Wines from Slovakia: A brief guide and 12 wines to try

The vineyards surrounding Bratislava, Slovakia.
The vineyards surrounding Bratislava, Slovakia.

Since Slovakia gained independence in 1993, the last two decades have seen the nation’s wine industry endure a period of changes and rejuvenation. With renewed wine regulations to embrace the European market and a new generation of winemakers, this small-but-diverse wine nation is now producing an exciting array of wines made using international and traditional varieties, waiting to be discovered.

The regions

Slovakia as a whole has a typical continental climate with temperature extremes in summer and winter. Due to the nation’s proximity to the northern limit for commercial viticulture (latitude between 48-49°N), the majority of its wine growing regions are located in the warmer southwest and along its southern border, planted with cool-climate grape varieties.

The Small Carpathians (Lesser Carpathians / Malokarpatská)

The Small Carpathians is the oldest wine region in Slovakia, encompassing 12 viticultural areas and 120 viticultural communes. Close to the Austrian border in the southwest, the vineyards are mainly found on the southwest, south and southeast-facing slopes of the Small Carpathians mountain range.

Benefiting from sufficient sunshine, well-drained sandy loam and rocky soils, in addition to abundant aeration, the Small Carpathians region now hosts nearly half of the nation’s wine producers.

A ‘Wine Route’ is drawn by the locals from the capital Bratislava and extends east along the vineyards on the rolling hills, attracting wine lovers to explore the viticultural centre of Slovakia.

Veltlinske Zelené (Gru?ner Veltliner) is the most widely planted variety here, followed by Rizling Vlašský (Welschriesling). Frankovka Modra? (Blaufra?nkisch) and Sva?tovavrinecke? (St. Laurent) are among the most important red varieties.

South Slovakia (Južnoslovenská)

Located in the lowlands north of the Danube (which also serves as the Slovak-Hungarian border), the region has eight viticultural areas and 114 villages. Vineyards are found on the clay-rich plains and for the newer plantings, on the loess-rich uplands and alluvial terraces by the riverside.

This is the warmest Slovak region with an effective accumulated temperature (EAT) of over 3400°C during the growing season (higher than all other regions) and 2,200 hours of sunshine per year.

While white grapes such as Veltlinske Zelené and Rizling Vlašský are among the most planted varieties, Frankovka Modra?, Pinot Noir and late-ripening grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon are also cultivated here.

Nitra (Nitrianska)

Located east of the Small Carpathians, the Nitra wine region hosts a wealth of diverse microclimates. With nine viticultural areas and 159 wine-planting villages, the vineyards are found on south-facing slopes and plains, featuring varied altitudes, soils and orientations. It’s generally colder in the hilly north and warmer towards the Danube Lowlands in the south.

Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Müller-Thurgau and Frankovka Modra? produced from higher altitudes tend to yield higher levels of acidity. Veltlinske Zelené, Rizling Vlašský and Sva?tovavrinecke? are also widely seen. Thanks to its dry and long autumn, the region also produces ice wine (when frost arrives in time) and straw wines.

Central Slovakia (Stredoslovenská)

With vineyards scattered along the Ipe? (or Ipoly) river towards the Cerová Highlands, the Central Slovakia wine region includes seven viticultural areas and 107 villages. The region contains diverse terrain and soils: sandstone, loam, clay and volcanic soils in the hilly northwest. The region’s arid and cold climate enables sustainable viticulture. Aromatic whites such as Riesling, Traminer and the indigenous Devi?n are showing potential.

East Slovakia (Východoslovenská)

Situated along the southeastern border of Slovakia, the Eastern Slovakia region is home to four viticultural areas and 89 wine-planting villages. This is a sunny, dry region with volcanic…

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Wines from Slovakia: A brief guide and 12 wines to try  
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