Slovenian Tapas & Osmica
Maybe you have a Tapas bar in your home city or even better, have tried Tapas out for real somewhere in Spain and chucked those little wooden sticks or teeny paper napkins onto the sawdust floor to show your approval of the amazing local nibble sized bites that keep coming.. dish after dish after dish?
Well you might have heard a rumour that Green Slovenia is another amazing European food country.. we can wholeheartedly confirm this..
If you get invited round someone's house or maybe go wine tasting, it is perfectly normal to have a plate or plates of local salami, sausages, cheese, pickled mushrooms and all other possible home made local delicacies pushed in front of you, very likely accompanied by a basket of bread baked that morning..
Can you see which direction we are going here?!
But wait a second, it is never quite that simple here on the edge of the Balkons, cos as predictable as the fantastic local hospitality is.. it is also a little predictable that the word for this Slovenian tradition is gonna be tricky for us foreigners to say and instantly forgettable too..
So here goes.. Narezek.. (I honestly just misspelt this word yet again and had to look it up to get the right spelling)!
Have you forgotten it yet? Sounds a bit like Baby Jesus' home town and even though you say this word as you see it, one of the Lodge team still has huge difficulty pronouncing it!
So guess what we went and did to simplify things.. we decided to just call this yummy local treat SLOVENIAN TAPAS, cos let's face it, that is pretty much EXACTLY what it is!
And if you are ever lucky enough to try some Slovenian Tapas (the chances are quite high, by the way as we will explain below), then you might not get "patatas bravas" or "nuclear powered jalapenos", but you will certainly receive a really memorable & delicious Smorgasboard of locally produced farm nibbles..
And the good news is there are many places and opportunities around here for you to get to try Slovenian Tapas too, it is fair to say we have never seen one plate, or wooden serving board exactly the same as another..
Especially when you factor in that special personal touch from the local winemaker, restaurant, farmhouse or neighbour who has prepared it just for you!
Having a tipple alongside the tapas is also very important here. So expect at least a glass of local wine as company.. Slovenia has 7 different wine regions, each one making some completely unique wines, only to be found here..
BUT also be prepared for the Slovenian version of the Jalapeno.. the glass of Schnapps, both silent and deadly in their own innocent ways!!
One of those unique Slovenian wines we mentioned is the blood red TERAN wine, produced in the Red Karst (Teran Kras) wine region and it is almost unthinkable not to have some air dried Prsut or cheese to accompany this wine.. Indeed this particular wine cannot taste so good without a Slovenian Tapas side dish!
So what is Slovenian Tapas?
In Green Slovenia the dishes will mostly be meat based.. different salamis, air dried or smoked Proscuitto, dried sausage, hams..
There will almost always be some local cheese too, but usually prepared in some unique way with olive oil or different herbs and spices.
Air Dried Prsut (Prosciutto)..
The Vipava valley and the Red Karst, (Teran Kras) wine regions sit directly between the Lodge and the Italian Adriatic coast.. They are Mediterranean neighbours, but also very close to the Alps, so they both experience the Burja wind, a European phenomenon when the warm Mediterranean air meets the cold Alpine air and causes quite a commotion for a few days.
Well, the relevance for this particular Slovenian Tapas blog is that these strong gusts of wind are used to naturally dry the Prosciutto in the Vipava Valley and the Teran Karst wine regions to produce such an amazing taste.
Yep, huge legs of Prsut can be hung in cellars for up to 3 years to cure in the strong wind, making such an intense flavour and so delicious with a glass of local wine!
There will also usually be some bread on offer in a basket, often baked by the resident grandma and additionally you could be offered a huge variety of different local vegetables and herbs in many shapes or forms pickled and stuffed into recycled jam jars!
It is also possible you will be offered a local desert, so try to go for something you haven't heard of, but if you are lucky it will be homemade Struklji (say struckly) and will be delicious!
On the farm, the apple juice will almost certainly be one of the best freshly squeezed juices you will ever taste and if wine is made on site you will inevitabubbly get to try some direct from the barrel or vat AND it will also very likely be a wine that is ONLY found here in Green Slovenia!
Finally, don't be surprised at all if your co pilot has to try a dram of schnapps too, maybe derived from apples, plum or anything else the locals can get their hands on!
