Gabernik 23 / Slovenia


Gabernik 23 have been one of our more random but welcome finds.  Somehow fitting within the sphere of natural wines, we feel these qualify more on punk ethos, given vigneron Janko Bogatič’s enthusiasm for varieties he considers unfashionable or unloved, even if ironically or through recent fads in our part of the world, Zweigelt and Rumeni Muškat (yellow muscat) seem to have enthusiastic followings.

The hulking Janko has been working in his family’s vineyards since age 10, assisted today by his even more imposingly framed son Janko Jr; this long time grape grower has recently started making and bottling his own wines.  Winemaking guidance is provided by Nick Gee of Heaps Good Wine Co (also within our folio) of whom Janko is a principal fruit supplier, but he raises his own style of springy, fresh, clean and easily guzzlable cuvées.

Janko’s 23 acres of vines are situated in Ritoznoj (pronounced Rit-ozh-noy) at around 500m altitude, in the foothills of the Pohorje ranges in the country’s north-east, around 40 minutes south of the Austrian border.  The area is characterised by marl soils, warm summer days (high 20 degrees) and cold, snowy winters, which raise wines of good concentration and flavour against light to medium body and modest alcohols, typically well under 12%.  I thought my hosts were having a lend when they told me Ritoznoj translates as ‘ass sweat’ due to the physically challenging nature of farming the region’s steep slopes, though a quick Google revealed this to be true.  The impish Slovenian sense of humour is yet another reason to visit this wonderful country.

Expecting some deep or complex yarn as to the origins of the label’s naming, it was amusing to find it merely the home address of the Bogatič family – number 23 in the small settlement of Gabernik.

All ferments here are wild, with no oak used in any of the below wines bar the skin contact and sulphur is the only addition.  This is a fresh and fun set of wines with some of the coolest labelling going around – we’ve even seen a tattoo of the skeleton character in the wild.  These are true estate wines grown and made in a place of stunning natural beauty, offering equal amounts of intrigue and fun.


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  • Gabernik 23 Zweigelt 2020

    $ 41.00 incl. GST

    A spritely iteration of this Austrian variety, grown in the marl soils of Ritoznoj.  Full of flavour but low in the alcohol and weight, ideologically this drinks like a combination of Nebbiolo, Gamay and Pinot Noir.  Violets and red florals lead over an impression of tar aromatics and flavours.  The palate is full of black fruits and cherries, mountain herbs, and a brush of salinity.  Easy to drink and takes a light chill well.

    “I’ve dug these wines from this journeyman winemaker in Slovenia. Here’s a zweigelt, styled au naturale, for your drinking pleasure. Gabernik sounds like the name of a dog sent to space.

    “Chalky and sappy, sour cherry orientated with some game meat notes, fennel, roast capsicum, paprika, doing a lot here and feeling mighty original. Has nice, slurpy texture, a little herbal tang builds to a significant piquancy to finish, but feels decent in the mode of the wine. Savoury red, but fresh too. It’s got a vibe.” 91 points, Mike Bennie, Winefront


  • Gabernik 23 Rumeni Muškat skin contact 2021

    $ 43.00 incl. GST

    Three weeks of skin contact.  Crisp and fresh without becoming overly heady and phenolic, this was the wine which made us understand why skinsy wines make such great pairings with hot fried chicken.  A heap of fun with anything with spice heat, Korean barbecue or other exotic flavours.  Clearly varietal, grapey and floral aromatics, drinks dry.

    “Lemon-peach tea, dried and candied citrus, orange blossom, chalky texture, very light and refreshing, sloshy. Washes off towards the end, but has a green leaf type of grip and a smidge of sweet mandarin peel to chew. It’s a very easy, fun, pleasant drink of uncomplicated nature.”

    88 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, Winefront



  • Gabernik 23 Rumeni Muškat Pét Nat 2021

    $ 48.00 incl. GST

    Decent complexity and balance here, this perhaps best shows Janko’s schtick that the ‘unfashionable’ grapes he works with can raise wines far more compelling than their reputations suggest.  Any Pét Nat or farmhouse cider fan will love this instantly.

    “I like the reports on pet-nat gushes. Here, no gushing.

    “Sweet blossoms and all things peachy, fennel or anise type of aroma, which is a good mix of sweet and refreshing. It reminds me of pastis and soda (big fan) with a big squeeze of lemon. Lots of citrus and salt on the palate with a touch of raw almond. It’s a refreshing sparkling with lively bubbles and certain clarity to flavours, that doesn’t overwhelm with the perfume of Muscat as it sometimes happens. Spot on.”

    92 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, Winefront



  • Gabernik 23 Rosé Pét Nat 2021

    $ 48.00 incl. GST

    100% Pinot Noir.  We didn’t need another Pét Nat or rosé at all, but this was far too tasty to pass up and we’re weak and impulsive so here it is!

    “Rhubarb and peaches, light fruit tea type of smell. Wild berries. Savoury and sour and tangy in the mouth, ruby grapefruit is the theme, nicely done with a salty finish and lightness and freshness all over.”

    91 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, Winefront