Water, wine and bread

Zagorje and Haloze are among the driest areas around. Drinking water in wells at the bottom of valleys was away from the farms on peaks and had to be carried to houses on the back in wooded tubs. As the water was very precious a traveller asking for a glass of water was often offered wine instead. Wine was always at hand as the area has excellent positions for vineyards and only half a century ago they were all planted with vine. Bread was the opposite of poverty, which was omnipresent with small holdings, modest production and big families. Therefore bread was just as much or even more appreciated than in church rituals. Baking bread in a special clay baker's oven has fortunately in many places survived to this day.

The best connoisseur of wine production in Haloze and a local, Zdenko Rajher, MSc, gave us an outline of the development: "The beginnings of viticulture date back to the time of the Celts while further development was thanks to the Romans. An important factor for the development of viticulture in Haloze was the extremely favourable impact of sub-Pannonian climate on the vine as present in the most famous European wine production regions. The summer temperatures last through the early autumn, which is favourable for the maturing of grapes as well as for producing wine from overripe grapes with noble moulds. The geological base is from marl and partly sandstone and limestone, which is good for the development of soil favourable for viticulture.

Wines from Haloze are primarily quality and premium white wines, mostly sorted. Wines from Haloze are distinguished by fine colour, rich bouquet and harmony. The following sorts are dominating: Italian Riesling, Sauvignon, Shipon, Chardonnay, White and Grey Pinot, Traminec and Yellow Muscat. In addition to pleasant fresh young wines with mineral and flower aromas there is also plenty of excellent extremely rich wines with specific maturity and harvesting method (late harvest, selection, ice wines)."

White wines of various sorts represent 97% of the wine produced in the area: Ranfol, Italian Riesling, Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Shipon, Grey and White Pinot, Traminec, Yellow Muscat and Muscat Ottonel with only 3% being red wines: Blue Pinot, Modra Frankinja and Portuguese.

Vine is definitely an indigenous plant on these hills. Now vineyards are gradually being abandoned as it is no longer a viable economic activity on fragmented land holdings. However, the wine production had a profound impact on the people living in the area, shaped the landscape according to its needs, dictated the architecture, formed the character of local people and determined their mutual relations and social positions.

Grapes from Haloze vineyards has been filling wine cellars in Ptuj with must for centuries. More than 750 years of documented cellars in Ptuj is therefore also a part of the vineyard tradition of Haloze and Zagorje. The oldest Slovenian archive wine (the gold vine from 1917 vintage) held in a wine cellar in Ptuj comes from Haloze. Vineyards were smaller and families bigger in Zagorje and the locals therefore rarely sold wine. However, private wine producers and cellars have been appearing all over the Tourist Zone in recent decades making excellent wines.

Annual evaluations prove that cellars are improving in the area as they receive many awards and medals also on globally renowned fairs and evaluations. It has been revealed that Haloze and Zagorje are highly suitable for Italian Riesling, Rhine Riesling and Grey Pinot, which also achieve excellent quality as predicate wines. The same results are achieved by wine producers from Zagorje, and the joint approach and common presentations of the best products are increasingly frequent and successful.

The cuisine of the Haloze-Zagorje Tourist Zone is represented by many simple and tasty dishes. The Tourist Zone is ideal for a gastronomic trip, which picturesque farmhouses, pubs and wine shops offer.

Bread is mostly made from maize, barley, rye or mixed from those three types of flour, while flat cakes are by their quality very similar to bread (koruznjača, zlevanka, gibanica, orehovka or makovka). There are many mealy dishes, milk products are characteristic (cow, goat or sheep milk), there is plenty of vegetables most often mixed with meat, e.g. in soups (cucumbers, zucchini, peas, beans, cabbage and rye) and salads (fresh cucumbers with sour cream and garlic, green salad, tomato salad with peppers and onions, etc.).

You absolutely must taste meat from tünka, fruit bread – krhlek, "ashikol" from Haloze, turkey with mlinci – homemade pasta, and ajdovi žganci – hard-boiled buckwheat mush or koruzni žganci – corn mush. It would be hard to find a better tasting goose, duck or chicken than around here where the birds wander around all day and pick their own food in nature. Then there are pork specialities… making fresh sausages is a real event. Black pudding, kašnice, and other special sausages with sauerkraut, cooked pig's feet with potatoes or beans salad with onions and naturally pumpkin oil… all of divine taste. The Tourist Zone is ideal for a gastronomic trip.

In addition to that listed above wine and potato goulash, roasted game, home grown kid or lamb, and side dishes with pasta, potatoes, cereals… And tasty sweet dishes include: pancakes, Zagorje pie, cheese or apple pie, pumpkin pie, various pastries, zlevanka, Haloze gibanica, orehovica, makovica… When tasting wines in village farmhouses you will be served homemade sheep and goat cheese, home baked bread from baker's oven, etc.

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