Zelen is an ancient indigenous grape from the Vipavska Dolina area in southwest Slovenia (to the east of Northern Italy). I had tried a wine previously that was a field blend that included a small percentage of Zelen but on my last trip to the wine shop, I found a varietal wine. Zelen translates to ‘green’ in Slavic. The reason for this moniker is due to the green color of the unfiltered must (the mixture containing crushed grapes, skins, seeds, and juice prior to fermentation) when ancient winemaking techniques were used. Although the grape is an ancient variety, it wasn’t until the early 21st century that it started to be grown in great quantities. This was the result of winemakers beginning to see potential in the grape and the wines it could be used to produce. As of 2009, there were still only 158 acres of Zelen planted.
This week, I opened a bottle of 2020 Zelen from Guerila in the Vipavska Dolina region of Slovenia. Guerila is a Demeter certified biodynamic winery. Demeter is an international organization that provides certification that particular practices and preparations are utilized in viticulture. Demeter has standardized regulations in place for farming and animal care. This bottle had the logo on the back label as well as imprinted on the cork. The Zelen was a pale lemon color with steely highlights and watery legs. Aromas of sage, rosemary, and lemon pith with herbaceous and wet stone overtones rose from the glass. This dry, moderate alcohol wine has a lighter body and moderate level of acidity. Flavors of white grapefruit, white peach and yellow pears started out the front palate and gave way to green grass, fresh thyme, and crisp minerality as the wine progressed from mid palate through to the finish. The herbaceous notes lingered between sips. When I decided to open this bottle, I was also planning on making shrimp tacos, quite fortuitous on my part as I was not aware of the flavor profile of this wine. The pairing with seafood and a slightly acidic slaw made for a great dinner!