Grapes 🍇 Galore

The tradition of grape harvest in Slovenia

By Slovenian Tourist Board

Grapes in a vineyard (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

Slovenia is a country with seven wine-growing regions. Each has its own unique features, as well as wine sorts that it produces. 

Grape harvest in a vineyard (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

However, all these regions have something in common – the annual grape harvest that takes place in late summer and early autumn! 

Vineyard (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

Wine growers usually decide to plant their vineyards at locations which experience different rates of sun exposure and rainfall through the year. 

This ensures that even if there is drought or floods, at least one vineyard will bear many fruits and save the harvest that year.

Grape harvest in a vineyard (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

The time of the harvest is decided based on the sugar and acid levels of the grapes – different wine sorts require different levels. 

Setting up for a grape harvest (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

There can also be more than only one harvest per season! For some wine sorts, grapes have to be picked mid-summer, which is called the early harvest. 

The regular harvest follows, usually in September, concluded by the late harvest or “ice” harvest, which is more suitable for some sweet white wine sorts.

Rows of vines in a vineyard at a grape harvest (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

The tradition of manual grape harvest is one that has persevered in Slovenian culture even in the modern age of technology, likely due to the smaller sizes of the vineyards.

Picking the grapes at a harvest (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

However, manual harvesting of grapes is still the most cherished in the winegrowing community, as it ensures that only the best grapes are handpicked to become the best wines. 

It isn’t the easiest of tasks, but it is an extremely important step of the wine-making process.

Grape harvest in a vineyard (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

In Slovenia, the tradition is that entire families get together to pick the grapes at harvest, visited also by family friends and relatives who gladly lend a helping hand in exchange for great food, great company, and some wine! 

Simple lunch at a grape harvest (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

It is precisely this that makes grape harvest so special – being able to chat with others as you work, spending time in nature, satisfying a hungry stomach with delicious food for lunch . . .

. . .  and drinking a glass of “špricer” or “špricar” (white wine and sparkling water) every now and then to quench your thirst. 

Grape cluster at a grape harvest (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

After lunch, it’s back to work! While picking the grapes, you have to be careful not to pick those that have gone bad, or those that have dried up – even the small grapes can affect the wine quality, as they are usually less sweet. 

You also have to watch out for any stray leaves that fall into the crates. 

Putting the harvested grapes in crates (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

Once the grapes are cut from the branches of the vines, they are put into plastic crates. 

In the past, woven baskets were used for this task, which were then carried on the backs to the next step in the grape harvest process. 

A tractor at a grape harvest (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

Nowadays, a tractor is a simpler and less painful way to gather all the crates and take them to be crushed and pressed. 

Grape harvest in a vineyard (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

It’s a good thing, too – a single crate like this can weigh up to 20 kilos! 

Cleaning the mill that crushes the grapes (2021-09) by Nina Markovič ŽigonSlovenian Tourist Board

The grapes are put into the crusher, which removes the stems and crushes the grapes until they become “must”.  

Wine cistern (2021-09) by Nina Markovič ŽigonSlovenian Tourist Board

The must is then led into the cistern via a tube.

Tons of grapes picked at a grape harvest (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

The long process of fermentation begins afterward – but we have to return back to the grape harvest! 

In Slovenia, there is no grape harvest without the final “likof”! It’s a sort of party to celebrate the end of the harvest.

A glass of red wine (2021) by Ariela HerčekSlovenian Tourist Board

“Likof” has traditionally involved lots of different foods, usually traditional Slovenian dishes like potica, as well as lots of wine, and an accordion for the accompanying music.

It is only fair to unwind a bit, especially after a hard day’s work. 

The sun sets over the vineyard (2021) by Jure ČesnikSlovenian Tourist Board

As the sun sets over the vineyards, and the people celebrate the end of a good harvest . . .

The colour of Malvasia wine (2021) by Nina Markovič ŽigonSlovenian Tourist Board

. . . the handpicked grapes sit warmly in a cistern and wait for the end of the process, when they can finally be tasted from a wine glass.

Potica (2021) by Luka SvetičSlovenian Tourist Board

Perhaps you would like to drink some wine while enjoying a bite or two of Potica, the Queen

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