Vino Frešer

Freser barrel room with sign
Address: Ritoznoj 17, 2310 Slovenska BistricaGPS: 46.4191124, 15.5862433Phone: 031 577 980, 040 623 804 Website: https://www.freser.siContact: Matjaž FREŠER 031/577-980, vino@freser.siOwner/s: Matjaž FREŠERWinemaker: Matjaž FREŠERHectares/ Grapes grown: 16ha, 75000 vines grown

Matjaž Frešer is the seventh generation of winemakers in his family. With fifteen vintages behind him, Frešer is also the first in his region to be certified for organic production five years ago. Both his winery and vineyard have interesting stories to tell.

Frešer’s 16ha vineyard straddles a steep slope at the very southen tip of the Pohorje (pronounced pok-orees) mountain range. An ancient ‘Cru’vineyard that has been in production at least since the time of Maria Theresa. It was known then as Knight’s Hill. In more recent times, the villagers living below on the plains nick-named it ‘Sweaty Ass.’ This because from their village it’s two, cheek-shaped hills are cracked in half by a stream running between. But just as likely an explanation is the inevitable result of the villagers’ long, hard climb to the upper slopes made before they began their day’s work.

Vines are positioned between 300-480m and openly exposed to constant winds that reduce vigor and slow ripening. Weather alternates between warmth coming in from the Mediterranean, , up off the Pannonian Basin and cooler influences down off the Pohoje range and Alps to the north. Hail is an ever-present danger and harvesting each variety often requires 2-3 picks to cover different ripening patterns from top to bottom of vineyards. Pinot Noir is planted at top to catch the most sun and heat, with Laski Riesling and Rhine Riesling below and Sauvignon Blanc planted at all levels, with newer plantings toward the lower, cooler, wetter slopes meant to emphasize herbal characters and firmer acidity. 

Outgrowing the ancient family home, the construction of a new, underground, gravity fed winery presented its own challenges. At one point the equally ancient, adjacent church nearly toppled into the hole for the winery. Today with grass covering the roof all this is in the past and the winery is kitted out with a variety of small batch fermentation tanks, 1-3000 litre Slovenian oak ovals, and 500 litre barrels and smaller barriques.

Frešer’s wine styles are modern, freshly fruited and usually around a very reasonable 12-12.5%. Whereas in his grandfather’s day the emphasis was on Laski Riesling and Sipon (Furmint) Matjaž’s focus is on Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir. All three of which offer very pure varietal expression.

One of his specializations is Sauvignon with vines positioned between 300-480m that are openly exposed to constant, vigor reducing winds. Weather alternates between warmth coming in from the Mediterranean and cooler influences off the Pohorje range and Alps to the north. Hail is an ever-present danger and harvesting requires 2-3 picks to cover ripening differences between diverse parcels from top to bottom of vineyards. All parcels are picked early in the morning and fermented separately in small tanks. Sauvignon from upper parcels, providing higher sugar levels, minerality and more structure, counterpointed in final blend with more herbal characters and firmer acidity of newer plantings on the lower, cooler, wetter, slower ripening slopes.

Matjaž suggests climate change has been challenging at best, frustrating at worst. In 2014 30% of his Sauvignon crop was lost to rain, then 2015, a cool year, produced another low yield vintage and 2016 was too hot, with vine stress lowering production to 60%. In 2017 he lost 90% of grapes to hail. He started picking 2018’s Sauvignon in August ending on October 1st. Although wines had freshness they were not high in acidity. 2019 was a classical year with Sauvignon’s more normal mid-September start and Nov 1st ending, with 2020’s mild, almost non-existent winter, likely to deliver another August harvest. 

Frešer is especially strong on Riesling and has added another 3 ha bringing total up to 5. And emphasis on low yields, one vine (1.5kg) per bottle delivers highly concentrated fruit. Stylistically their wines have less alcohol (13%) and are crisper than Alsatian, but higher in alcohol and considerably drier than German styles, finding a sweet spot between.

Pinot Noirs there are one of the more convincing styles of this emergent variety in Slovenia. The use of four French and one Austrian clone (latter bigger grapes, looser bunches to defeat botrytis and damp), along with modern Pinot focused viticulture and gentle handling are beginning to deliver convincing purely fruited, transparent and silky sytles.

Unusually, Frešer’s Laski Riesling treats this grape more seriously than others elsewhere. Traditionally, previous generations liked Laski for its lightness and cleansing palate. As an everyday wine it had to be cheap and 80% of market continues selling at 1-2 eu a bottle.

Frešer’s Laski is focused on a younger audience who appreciate newer, more serious versions. He, along with 3-4 other Slovenian producers are pushing the grape above its old reputation with lower yields. Dropping bunches to concentrate fruit and multiple picking runs at harvest for optimum ripeness broaden complexity. Mixed fermentation techniques in stainless steel and wood result in better balanced, more concentrated wine with more finesse. It’s all about teaching an old dog new tricks.

View Freser wine notes here

Freser's vineyard from below

Frešer's 'sweaty ass' vineyard view

Freser old wine-making equipment

Old wine-making tools

Freser people

Wine-maker Matjaž Frešer