A Hidden Gem In Eastern Europe: Slovak Wines

Slovakia.

The land of my ancestors and the land that I was lucky enough to visit this past October. My Dad’s side of the family is from Myjava, which is a little bit northeast of Bratislava, the capital. I wasn’t able to go there, but I did stay in Bratislava for a day.

When arrived to my hotel, I found the best book ever on the desk in the room. It was all about the wine regions in Slovakia. My mind was blown. How did I not know that Slovakia had some of the best wines in Eastern Europe!? Similar to wines in Hungary, Slovak wines are pure GEMS and many different varieties are grown in such a small country. 

HISTORY

So, from what I gathered from reading some articles online and talking to some individuals with knowledge of Slovakia and its wines, is that Slovakia has been making wines for a LONG time. The first evidence of winemaking was found in a Small Carpathian hill fort of Molpír. This was some 400 years before the Roman Empire reached that area. 

When the Roman Empire did reach Slovakia, the amount of wine produced was increased. Sadly, a small little bug called Phylloxera, found its way from America to Slovakia. This bug ate the roots of the wines and wiped out almost 90% of the population (of vines that is). 

Then (like Slovakia didn’t already have it hard enough) during the decades of communist rule after World War II, vineyards were made to again produce mass amounts of wine which decreased the quality of the product. Once Communism fell, the vineyards came back to those in the private sector and started to work on producing quality wines again.

Today, young wine makers are using techniques from the Western world and their fresh ideas on wine to produce quality wines that everyone is able to enjoy.

THE REGIONS

There are 6 wine regions in Slovakia and as you can see from the map, they’re mainly spread throughout the southern part of the country. A fun little fact is that Tokaj is the smallest wine region in the world with just 2,241 acres. The main town is Mala Trna and you think it would be a popular tourist place. However, unlike Hungary’s Tokaj region, this one is off the map to tourist. 

English versions of the wine regions are as follows: 

  • Malokarpatská – Lesser Carpathian (blue)
  • Nitrianska – Nitra (green)
  • Stredoslovenská – Central Slovakian (brown)
  • Východoslovenská – Eastern Slovakian (yellow)
  • Južnoslovenská – Southern Slovakian (orange)
  • Tokaj – Tokaj (red)
Observation Tower in Mala Trna – photo from NYTimes

THE GRAPES

There are tons of grape varietals grown in Slovakia. Everything from your typical Central and Eastern European grapes like Grüner and Cabernet Sauvignon to more Slovakia specific grapes. Here are some grapes that are unique to Slovakia.

  • Dunaj – A crossbreed of (Muscat Bouchet x Oporto) x Saint Laurent
  • Devín –  A crossbreed of Gewurztraminer and the red/white Veltliner
  • Rosa – A crossbreed of (Picpoul x Frankovka) and Gewurztraminer
  • Hron – A crossbreed of Castets x Abouriou noir
  • Breslava – A rare crossbreed of (Chrupka ružová x Gewurztraminer) and Italian variety St. Maria d´Alcantara

I hope this has intrigued some of you to try a wine from Slovakia. I know that as a millennial, I’m always looking for the new cool thing to stay ahead of the curve and this my friends, is your cool new thing. Show up to a party with a Slovakian wine and I’m sure everyone will be impressed and obsessed. 

Cheers!

xChel

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4 Comments
  1. Looks like a wonderful experience. And how great to go to (at least) the area where your ancestors were from. Question…how easy/difficult is it go get around Eastern Europe language-wise? Do enough people there speak English?

    1. I found that everyone spoke some English. There were some instances in Slovakia where there was a language barrier but for the most part it was easy!