Vipava 1894 – Zelen Lanthieri

Food and Wine recently published an article entitled “Slovenia Is the Most Underrated Wine Destination in Europe.” (read here) Amusingly, I’d bought a bottle of Vipava 1894 on a lark at the liquor store a month ago.

I’ve just come off my second bout of Covid and was finally hungry again. My darling husband asked what I wanted and I was craving Shrimp Scampi – which he diligently made from scratch for me. He knew I was really feeling better when I suggested we try this white wine to go with it.

Besides what was on the back of the label (see below), I knew nothing about it.

Looking it up – it says:

Zelen is autochthonous white variety from Vipavska Dolina, grows especially on the slopes of the southern hills. Because it is very sensible on summer drought, farmers plant it on the lower sights, where more humidity and more fertile soil. Zelen ripens late, gaining lower sugar content. After picking, short cold maceration has been performed, in order to increase its aromatic potential. After gentle pressing and sedimentation, spontaneous fermentation and malolactic fermentation was allowed. Wine was maturating for 6 mounths [sic] on indigenous lees before bottling. (read more)

It’s a golden yellow color (see below). It opens with the scent of peaches and “fresh ocean” – which I would say is salt/calcium. Although Slovenia touches the Mediterranean sea, the Vipava Valley is a bit in from the coast.

I asked my husband what he thought and he said “it’s exactly what I thought it would be – crisp, tart and white.” He also got some grassy flavors. I’d agree, it’s tart up front but finishes sweet. The scampi (shrimp) brings out the sweet and removes the sharp. The garlic makes it sweet but brings out a lingering minerality. The parmesan cheese brought out flavors of pear and apple – almost like a pinot grigio. However, as it warms, it takes on a grapefruit flavor.

Final Thoughts

This wine is perfect for seafood. It was unexpected, but in a good way. We discussed that this would go great with a fresh mussel dish we had years ago at a French restaurant where the staff was annoyed because we were taking so long with it as the appetizer and the food was ready. Until the chef looked out to see us sopping up the sauce from the mussels with the bread – it was that good. This would be a perfect wine for that dish.

Now, for my southern roots – this won’t go with catfish or redfish. You’ll need to splurge for salmon or tilapia, preferably. Mahi Mahi would be good – but avoid tuna….

UNLESS you are hosting the junior league and the theme is Around the World – in which case I suggest this wine with a Salad Niçoise (the traditional with the egg, green beans, potatoes and tuna instead of anchovy) with some warm rosemary bread. Finish with lemon madeleines or macaroons. If you need a starter – roasted portobello mushrooms with goat cheese. [I’ll just say it for those who aren’t Southern – use fresh tuna, not the canned.]

LADIES – This is also the perfect wine to impress your date (or your future in-laws) – you will look worldly serving this with the suggested “cold appetizers, vegetable pastas or rice. Match well with even more fatty dry meet dishes (lardo, pancetta).” Translated to – charcuterie tray, but with some hummus added. You’ll look worldly and well read.

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