The best advice is to try to get your Slovenian Tapas from the same farm where the products are made..
And the TASTE.. bow wow wow.. just out of this world! There is no way you can get anywhere near the authentic locally produced farm taste from a supermarket..
So what is Osmica?
This is a wonderful, wonderful tradition found mainly here in the south west of Green Slovenia and spilling over into the old Slovenian parts, now in Italy along the border, where farms and wineries randomly open their doors for a very short period of time to offer their goodies without tax.
In the old days at the end of the busy and intense wine making season, around October, November, farms would place a large tree branch outside the property and could sell their products without paying any tax until the leaves went brown.
The word for eight in Slovene is OSEM, so Osmica comes from that as it would usually be around a week of so of tax free festivies!
Osmica was and still is one of the pinnacle celebrations of the year where the farm or winery sets up some benches and long tables in a big open room or barn to give people the chance to come together to feast on the freshly made products and taste the new wines!
So you see, if you can get to an Osmica, you will get even more than a taste, but a sense and feeling of how Slovenians do "Tapas" in a warm, friendly, free flowing environment with very good food and wine indeed!
Finding an Osmica..
Now for the slightly tricky bit.. If you rock up in the middle of summer like many visitors tend to still do in Green Slovenia, you can certainly find Slovenian Tapas, but you will NOT be able to visit a magical Osmica.
As said, they traditionally take place at the end of the wine season, from October to Christmas or nearer carnival time around March.
You will track them down mainly in the 4 Slovenian Mediterranean wine regions.. All of these four wine regions are just around the corner from the Lodge in different directions towards Italy, but for the visitor, it can be a little bit random as to which and when each farm opens it's doors to the public for the week.
Well, we really wanted to write this blog for you by now, so decided to find a few Osmicas and try them out this autumn..
We decided to find one in the nearby Vipava Wine Valley and another in an area we call the "Red Karst", known locally as the Teran Kras wine region!
One fun technique you could use is to drive around these mini wine regions randomly on the hunt for the branches left at the side of the road or wooden signs saying Osmica..
But our tried and tested method to find anything new worth visiting here is to ask a local and in this case we applied our own local knowledge to know which particular regional TIC (Tourist Info Centre) to phone and after speaking to these lovely people we found one farm open in each of our selected regions!
There is actually a lot of stuff in English about Osmicas on the net, but it can be a little confusing and unclear as to which particular winery is open for Osmica and when..
We did find a website in English for the Vipava Valley Osmicas and it proved very useful indeed.. There is a decent coverage for Osmicas in the 40km long wine valley as different wineries open for a week at different times.. Some even open twice a year.. Have a look for yourself.. Vipava Valley Osmicas .. many thanks to Visit Vipava for doing a great job on this list!
We very strongly recommend phoning your selection ahead, even if a website shows opening times and dates, it is still best to check if you need to book a table and indeed if the Osmica is actually open that day!
Here now below are the 2 Osmicas we went to at the very end of autumn 2023..
Osmica in the Red Karst..
It was such a lovely adventure in late November for us to drive to a little village called LIPA along a country road we had never been on before just outside the pretty wine town of KOMEN.
We had a little early snow on the ground here in the wintry Green Karst, but just around the corner from Mt Nanos is full Mediterranean and it is always wierd to see they had NO snow there and that many golden brown leaves were still clinging to the trees!
It is a beautiful 45 min drive from the Lodge to the top of the Teran Kras wine region passing the pretty Red Karst capital of Stanjel.. there are actually several different routes you can take to get there and LOTS of other little places to visit along the way to make an amazing day out too.. any time of year!
As we expected, the only foreign cars in the LEBAN Farm car park were Italian, (these guys really know where to get good food and wine). We found a vacant bench (it is very common to share a table here at Osmica time, it adds to the atmosphere) and ordered a "mixed platter" with some fresh apple juice and a caraffe of the unique local Teran blood red wine!
Wow, the goats cheese just crumbled in the mouth and the second plate of cheese was garnished with fennel & oil and was so delicious. We had not tasted this cheesey oily herbal combo before.
