The much awaited BRDA & VINO Wine and Culinary Festival returned to the picturesque medieval village of Šmartno after three years on Saturday 23 April.
It was great to be able to attend again after my last visit in 2019. The regular visitors who came from all across Europe and beyond and me had missed this event. BRDA & VINO is popular for many reasons, among them: the variety of dishes and wines on offer, the lovely atmosphere brought on by the many entertainers and the visitors themselves, the setting and surrounding views. All who attend are in a happy mood, heightened by the festive live music performances.
The idyllic location, the tiny village of Šmartno, is bang in the centre of Slovenia’s most coveted wine-producing region—Goriška Brda, which has often been dubbed Slovenia’s Tuscany. One will see why when admiring the rolling hills and vineyards from one of the many hilltops. Šmartno itself is perched on a hill and offers amazing views of the entire Brda region, extending over to the Italian Collio winemaking region and beyond.
The great thing about attending the BRDA & VINO festival is that you can make a mini holiday out of it. In a couple of days, you can visit the pretty villages and wineries, and enjoy a peaceful walk among the vineyards.
Šmartno, an idyllic historical location
Šmartno’s historical setting makes it a perfect backdrop for a high-level event such as BRDA & VINO. Due to the village’s small size (1.42 km2), tickets to the event are limited and therefore sold-out way in advance, hence the exclusivity of the event.
The tiny village (around 200 inhabitants) is a pretty arrangement of well-preserved medieval buildings surrounded by fortified walls and five preserved towers. Its narrow streets are just wide enough to allow for the movement of soldiers that once defended it.
BRDA&VINO: Springtime wine and culinary festival
BRDA & VINO has a long tradition, starting off as a wine event for wine producers to promote their wines. In 2013, Hiša Marica and Hotel San Martin took over as organisers and turned it into one of the most important wine and culinary events in Slovenia. This year, it brought together over 25 selected restaurants from around Slovenia and over 40 winemakers from Brda. Every year, the rich gastronomic offer is further enriched by displays of boutique products such as homemade jams and liqueurs, olive oil, lavender products, and other artisanal produce.
Slovenian cuisine has become ever so sophisticated over recent years. Traditional staples have been transformed into more complex, flavour-rich, and eye-catching dishes. What I really appreciate is that chefs here take exceptional care in using local and seasonal produce, and the dishes I tasted at BRDA & VINO reflected this.
Some most memorable dishes were wild garlic (čemaž)gnocchi; asparagus lasagna; beetroot burger buns filled with pulled venison and pine nuts, pickled beetroot, and red cabbage coleslaw. This was quite a highlight: a ‘post-Easter’ dish consisting of a Wagyu Angus brisket carpaccio, sweet onions cooked in liqueur, caramelised onions in vinegar and dehydrated egg yolk, truffles with mustard, gaspacho of beetroot and leek, and a topping of squid mayo, all served on deep-fried dry bread.
Brda’s most abundant variety is Rebula. Together with Pikolit, Sauvignonasse and Verduc, it’s an old, local type. You’ll also find other known whites like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon and Pinot Bianco. Red wines typical of the area are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. You can also come across some Refošk, Barbera, Gamay and Syrah.
Many of these wines were being offered by the Brda wineries present at the BRDA & VINO festival.
Festivalgoers are highly entertained by numerous musical bands that tour the festival throughout the duration of the event. Music lovers can enjoy assorted styles, from Slovenian folk music, to pop and bossa nova beats.
My favourites this year were the young three-man band Ne Joči Pevec who got a party going with their drums, guitar, and accordion playing, and the Denise Dantas Quartet that performed Brazilian bossa nova songs. We could also appreciate artworks created by a local arts association ‘Likovno društvo DABLO,’ and live metalworking by blacksmith Vlado Zupančič.
The BRDA & VINO Wine and Culinary Festival is a paradise for any food, wine, and culture lover. You’ve got to experience it at least once in your lifetime. Who knows? Once experienced, it will probably end up on your yearly calendar.