Bikes & Wine in Slovenia’s Brda Region
The world’s top ranked cyclists whizzed through some of Italy’s most spectacular and iconic landscapes during the famous Giro d’Italia road race in May. A small slice of the nearly 3,500 km (2,175 mi) route dipped in and out of Slovenia. The result? An exciting 15th stage that started with a pile-up and ended in the rain.
Slovenia’s picturesque wine-growing region of Brda was the terrain chosen for the race. Brda means “hills” is Slovenian. A fitting name for a region dotted with little villages perched atop rolling hills that overlook miles and miles of vineyards. Too bad the speeding cyclists couldn’t pause for a quick glass of wine!
A Noble Grape on Both Sides of the Border
This idyllic landscape of terraced vineyards, fruit orchards and olive groves is sandwiched between the Adriatic coast and the Alps. Brda shares vineyards, grapes and a border with its smaller sister, northeastern Italy’s Collio region in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Both are about a 90-minute drive north of Venice’s airport, or a little further to Ljubljana Airport.
Brda’s signature grape is the golden-skinned Rebula, called Ribolla Gialla in Italy. It results in a lively dry white with all the complexities of a red wine. Rebula’s thick skin is also ideal for making orange wine. Grapes are left to macerate with their skins, seeds and stems. This produces the pigments, phenols and tannins that give orange wine its distinctive color and flavor.
Wine Tasting in a Renaissance Castle
Whether white, orange or red, most wine produced in Slovenia never leaves the country. Around 90% is consumed domestically. Even more reason to make a leisurely tour of Brda to sample these wonderful wines in situ!
Historic Dobrovo Castle is a good place to start. Since 2019 Klet Brda Winery has aged their premium de Baguer wines in the castle’s vaulted cellars. This beautiful space also hosts informative wine tastings.
Smart Travelers Don’t Skip Šmartno!
The charming walled village of Šmartno is reason enough to visit the Brda region. A Slovene poet once compared it to an eagle’s nest. But strolling through the narrow streets feels more like being in a medieval labyrinth.
Šmartno’s streets all lead to the Baroque church of St. Martin, dedicated to the patron saint of wine. Mid-20th century wall paintings by Tone Kralj illustrate the saint’s life and works in vivid, eye-catching colors.
It takes less than an hour to wander around the entire town, even allowing time to poke your head into the few art galleries and shops. Snack on fruit and cheese from the market stalls as you walk.
Or stop by Slovenia’s only olive oil bar in the Hiša Kulture (Culture House) for a tasting. Tatjana is a true olive oil connoisseur. Her homemade chocolate, orange and olive oil cake is legendary!
360-Degree Views Sweep from the Alps to the Sea
No trip to Brda is complete without climbing the 144 steps to the top of the Gonjače Viewing Tower. Dedicated to the 315 citizens of Brda who died in World War II, it is perfectly placed in the middle of the region. The breathtaking views from up here are incredible!
Electric Bikes & Cherry Blossoms
Due to the temperate Mediterranean climate, active experiences in Brda can be enjoyed most days of the year. Follow the example of Giro d’Italia bikers and cycle through the region. It takes much less effort to climb the hills on an e-bike. That way you can concentrate on the stunning scenery all around.
If walking is more your speed, there are eight cherry blossom hiking trails to choose from. They are named after old Brda cherry varieties. At day’s end you can even sleep in a 400-year-old castle. This stylish boutique hotel boasts a gourmet restaurant and wine cellar, too.
Nature takes center stage in Slovenia’s Brda region, whether you’re enjoying the actual fruits of the land, or exploring the sights. Just remember not to drink and bike!