In the Danubian Lowlands of southwest Slovakia is the village of Zemianske Sady, and Slobodné Vinárstvo, run by fourth- and fifth-generation winemakers Agnes Lovecka and Katarina Kuropkova, and their partners Mišo and Andrea. They farm 17ha and made the change to organics in 2016, and are multiple year members of the oldest biodynamic association in Austria, Valtfiertel. Indigenous grapes are preferred, soil health is of the utmost importance.
Winemaking has been in the family since 1912, before adopting the name Slobodné Vinárstvo, “free winemaking.” The family estate, Majer Zemianske Sady, was primarily a tobacco farm, producing wine on the side which was mostly sold locally. The combination of World War 2 and communism decimated the once prosperous estate- they didn’t produce wine again until 1997. The estate made its way to Agnes and Katarina through twists, turns, and heartbreak.
Agnes and Katarina’s grandparents, Eduard and Peter Herzog, grew up on the estate during WW2, and in 1944 joined the Slovak National Uprising against the Nazis. Eduard and Peter were to inherit the estate- Eduard, passionate about music, not farming, had no interest in doing so, leaving the future responsibility to Peter. Peter did not survive the uprising. Eduard did, and left for Prague, where he passed along to Agnes and Katarina’s mother a box containing a variety of papers, including the ownership certificate of the estate. It sat hidden in a wall under the staircase for many years. They were uninterested at first, but in the end they were drawn away from their city life in Bratislava, about an hour from the estate, and towards their family history.
All efforts were focused on rebuilding the ecosystem of the farm, honing in on organic and biodynamic efforts. Slobodné considers wine to be a living organism- their winemaking efforts, then, focused on understanding each and every detail of the process, avoiding anything that could alter the wine. Their Devina, of the Devín grape (cross of Roter Veltliner + Gewürztraminer) is a dazzling 10-day skin contact with a nose of honeysuckle and yellow melon- then, full, juicy, and green, brushed with Roobis tea, smoke, and ginger.