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January 2021

Fascinating Flavours, All Year Round

Discover the secrets of our wine-culinary paradise

This year we'll be exploring flavours with particular enthusiasm. Slovenia has been chosen as the European Region of Gastronomy 2021, a celebrated recognition of its efforts towards sustainable gastronomy development, integrating agriculture and tourism to provide guests with sustainable, wholesome foods and preserve the rich folk and culinary tradition of the land; as well as presenting a great opportunity for the exploration of genuine flavours encountered all across the Vipava Valley and cross-border Goriška. The Slovenian culinary landscape and its unique stories are featured on the web portal Taste Slovenia, where focus is also on the most fascinating flavours, the most distinguished chefs and winemakers, and the most highly awarded restaurants in the region. Discover the flavourful secrets of the paradise valley.

Vipava Valley jota, our best known local dish

In the Vipava Valley, there's a dish combining the elements of all four seasons. Named jota, a sour turnip or sauerkraut stew with potatoes, beans and an essential chunk of meat, is a simple dish anyone may prepare. Its secrets lie in the selection of the finest ingredients, carefully grown, some even specially prepared to make the best of these traditional dishes. A favourite and distinct is jota made with the local tropinka, turnip soured in grape marc. Two core jota ingredients, potato and garlic, are planted early in the spring already, with beans following soon. At this time part of the mystery is already beginning in the least expected of places, the vineyards. Grape marc, left over from grape pressing, will be carefully stored across the fall till the turnip, planted late in the summer, finally ripens. The healthiest and nicest, souring in the marc, acquires a unique colour and flavour, adding its essential, unmistakable accent to the jota made with tropinka turnip. Jota's second staple is the laurel leaf, all year fragrant in the gardens' edges, contributing its characteristic aroma. A final, strongest accent is obtained during winter pork and sausage season. Fresh or slightly dried sausage, or a whole chunk of dry or smoked meat, is what gives the jota its "punch" – as adding meat to a vegetable stew is likely to be described by the locals. The four seasons meet in a sturdy home meal, simply wholesome. Perhaps this is the reason why jota is one of those rare dishes found steaming from the Vipava Valley pots all year round.

Radicchio from Goriška, our most precious garden crop

Of all the garden crops thriving in the paradise valley, the radicchio from Goriška (named by the folks also sukénskirégut) is a treasured specialty. This unique variety was selectively bred right along the current border with Italy. Now, the radicchio from Goriška represents an original culinary symbol of the frontier, the cultural and economic ties between the Italian Gorizia and the Slovenian hinterlands, historically supplying fresh vegetables. The unique Goriška garden crop, delighting in mid-winter with its flavour and sights is a highly valued culinary gem. Respect is earned by the great tradition, persistence and love with which growers produce these wonderful little radicchio heads, reminiscent of rose flowers. The radicchio from Goriška, starting growth in the summer, is in late autumn carefully harvested, roots included, and then in special warm dark rooms forced to develop tiny heads. Prior to shipping it is meticulously cleaned, since a perfect appearance is its trademark trait. The petite vegetable is delicious and healthy, making for a top staple in the winter months on the plates of the famous regional culinary masters and many local restaurants. Precious radicchio naturally also finds its way to veggie enthusiasts across Slovenia and nearby Italy.

From the garden to the table

In the paradise garden, as the Vipava Valley was known centuries ago already, many crops and garden crops thrive alongside rich varieties of fruit. The locals mostly live in private houses, and nearly each has its own crop garden. Due to the gentle Mediterranean climate, the gardens grow something useful all year round. Even when winter is harsh, the radicchio and evergreen herbs will be there, holding strong. In general, pristine home ingredients are always at hand in these parts, and so the food culture of the Vipava Valley and the Goriška is one described as going "from the garden to the table", a lifestyle foundation of local identity. Traditional valley dishes are largely seasonal, bringing the fresh breath of variety to local cuisine. It goes without saying that locally-sourced foods are fresher and healthier than their longer-supply-chain counterparts. Wholesome nutrients are also boosted by the traditional cultivation methods, avoiding artificial additives and staying true to the laws of nature. Sustainably produced local ingredients are the pillar of daily nutrition in the land, while also fuelling the culinary masteries of its celebrated chefs and the menus of the many agritourism farms and restaurants offering genuine home cuisine, letting you taste the luxury of the culinary paradise. Served, of course, with a glass of outstanding Vipava Valley wine, like the rest of the local delicacies produced in a traditional way. Enjoy the flavours, in the Vipava Valley and frontier Goriška enticing all year round.