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Matija Vertovec

Priest, author and educator of Vipava Valley winegrowers

Among the vineyards of Vipava Valley, in a hamlet called Jakulini, not far from the village Šmarje na Vipavskem, a boy named Matija Vertovec was born on the 28th of January 1784. He was an extraordinary mind who invested a great deal of his creative efforts to the advancement of viticulture and winemaking.

As a priest, he spent his life exercising ministry in the Vipava region. His first ministry was in the town of Vipava. Later he was transferred to Planina and finally to Podnanos where he died on the 2nd of September 1851. Matija Vertovec was no ordinary priest. A polyglot, history and geography buff, he was also interested in chemistry, physics and astronomy. With an especially keen interest in agriculture, particularly viticulture and vinification, he was in continuous pursuit of new knowledge, and spent a lot of time travelling. He wrote down his findings in a number of expert articles and books, and was delighted to share his knowledge with the common folk. He provided more than just religious education to the villages in which he performed ministry. His mission was to encourage the people to learn, and he set an example by introducing novelties that brought progress to this rural backwater.

Teaching Progressive Winemaking

Matija Vertovec was the first to write about viticulture and winemaking in Slovenian; he also tackled applicable chemistry, astronomy and the general history of the world. Published in 1844, his book Vinoreja (The Art of Winegrowing) on the subject of viticulture, winemaking and cellaring in Slovenia, is the first to delve into this topic scientifically, and holds special significance for the people living in the Vipava Valley. Vertovec tended a vineyard and managed a wine cellar; he experimented with vines and winemaking techniques he had learnt of through books or on his travels. His knowledge and experience were transplanted to the winegrowers of Vipava. Even today, many of his tips provide useful guidelines for modern winegrowers and winemakers involved in sustainable wine production.

An invaluable contribution of Vertovec is the carefully compiled list of all grape varieties cultivated in the Vipava Valley at that time. His account set an important cornerstone and impetus for the preservation of ancient native varieties which are the greatest treasure of the Vipava Valley Winegrowing District.

Immortally dedicated to the vine

The works of Matija Vertovec are imbued with a deep sense of dedication to his native soil and the grapevine. This is best reflected in his elated article In Praise of the Grapevine (orig.: Vinske terte hvala) published in 1843 in the Agricultural and Artisan News (orig.: Kmetijske in rokodelske novice). In it, he publicly entreats France Prešeren, the greatest Slovenian poet to date, to write a hymn to the grapevine. A year later, Prešeren did indeed write the famous Zdravljica (A Toast). Today, historians can clearly make out Vertovec's idea in the first stanza, whilst the seventh stanza became the Slovenian national anthem. Much later, but also in Podnanos, where Matija Vertovec had performed ministry at one time, Stanko Premrl set Zdravljica to music. Thus, Podnanos has a claim to fame as the birthplace of the Slovenian anthem.

In the Footsteps of Matija Vertovec

Over the hills and through the villages of Vipava, which were marked by the presence and activity of Matija Vertovec, a well-marked hiking trail was set up, leading past natural and cultural landmarks. Every year on the first Sunday following St Martin's Sunday, the Hike in the Footsteps of Matija Vertovec is organized. Hikers are captivated by the hospitality of the locals and relish in the local delicacies put before them.

In the village of Šmarje na Vipavskem the members of a society dedicated to Matija Vertovec set up a memorial room, displaying archival documents, books and photos that used to belong to him. The Vertovec memorial room can be visited upon appointment. Society members can take you hiking in the footsteps of Matija Vertovec year round and introduce to you his life story through the eyes of a native.

Darko Poljšak, T: +386 (0)41 275 267
Damijan Orel, T: +386 (0)41 363 207