We are all quite familiar with Bratislava, but few know Bratislava as a wine region.
The Little Carpathians Wine Route starts in the city. Some 15km further on,along the mild slopes on the sunny side, your eyes will set on a multitude of vineyards.
They are not all completely organized and restored, but you can see that young people are working them.
The locals have told me that during the previous regime, the authorities had confiscated all of the vineyards and joined them into combines. After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the change of power, the vineyards were given back to their original owners, most of whom, however, were sick and tired of working in combines and no longer wanted to work those vineyards, leaving many of them uncared for and neglected.
Lately, though, things have been changing, and there are many young people restoring them and planting noble varieties. It also helps that the capital is near so many move to picturesque villages into family houses surrounded by vineyards, investing into land and production.
The grapes planted are mostly White Muscat, White Pinot, Green Silvaner, Veltliner, and dark varieties Lemberger, Saint Laurent, Blue Frankish and others.
The local towns, formerly royal cities,
Svaty Jur, Pezinok and Modra, are centers of viticulture and wine cellars of the Little Carpathians. Also close by is the impressive castle of Červeny Kamen, which was owned by one of the most powerful families of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – the Palfis. But we shouldn’t talk about wine alone, because good wine should be accompanied by good food. Slovaks know this very well. All of the meals in my three days there were exceptionally good, and the one most characteristic of this region was in the Grobski Dvor restaurant in Slovensky Grob (grob is the Slovak word for ditch or trench). This village boasts the reputation of having the best geese and goose liver. We also had an interesting dinner in the old winery and cellar of the Bažalik family in the town of Svaty Jur, resembling the setting of Fellini’s movies with, I must admit, interestingly good wines from the Bažole collection. So good that I bought a few bottles.
Wines in Slovakia are quite affordable, with bottles sold for an average of 5 euros.
The combination of new wealth and old tradition is best visible in the investment into the Elesko winery. This ultra-modern edifice houses not only a winery, but also the Zoya Museum of modern art, a restaurant seeking to emulate Michelin-starred restaurants, and an excellent wine bar.
The Little Carpathians are a lovely, calm and, for us at least, inexpensive region which Europe has already recognized, which is why it is not always easy to find accommodation.
Even though we know little of Slovak wines, the entire wine scene is very developed. The EU even pays them not to plant new vineyards.
I would highly recommend spending an excellent weekend in Bratislava and its surroundings. The majority of tourists from the river cruises stay, just like they do in Dubrovnik, for only a couple of hours. Bratislava and the Little Carpathians deserve more.