the area was always completely void of any outside influence. The wine was always made this way. No one even knew what sulfur was up until 20 years ago.'
Tasting with Branko and Vasja Čotar is like taking a journey through the history of the Slovenian Karst — one of Europe’s greatest (and possibly most underrated) region for skin-contact and red wines today. Their history originates partly with the story of the old Soviet philosophy of agriculture, producing high yields to send across the entire union with very little attention to grape or soil health. Branko’s father first planted field blend vineyards in the mid 1970s in a time when the local growers naturally gravitated towards skin maceration on all their whites (and of course reds) as they did not know additives such as SO2 existed.
The Karst, a region bordering with the Italian Carso, is a mere 6 kilometres away from the sea. Its unique red ’Terra Rossa’, a thick layer clay and silt soils, is the foundation of the local varieties such as Vitovska, Malvazija, as well as Teran. The heavy influence of the Burja winds creates a particular micro-climate that suits the rocky landscape, and beyond local varieties, grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grow well too. Paired with a pioneering commitment to natural farming over the last 30 years, it is not a big surprise that the wines of the Čotar family are natural icons. They are a testament to the notion of ‘eternal youth’ and have a striking energy even 15-20 years after bottling. Without a doubt, their wines are complex and profound, best enjoyed with textured food that can stand the lightning acidity and dense structure that somehow leave an impression long after the bottle is finished. These wines are as close as it gets to the real idea of natural wines — wines that speak of place, time and culture, perfected over decades of hard work by the Branko Čotar, and now continued by his son Vasja and his daughter in law Andreja.