Meet Marinko. He’s a winemaker in Solkan, Goriška Brda. Nestled away in one of the back streets, Marinko is working away in his winery. And he’s working hard too – at the time of writing, the harvest has only just finished and in between the important works of winemaking, he has numerous meetings and appointments with people arranged. He’s a busy man, but he will always make time for us. He’s always happy to see us. We walk through the gates and find him slaving away, assessing the quality of his work, and he seems quite happy. He’s also happy to see us. Arms wide open and a smile just as wide, you feel welcomed into Marinko’s place of work, as well as his home.
I find Marinko interesting. He’s a bit different to the rest. You won’t find his winery unless you know exactly where it is. Usually these places are blazingly obvious as to what they are. It’s what he does which is different. Marinko farms vines from people who are no longer able to look after them or the vineyards are abandoned. All his wines are natural and organic and biodynamic (and I mean quite literally – natural). He lets the wines ferment to the high end of their ability, without artificial stabilisation of filtration.
He pulls out Rebula, Chardonnay, Merlot and several cuvees – the lowest ABV white is a 14.2%er. It may seem scary, but it’s so well made that it is deceptive. All his whites are orange wine – literally, orange in colour. None of his wine is exported and you will struggle to find it on the shelf of an independent wine shop in Slovenia, let alone a supermarket. He really is as down-to-earth as they come.
When we visit, he’s keen to pull his best cheese and salami out of the cellar. He walks out with a big wheel of cheese, probably weighing 10kg and a footlong salami, followed by a loaf of warm bread and a bottle of homemade olive oil. After cutting up the cheese, bread and meat and decanting the oil onto a plate, we are ready to start tasting.
I’ve been given the job of opening the bottles. Whilst extracting corks, Marinko explains to us that he always looks for the most expensive corks – the best ones for bottling. Cheap corks are a false economy. He’s proud of his wine – and I don’t blame him. Marinko is proud, not only because it is a very well made, honest wine, but also because it is different to most of the others. ‘Most winemakers in the area make fresh, fruity wine nowadays’, he explains, ‘but I like tradition and I make something different. I make orange wine’, whilst decanting his wine into our glasses. After a few minutes of letting it breathe, we’re good to go.
Throughout the tasting, his phone rings several times. Each time, he answers and somehow manages to joke with us and with his friend on the phone at the same time. He has a meeting with somebody shortly after our tasting, so can’t stay around for too long. He’s a busy man – he’s on his toes all the time, and in all honesty, he nor we would have it any other way.