The cold meat platter was out of this world and as Osmica usually takes place in the autumn or winter, we were also able to order a hot local soup, called Jota with sauerkraut cabbge, beans and a home made sausage.. The sausage looked just like a normal sausage, but again the taste was on a different level!
The atmosphere in the farmhouse was really homely and friendly, with guests celebrating and enjoying the food platters and the new wine..
On the way home, we discovered another new Karst cave for us.. Potato Cave was adapted and used by 500 Austrian soldiers to shelter in during WW1.. After that we dropped into one of our fave little local restaurants in the Red Karst, Ukmar in Dutovlje for a coffee and slice of cake..
Wow, what a day! You can read more about our Red Karst adventures here! (soon)
Osmica in the Vipava Wine Valley..
A week later we found Avin vineyard in the Vipava Osmica list.. open for the first week in December, so we phoned and set up a table.
We had E Biked through the village of Gradisce on an epic ride from the Lodge to the Vipava valley, but did not know there were also vineyards high up here on the Nanos Vipava slopes, so close to the Lodge!
Indeed, geographically it must be the nearest winery to the Lodge, just on the other side of Mt Nanos and right at the start of the Vipava valley.. (10 mins if you take your private helicopter up & over the mountain or 20 mins by car)!
The friendly vineyard owner explained this lofty position at the very start of this Mediterranean wine valley was perfect for growing lots of different varieties of wine..
Including the very rare Pikolit grape that produces a sweet dessert wine and can ONLY be found in the Vipava valley and some places in neighbouring Friuli region, (now Italy).. Hold onto your hats, folks.. It grows NOWHERE else in the world!
We were shocked, but not surprised to find yet another unique Slovenian wine we had not heard about yet and after the Tapas we went into the Avin cellar to try a drop of this rare vino too!
For the Tapas, we found our bench inside to sit down and enjoy another amazing mixed platter and we also ordered a hot plate of sausage, pork, cabbage and potato.. formidable!
Wow, another delicious Osmica, everything so yummy and we used the bread to soak up the olive oil left over from the cheese!
We also tasted a delicious rare orange wine, made from the unique Slovenian Rebula grape and only produced every 5 years or so when the grape quality is absolutely right and some Muscat desert wine, so we bought a few bottles and the rare Pikolit for Christmas!
Other Places to get Slovenian Tapas..
If you are not around at Osmica time then the best way to try some Slovenian Tapas is to go wine tasting in a local vineyard or at a local restaurant.
Do not ask for "Slovenian Tapas", we expect this expression to catch on more in Green Slovenia, but we use it so us visitors can understand exactly what we are gonna get.. locals might have blank expressions and will still use the word Nazerec, even when speaking English to you as if this word exists in English and that you would know it!
Another key tip though is the very best Tapas will come to you without you asking! So you cannot really order this or even ask for it as it will be brought out to you like a surprise and offered as a "ta daaa" moment.
No trip to Green Slovenia is complete without an adventure to the Vipava Valley or the Teran Kras Red Karst, (better to see both) and this is where you can ALWAYS order some local Prsut at a local restaurant as a starter, maybe some cheese or other nibbles too..
A final technical thingy to note is you might expect local cafes to offer Prsut with a glass of wine, but cafes are a bit different here.. more for just for drinks, with only a few serving cakes or ice cream and very few offering Slovenian Tapas, so this is very different to Spanish Tapas served in Spanish cafes and bars too..
The best advice here is if you are a bit peckish, then much better to go into a restaurant rather than a cafe, EVEN if you just want a small plate of Tapas to eat.. that is perfectly ok here!
Of course, the last way to try Tapas here is to be invited around by a local and then, just like going to an Osmica, you will have hit the Tapas jackpot!!
Be prepared to try Uncle Bogdan's pickled forest mushrooms or Grandma Babica's home grown tomatoes! Oh yes and one or two generous glasses of local schnapps too AND if you are invited to someone's home in Green Slovenia you must take a little pressie, maybe some coffee or a bottle of vino..
We humbly suggest you will never see, smell, taste or experience the very same Slovenian Tapas here, cos they are all unique in their own way..
But we are sure you will love it, even if you just go for veggie options.. Just don't throw your serviette on the ground here!