Slovenian Winemaker Aleks Simčič

Scouting out the other side of the Alps with Slovenian winemaker Aleks Simčič. When most of us think of the Alps, we imagine clicking into our skis and cruising through the powdery terrain of France, Italy, Switzerland, or Austria, but the eastern side of Europe’s most extensive mountain range also serves up a majestic alpine experience — along with wines that rival those of their old-world neighbors.

Aleks Simčič, a fourth-generation winemaker, is revered throughout Slovenia. He was raised in Goriška Brda, an area in the Julian Alps known for its superb skiing and distinctive white wines made from the Rebula variety. Like most of his peers, Simčič started skiing even before he began attending school or helping out in his family’s winery.

Simčič believes there are a number of parallels to be drawn between skiing and winemaking. For example, “With both, you need to fully respect nature,” he says, pointing out that climatic influences can have as dramatic an effect on skiing conditions as they can on the vines’ growing season.

Slovenian Winemaker Aleks SimčičAnd you always need to be looking ahead. “When you ski you must think about the next curve, the conditions of the snow, and the visibility, so you can limit the surprises,” he explains. “Just as when you make wine, you need to think today about how your wine will evolve in the future.”

Vineyards have flourished in Goriška Brda since Roman times. The Mediterranean climate, hilly terrain, and soil — a mix of marl and clay, locally known as opoka — yield crisp wines with ripe, fruity flavors, and notable minerality.

Simčič’s family has been making wine on the same estate — about 500 yards from the border of Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region — since the mid-19th century. His mother’s side established the vineyards, but Simčič’s father took over the business in the 1970s, eponymously renaming it Edi Simčič, and started cultivating the wines that would eventually put the estate on the international wine map.

Despite more than a century of wine ancestry, the younger Simčič’s path to winemaking was more of a turny slalom than a straight downhill shot. He set out on a different career path, earning his degree in mechanical engineering in 1993. It was his father’s passion for wine — and his success — that inspired Simčič to change course. At 84 years old, Simčič’s father is still active in the vineyards and cellar, and the wine continues to carry the Edi Simčič name. But the younger Simčič has now been principal winemaker of the estate for more than 15 years.

Slovenian Winemaker Aleks SimčičAs a winemaker, Aleks Simčič may be compared to a backcountry skier, as his style often veers off-piste from the direction of notable Italian and Slovenian producers situated nearby. He works with very low yields, harvests his grapes from small parcels in his vineyard, and turns them into individual micro batches of wine. Simčič ferments and ages all of his wines in barrels rather than using any stainless steel or concrete. With these methods, he explains, he is able to express the full potential of Goriška Brda’s terroir.

A limited selection of Edi Simčič wines can be found in the U.S. But of course, the best place to sip Simčič’s wines is on an aprèsski terrace at nearby Kranjska Gora resort or in Slovenia’s greater Primorska ski region.

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