Marof is an impressive winery in the Prekmurje region of Slovenia, which is in the far northeast of the country near a village called Mačkovci. It’s close to the border of both Austria and Hungary. The subregion here is called Goričko and it doesn’t have an illustrious history of grape growing, although this is a place with lots of potentially serious terroirs. Marof are beginning to show just how good some of these are. The Prekmurje region is now at 600 hectares of vines, although previously this was 1500 hectares during the era of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The winemaker here is Uroš Valcl, and he hails from Maribor. He was born into agriculture: like many families at the time, his practiced mixed agriculture alongside their professional careers. They had 4 hectares of vineyards, but in the 1970s or 1980s you had to send the grapes to the cooperative, or make ‘open wine’ – wine that wasn’t bottled.
Uroš had a dream, though: to play professional basketball. He was good at it, and at a young age he was training with the first team at Maribor, the second largest city in Slovenia. But tragedy struck, and when he was 14 his father died prematurely. Uroš’ mother was a professor of geography and history, while his father had been working for the government office. But his mother carried on with the family vineyards and bottled her first wines in 1994.
Uroš carried on playing basketball, but after the last tournament he played for the U18 team he felt uncomfortable with his choice and instead decided to quit the sport and begin helping his mother with the family wine business. The first vintage he was involved with was the 1999 vintage, and he realised this was something he could focus on – and something that he was good at. He carried on making the wines, and in 2006 he began consulting with a new venture. And then in 2008 he was invited to join an exciting new project in the area: Marof. He saw the project, the vineyards, and decided to commit full time to it in 2009.
Originally this was a country house owned by a wealthy Hungarian family, the Szspárys. It was bought by the current owner Stanko Polanič in the early noughties and has been significantly renovated. Initially, there were 45 hectares on three different sites, but these have been concentrated to just 22 hectares of the best plots. Currently, equity is shared with Stanko’s two sons and Uroš.
The approach here is one of long elevage: there’s lots of large format oak in the impressive cellar, as well as some small barrels.
Marof Breg Cuvée 2018 Prekmurje, Slovenia
13.5% alcohol. Laški Rizling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon. Fermented in 500 and 600 litre barrels. The Laški Rizling has 2 days skin contact. Complex nose with some nuts, honey and lanolin as well as some chalky spicy notes, as well as pear and ripe apple. The palate is pure, textured and fresh with a chalky mineral undertow to the sweet citrus fruit with some appley depth and a mineral finish. Very expressive with layers of flavour, finishing fresh but with some restrained richness. 94/100
Marof Breg Sauvignon 2018 Prekmurje, Slovenia
13.5% alcohol. 30% old vineyards then the rest is 20 year old vineyards. Fermented in 600 litre barrels. This is taut, focused and mineral with a fine spiciness to the pear and apple fruit, with a spicy citrus core. Restrained, bright and mineral with a fine herbal twist but with the main focus on concentrated fruit. Lovely freshness and intensity here, with fine nutty notes blending in with the fruit. Has a lot of potential for development. 93/100
Marof Bodonci Sauvignon Grand Vin 2018 Prekmurje, Slovenia (barrel sample)
14% alcohol. Fermented and aged in Stockinger and left on lees. This is fantastic. Very fine and expressive with crystalline citrus fruit, some hints of honey and spice, with the slightest hint of tropical fruit but a core of fleshy but beautifully focused citrus fruit, with some mineral character and a hint of chalkiness. So expressive: a remarkable expression of Sauvignon showing concentration, balance, detail and complexity. 96/100
Marof Breg Chardonnay 2021 Prekmurje, Slovenia (barrel sample)
Fermented in 600 litre barrels. There’s some reduction with lovely crystalline citrus fruits and really good acidity. Nice spicy detail and a bit of structure hemming in the fruit, with a lovely acid line. Lots of potential here. 92-94/100
Marof Kramarovci Chardonnay Grand Vin 2018 Prekmurje, Slovenia
13.5% alcohol. Volcanic tuff and some muschelcalk. Left in the press for 4 days so they started fermenting, then direct to a big barrel (2500 litre) where it stays 18 months. Full golden colour. Taut citrus fruit with hints of honey, spice and seaweed. The palate is powerful and intense: it’s quite taut with a keen lemony core, but also has some nut and lanolin characters, with a mineral flourish on the finish. I love the compact fruit and lovely acid line, which is setting this up for a long future. Needs time to unfurl. 94/100
Marof Breg Zeleni Silvanec 2017 Prekmurje, Slovenia
14% alcohol. Silvaner, with some skin contact (30 days). Golden colour. Focused aromas with jellied fruit, some spicy citrus and dried herbs. Powerful palate with lovely spicy yellow plum and citrus fruit, a twist of straw and a nice juicy finished, with expansive spicy citrus. Lots of flavour and character here. 91/100
Marof Breg Zeleni Silvanec 2021 Prekmurje, Slovenia (barrel sample)
Overnight in the press. Wonderfully citrussy nose with vivid, direct fruit. The palate is crystalline and energetic with a vivid fine citrussy finish, showing lime and mandarin. Really expressive with incredible focus and energy, and a lightness. Some slightly pithy, chalky notes too. Excellent Silvaner. 94/100
Marof Breg Cuvée Red 2017 Prekmurje, Slovenia
13.5% alcohol. 50% Blaufrankish, 30% Zwiegelt and a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in barrels of various sizes, including large. Taut, spicy nose with hints of tomato and cherry, as well as some red berry fruit. The palate is fresh and quite vivid with dusty, drying tannins and some earthy notes, as well as cherries and plums. Quite distinctive with some firmness, as well as vivid red berry fruits. Savoury as well as sweetly fruited. 90/100
Marof Breg Zweigelt 2018 Prekmurje, Slovenia
Lively, juicy and intense with sweet red berry, strawberry and cherry fruit, with good acidity and some drying tannins. Has some mid-palate volume and sweetness with a zesty finish, showing brightness. Very assertive. 91/100
Marof Mačkovci Modra Frankinja Grand Vin 2018 Prekmurje, Slovenia
Selected Blaufrankisch from the home vineyard. Aromatic nose with some dusty berry and black fruits. Concentrated, fresh and assertive on the palate with good structure and intensity, showing vivid fruit, good tannins and a drying, slightly grippy finish. Shows a lot of freshness but also good concentration and depth. More red fruits than black, like a Slovenian Barolo! This is really good, bringing together ripeness and freshness. 94/100
Marof Mačovci Anna Grand Vin 2016 Prekmurje, Slovenia
14% alcohol. This is 100% Merlot, aged 30 months in barrel. Fresh and supple with a nice red and black fruit quality, but also some savoury, grainy, gravelly notes. It’s mid-weight, supple and digestible with some appealing savoury undercurrents to the balanced fruit. Fresh, refined and with plenty of complexity, this finishes taut and dry. Very satisfying and quite serious. 93/100
Marof Renski Riesling 2018 Prekmurje, Slovenia
13% alcohol. From very ripe but clean grapes. Pithy, limey nose with a hint of mint. Lovely purity on the palate which shows fresh, sweet citrus fruit with a hint of melon, some sweetness and then a touch of pithiness. Lovely balance here (35 g/l sugar, 8 g/l acid). Has lovely intensity. 90/100