Aci Urbajs | Biodynamic wine-grower in the Styria region of eastern Slovenia, near the border with Croatia (the nearest town is Šentjur)Born in 1961, Aci (real name Franz, ‘Aci’ his nick name) comes from the middle Slovenia. Aci, who speaks English, studied economics and worked in computers until 1988 when, aged twenty seven, his father Franc bought him a derelict farm in Rifnik, in the hilly western part of the Smarje-Virstajn sub-region of Podravje, for the price of a second hand car. Most of the wine is sold to guesthouses and hotels, including in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana.

Owner | Aci and Brigitta Urbajs.

Vineyards | Aci told me ‘my vineyards extend on the southern side of the very steep hills of Dramlje and Rifnik in the Kozjansko region. The farm is lies 450 metres above sea level. The vineyards are south-facing vineyards and on very steep sites. This region has an interesting history. The Rifnik hill upon which I started vine-growing has records of human habitation dating from 4,000BC, or the early Stone Age, with Celts, Romans, Langobards and now Slovenes successively settling the area. While renewing our abandoned vineyard on Rifnik we found remains of a Celtic tomb-urn [see also Birgit Braunstein, in Austria]. A roman door post adorned with an image of a vine also suggests Rifnik has a long wine-growing tradition.’ 

In 2009 Aci said he had 1ha of vineyard and 3.44ha of land in total, which includes pasture for two horses plus an apple orchard. The terrain is so steep everything must be done by hand. The topsoil is very thin. The main grape varieties are Pinot Gris (‘sivi pinot’), Chardonnay, Kerner, Laski Rizling (Welschriesling), and Pinot Noir. The vines are planted 1.5 metres apart and are wire-trained and pruned using the single guyot (replacement cane) system with each plant producing only 0.7-1.0kg per grapevine or 6 bunches of grapes. Another hectare of land was planted with apple-trees in 2000.

Biodynamics | Aci told me he went organic as this was be best way to preserve the region’s wine growing traditions, and because he and his family live close to the vines. Read on for why he went Biodynamic. Biodynamic compost 502-507 from cow and sheep manure is spread every five years. Aci sprays the biodynamic field sprays using a back sprayer. Horn silica 501 is sprayed in springtime (May), and then in summer after rain and again in autumn if the vines need a ripening boost. Horn manure 500 is applied in early spring (February, March) on the soil to keep it from drying out in case of drought, a risk as climatic conditions here are continental. Aci buries his own cow hows to make the two biodynamic horn sprays. Aci also sprays plant-based sprays such as stinging nettle to invigorate the soil in hot periods and to keep the vine sap moving (to stop stress). Equisetum arvense 508 or (common horsetail) is sprayed as a decoction to ward off vine fungal diseases in spring around flowering. The vineyard is full of grass and bees. ‘I appreciate biodynamics very much because spraying my vines with herb teas like yarrow, camomile, nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valerian enables me to reduce use of copper-based sprays and sulfur sprays to a minimum. I try to time work in the vineyard to celestial cycles to maximise the effect of formative forces,’ Aci told me.

Certification | 1988 Renovation of the abandoned vineyard. | 1998 Certified organic by ABG from Austria. Certified in conversion to Biodynamics having joined ADJA. | 1999 Demeter Biodynamic certification for the first time.

Winemaking | No yeast additions. All wines ferment and age in oak. No fining or filtration. Limited sulfur dioxide, or none at all in the case of the ‘suhi jagodni izbor’ white wines.

Production | 6,000 to 8,000 bottles annually.

White wines

Chardonnay, Dry | 2002 Dry Macerated on the skins.

Pinot Gris Semi-Dry | 2001. | 2002.

Risling (sic) | Welschriesling (Riesling Italico).

Pinot Noir | 2002 Debut vintage from young vines.

Organick | The flagship wine. | 2003 Chardonnay, Kerner, Pinot Gris, Welschriesling. No added sulfites. | 2005 11,1%. Welschriesling, Pinot grigio, Kerner, Chardonnay.

Other crops

Apples. The Urbajs family makes cheese for their own use from the milk of neighbours.

Contact

Urbajs, Rifni 44b, 3230 Šentjur, Slovenia

Tel+386 03749.2373.

Bibliography

Isabelle Legeron MW, Natural Wine, An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines grown naturally (2014, Cico Books, London & New York), p155.