Slovenia in for a week of St Martin's Day celebrations
Ljubljana, 7 November - Over the course of the next week wine lovers will be celebrating St Martin's Day, when according to tradition, grape juice matures into wine. This popular festival will see wine blessing ceremonies in virtually every winery, while on Sunday a lunch of roast goose or duck with mlinci, a pasta variety, and red cabbage will be served in many homes.
St Martin's Day, observed on 11 November, is an age-old tradition in Slovenia. In the past few decades, the celebrations have grown from small affairs for friends and family hosted by winemakers to public events organised by towns and cities all over the country.
Maribor, the home of the world's oldest vine and often considered the wine capital of Slovenia, also boasts the biggest Martinovanje, as St Martin's celebrations are called. The open air party attracts several thousand people each year.
Ljubljana will organise a St Martin's event on Saturday featuring dozens of wineries from across the country, although the city itself does not have a wine making tradition. Visitors will be able to stroll along a number of stalls and enjoy wine and good food.
Similar but smaller and more locally-oriented events will be held in virtually all towns across the country over the coming two weekends and on Wednesday, 11 November.
Those seeking an authentic experience are however best advised to head to a winery or a tourist farm for dinner and a wine blessing ceremony.
St Martin's Day, believed to be the most important day for many wine makers, has gained in popularity and is now celebrated also in areas where wine is not produced, like Gorenjsko and Koroško.
In the city of Kranj, ancient catacombs will become a venue of St Martin's Day celebrations. The event attracts more than 3,000 people each year, who get the chance to enjoy new wine by winemakers from across the country.
This year's harvest will be of very good quality, according to Dušan Brejc, the head of the Slovenian Wine Association, an organisation representing some of the big wine growers.
Red varieties especially are very good this year, as the quality is one of the best in the past two decades. Moreover, considering the current weather conditions, there is also a great chance for very good late-harvest wines, he added.
In terms of quantity, the harvest was some 20% better than a years' long average, Brejc said, adding that Slovenian wine growers produced 85 million litres of wine.