Karst - Slovenia

The Čotars capture the Karst and its vineyards with craftsmanship and a wealth of experience. In their wines, they tell of the nearby sea, the mild but often windswept climate, the barren, stony soils and the times when wine was still taken to the fields by farmers for refreshment. Čotar's wines burst with energy and vibrancy. They have power and depth, yet are light-footed and surprisingly low in alcohol.


Stony, inhospitable and windy. Rough and wild, rocky and arid shrub landscapes everywhere. Farms are scattered around, often alone or in groups of three or four houses. The sea appears again and again between the forests. Occasionally you come across a church or an osmiza, one of those famous wine taverns where the people of Trieste spend their weekends and fill their bellies. And occasionally you come across a vineyard in this barren but spectacular world. 


The story of Branko Čotar's winery begins in 1974 in Gorjansko, Slovenia, a few kilometres across the Italian border. Back then, Branco Čotar decided to make his own wine from two existing vineyards for his Osmiza. A Teran, the omnipresent red wine of the region, which is not always easy to drink due to its often annoying acidity, and a white wine, which he simply called Krasko belo - the white wine from the Karst. In the years that followed, more and more people came to Osmiza for his wines. 

At some point, selling wine was more profitable than running the tavern, while Branko developed a growing passion for life with the vines. So Branko Čotar became a winemaker. In 1990, he bottled his first vintage (1988) and began to press ahead with his own cellar project, which he built in the rocks of the Karst over a period of almost three decades. Soon supported by his son Vasja, he developed his winery into a reference point for authentic and uncompromising wines. He was just as uninterested in systemic sprays, which were used almost everywhere at the time, as he was in pure yeasts and filters. 

Like Stanko Radikon a little further west, he pursued his own, very personal ideas. These had nothing to do with the actual oenological realities of the time, but a lot to do with mash fermentations (also and above all for white wines) and long maturation periods in barrels. People still came to collect their wines. 

The initial two vineyards have grown into seven over the years: Dusche, Polje, Kot, Ivanij, Grad, Olaria and Pecina are characterised by a thin layer of terra rossa and the underlying karst limestone.  Today they cover a total of 7.5 hectares of vineyards. In addition to Vitovska, Malvasia Istriana and Teran, the three autochthonous classics of the Karst, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are also rooted here. Even though the latter are all of French origin, they have also been grown in the vineyards around Trieste for several centuries. 

The Čotars harvest late and only when the wines have reached full phenolic maturity: which makes sense for winemakers for whom the tannin component is a key characteristic of their wines. The cellar, which once contained just a few barrels, now extends over three floors. The Čotars endeavour to capture the quintessence of what the Karst gives their grapes with a great deal of experience and craftsmanship. 

In them, they tell of the nearby sea, the mild but often windswept climate and the barren, stony soils. But also of times when wine was still taken to the fields by farmers for refreshment. Čotar's wines burst with energy and vibrancy. Despite the late harvest, they are always surprisingly low in alcohol and yet always have strength and depth.

The Wines of Čotar