Owners: Matej & Kristina Skerlj
Winemaker: Matej Skerlj
Vineyards: 3.5ha across 9 different parcels, mostly estate-owned
Vineyard management: Certified organic and following the biodynamic calendar
Soils: Terra rossa and limestone
Grapes grown: Vitovska, Malvasia, Terrano
Annual production: 12,000 bottles
- Matej Skerlj is using the traditional techniques of his region, including skin contact and extended aging in large old oak, to produce distinctive wines from local varieties.
- Vitovska is a native grape found almost exclusively in this part of Friuli.
- The Vitovksa Riserva is aged in stone vats made out of local stone from Carso.
The azienda Skerlj was officially founded in 1996, but its history dates well before that: Matej’s grandfather had been farming the land, raising dairy cows and pigs and growing vegetables, since the 1960s. Until fairly recently, they sold most of their products, including wine (unbottled, straight from the tank), at the “osmizza,” the regional term for a traditional market selling local wine and other agricultural products. They only started bottling wine for the first time in 2014, when changes to the laws made it more difficult to sell wine in bulk.
Skerlj is located in Carso, at the very edge of Friuli-Venezia Giulia along the border with Slovenia. It sits atop a limestone plateau, topped with a thin layer of iron-rich “terra rossa” soil, with the gulf of Trieste on one side and the mountains on the other. The bora wind, a strong, cold, dry northern wind descending from the mountains, blows through frequently, acting as a cooling influence and decreasing the need for vineyard treatments. It’s not an easy place to make wine: there’s not a lot of land available, so their vineyards are divided into numerous tiny parcels, surrounded by forest. Planting costs are quite high as well, since they have to break into the limestone bedrock and then replace the layer of terra rossa. At the same time, these challenges are what make wines from this region so distinctive: the calcareous soils create wines with lively acidity and pronounced minerality, and Matej appreciates the opportunity to work with a variety of vineyard sites, each with its own unique character. Vineyard work is done by hand as much as possible, caring for the vines as needed without being invasive.
Matej describes his winemaking style as “vino di una volta”–the wines of “once upon a time.” Since transitioning to making bottled wine, he has used the same traditional techniques for all of his wines, red and white: three weeks of skin contact, followed by two years of aging in large old oak barrels. He does four punchdowns a day, all by hand, throughout fermentation. While skin contact is a trend in much of the world, it has always been the traditional way of making wine in this region. In 2018, Matej introduced stone vats to the winery, which he uses to age the Vitovska Riserva. “We wanted to combine the amphora method with local materials, in this case stone from Carso,” he explains. “It’s a bit of a futuristic idea!” Fermentation takes place with native yeast, and no additives are used in the cellar outside of a minimal amount of sulfur.