These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.


Wine with a story

By Daniel J. Stoll

When asked the whereabouts of one of Pezinok's locally famous wine makers, an old man rubs his scruffy beard, blinks and then points up the road to a small stone house. "There," he says. "That there Ľudovít Tretina has some good wine. Go on up there."

In his cosy cellar, Tretina presents a '97 Sauvignon, pops the cork, places it under his nose and inhales deeply. He swirls the wine around to "release the fragrance", pours and nods; we sip.

The wine is aromatic, dry, delicious. A large Doberman named Luxo stares enviously at the half full glasses, growling. Tretina spills a few droplets on the floor which the eager dog promptly licks up. "We're worried Luxo might be an alcoholic," the wife laughs.

The search for a quality bottle of Slovak-made wine is not simple. Wine sold in shops and grocery stores usually come from huge enterprises in the Small Carpathian mountains outside Bratislava. Although decent, they lack the quality and, more importantly, the story of an authentic bottle of Pezinok wine. "Wine should tell a story," Tretina says. "I know... wine is in my blood."

While the Slovak Vinotéka (wine shops where you can sample international wines) have several quality vintages from around the world, they can't tell you a thing about a good Slovak wine other than Tokaj. "Pezinok wine is supposed to be good," says one Vinotéka waitress. "We don't have any though."

Those thirsting for a taste of real Slovak wine can find it in Pezinok, where wonderful vintages are made by financially humble locals who sell mainly to friends and by word of mouth.

Pavol Boriš, another local wine maker as well as a wine historian and the founder of the local association of wine-makers, says that the soil around Pezinok is perfect for certain wines: Rizling vlašský (Weischriesling), Veltlínske zelené (Green Veltliner), Müller Thurgau, and Rulandské biele (Pinot Blanc).

"Wine from Nitra or southern Slovakia is also good," he says. "But it can be bland. There are few variations in flavour. You can really taste the distinctness of Pezinok wines. From year to year, soil to different soil, each wine has its own character."

Tretina agrees. "Pezinok is in a unique, God-given setting for wine-making. The gentle slope of the Carpathian mountains means that the sun hits the vineyards as it rises in the east, peaks in the south and even as it sets and the last rays of the day are laid on the hills." Tretina, who won a 1999 Best Wine in Central Europe contest in Zagreb, Croatia for his 1997 Sauvingon, says warmth is vital for grapes to form their character.

Back at Boriš's house, he unlocks the cellar - the scent of wine immediately floats up. In his small quarters, he shows off the carved wooden barrels marking different vintages.

Boriš smiles as he fills our glasses and recollects previous vintages. "The year of the revolution, 1989, was a good year... 1995 too." He steps back and surveys his prized cache. "This is what I've got. If one of my wines goes out of style, at least I like it."

Pezinok wine cellars

Parish cellar, next to Parish Church, tel. 033/ 640-2289

Cellar of Ľudovít Tretina, 51 Kupeckého Street, tel. 033/ 640-503

Castle wine bar, Mladoboleslavská Street, tel. 033/ 641-2360

Cellar of Peter Matyšák, Holubyho Street, tel. 033/ 641-1272

Cellar of Ján Hacaj, 66 Cajlanská and M.R. Štefánika Street, tel. 033/ 640-2696

Cellar of Pavol Boriša, 1 Hviezdoslavova Street, tel. 033/ 643-3005

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2001.

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