The artist Hans Hofmann said, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” The same rings true at Slovenia’s Čotar winery, in the Karst region of Slovenia. Here, Branko Čotar, and his son Vasja and daughter-in-law Andreja, tend eight hectares of vineyards, and this trio and their vines produce spellbinding natural wines that have taken the wine world by storm in recent years.
By deciding to minimise their intervention in the cellar, they have further amplified the natural aromas found within their grapes, and through patience, these aromas find an intrinsic harmony in the wines. Drinking a Čotar wine is like visiting an exhibition of your favourite artist for the first time: it might have taken a while to finally have the opportunity, but it’s well worth the wait.
People: Branko Čotar, and his son Vasja and daughter-in-law Andreja
Place: Karst, Slovenia
Varieties: Vitovska, Malvasia Istriana, Sauvignon Blanc, Teran, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Hectares: Eight hectares with new vines planted to reach 10 in the future
Did You Know? In the old days, the white wines of the region were made with a period of skin contact (between five and seven days). Before sulfites were brought to the region, winemakers had found that this additional skin contact acted as a natural protection and antioxidant for the wines. Branko continues working according to these ancestral methods.
Farming is organic, and simple: just sulphur and copper for treatments, and composting where needed. The vineyards are left in a fairly wild state, and depending on the soil type, some feature lots of grasses, whereas others are rockier, with shallow topsoil. Andreja says,
“Our focus is to achieve very ripe grapes, always harvesting when the grapes are very mature. If you have good grapes, you don’t need to add anything. The wine makes itself — we do very little in the cellar.”
Working organically is a philosophy of life. She adds,