Producer profile: Puklavec Family Wines
To kick off a new series shining a light on family-owned wine estates around the world, we explore the sprightly whites of pioneering Slovenian estate Puklavec Family Wines.
Martin Puklavec had a singular vision when he started his Slovenian winery in 1934: to make the finest wines possible. This philosophy continues to resonate through the family’s winemaking today. The Puklavec family owned the estate before the advent of socialism, when ownership transferred to the state.
Following the collapse of the iron curtain, the family seized the opportunity to buy back the vineyards and start over, recruiting Mitja Herga as chief winemaker of Puklavec Family Wines in 2009, with the aim of making Old World wines with New World ambition.
Today, the winery is run by Martin’s son Vladimir Puklavec and his daughter Tatjana. Working across 850 hectares of vines at the same latitude as Bordeaux, 591 of which are owned by the estate and many of which are located on steep, terraced slopes, the wines are produced in the heart of Ljutomer-Ormoz, in the Prodravje region of north-eastern Slovenia, which benefits from over 2,000 sunshine hours per year.
With a focus on fresh whites, among the grapes the estate works with are Furmint, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Traminer. “We are continuing the family tradition with the goal of making top quality wines in an area that is among the best wine regions in the world,” says Vladimir.
Benefitting from calcium carbonate-rich sand and clay soils, warm days and cool nights, the area provides the perfect microclimate for grape growing, resulting in elegant, well balanced wines that are made with an uncompromising attention to detail.
The estate takes a minimum intervention approach to both winemaking and vineyard management. After the grapes are optically sorted, de-stemmed and pressed, the must is chilled to 10°C to retain the fresh, crisp character of the whites.
The Puklavec range is a great starting point for those keen to expand their knowledge of Slovenian wine, as the wines are fresh, fruity, accessible and affordable. The oak aged expressions are rested in a mixture of French, Hungarian and Slavonian oak.
Puklavec also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and local red variety Vranec from hand-picked grapes grown in iron-rich sandy soils the Negotino hills in the Tikvesh region in north Macedonia.
Hoping to put Macedonian reds on the map, the company recently built a new winemaking facility in Tikvesh for its fruity, spicy reds, which the family believes have great potential to shine on the world stage.
Across the portfolio, Puklavec produces four million bottles of wine a year and exports half of its production, making it the most widely exported Slovenian wine brand in the country.
Having first exported its wines in 2010, the estate’s greatest aim is to put Slovenian wine firmly on the international map. The company currently exports to 12 markets, including the UK, Poland, Croatia and the Netherlands. Its best-seller at export is its Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Grigio.
Last year the estate sold nearly half a million bottles of the white blend, making it the best-selling Slovenian wine worldwide. In the UK you’ll find the wine on sale at Waitrose, priced at £8.79. The retailer describes the drop as “lively and fruity, with aromas of passion fruit, citrus and red apple”.
“When my grandfather was running the estate his biggest dream was to share our wines with the world. This is our belief and our drive – to make sure that as many people as possible can enjoy our wines.
“We challenge ourselves every day when it comes to creating exciting new products,” says Tatjana Puklavec, who is keen to constantly benchmark her wines against her international competitors.
“Everyone wants wines that over-deliver for their price point and our numerous international awards that we’ve received over the past few years prove that our wines do. Once consumers try our wines, they come back to them,” she adds.
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Five Gold and Master medal-winning Puklavec wines
Tasting notes provided by Patrick Schmitt MW
Archive Wine Welschriesling 2006 – Master
Intense nose with some vanilla and honey, a touch of raisin and orange blossom. Palate similar, some oak influence here, a touch of vanilla, but also raisins, peach and a hint of waxiness, orange blossom and honeyed. Good, not too sweet, but notably sugary note on finish. Complex. Not too heavy, and some balancing freshness.
Seven Numbers Pinot Grigio 2016 – Master
Lots of colour, some gold. More delicate nose than colour suggests. Palate lovely, honeyed, waxy, oily, open, with some almond, apples and pears. A floral element, long and touch of grip, excellent. Balanced and persistent, touch of background vanilla.
Seven Numbers Traminer 2018 – Gold
Pale gold. Gently honeyed nose of peaches, pineapple and sweet smelling raisins. Lovely nose, raisins, honey, and not that sweet, some oiliness, but finishes fresh and zesty. Core is raisined, but not unctuous. Clean and grapey. Good.
Seven Numbers Furmint 2018 – Gold
Some tinned greens, grapefruit and elderflower, hint of vanilla. Palate good, oily, some vanilla, elderflower, a hint of tinned greens, pea and then pineapple too. Good.
Archive Wine Furmint 1971 – Gold
Very golden, some sediment, but mostly clear and bright. Very aged nose, interesting, not oxidised, but very mature, with notes of tea leaves and honey. Palate too, Lipton ice tea with tea leaves and lemon, touch of honey, dry finish, some nutty grip, very aged, fascinating wine. Orange marmalade. Mouthwatering, complex, persistent and rather delicious, still lively. But also fragile and fully mature.