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.