p&f wineries is a very young winery, only founded in 2009. However, the Puklavec family has enjoyed a passionate relationship with wine for much longer, and when they founded p&f wineries, they returned to their roots.
It is fascinating to meet people who have been totally bitten by the wine bug. People who devote themselves to wine with a passion, who focus on every aspect and put an unimaginable amount of energy into it. Martin Puklavec must have been such a person.
As was often the case in Slovenia in former times, the Puklavec family ran their vineyard as a sideline to their main occupation. But it was only with Martin Puklavec that the passion for wine really emerged with any force. He became an oenologist and, in 1934, took on the role of secretary for the Jeruzalem-Ormož wine cooperative. His main concerns were to improve cooperation amongst the vintners and increase the quality of the wines.
History did not make Martin Puklavec’s job an easy one by any means. After World War Two, Slovenia became a communist state. To go into the business of quality wine production at such a time, when vineyards were nationalised, you had to be very committed. But despite the difficulties, Martin Puklavec managed to get his philosophy accepted. As head of the wine cooperative, he was responsible for the construction of the seven-storey underground cellar which extended to 25 metres below the surface. To allow the journey of the grapes in the cellar to be determined by gravity is the dream of many qualityoriented vintners. Martin Puklavec made it happen it in a highly impressive fashion, enabling his successors to reap the rewards.
When he died in 1969, the Puklavec family left both the wine business and Slovenia. Martin’s son Vladimir made his new home in Germany. Trained as a mechanical engineer, he built up a successful company in the gas industry and ran it for 27 years. But he could not shake off the passion for wine brought to the family by his father, and the bug eventually got to him. “One day when we were in the kitchen, my father told us about his plans to buy grandfather’s vineyard and start up p&f wineries. At first, my sister and I thought he was joking – but in fact, it was totally logical for all of us to carry on our grandfather’s legacy,” says Tatjana Puklavec.
And so, Vladimir and his daughters Tatjana and Kristina Puklavec built a highly committed team and went about the business of making the dream of having their own winery in their old home come true. Even such a successful businessman as Vladimir Puklavec would probably not have automatically been received with open arms in Slovenia, had it not immediately become clear that the family intended to take up the legacy of the unforgettable Martin Puklavec. In 2009, they took over the Jeruzalem-Ormož wine cooperative and founded p&f wineries.
The fact that none of them were from the wine industry could have been a disadvantage, but the Puklavec family turned it into an advantage. Driven by their passion for wine, they ran the new winery with a fresh approach and focused on quality in exactly the same uncompromising way as Martin Puklavec. The oenologist Mitja Herga was the perfect person to assist the family, although they sometimes brought him to the edge of despair with their off-the-wall and dynamic ideas, but he always found a way to implement the family’s visions in the best possible way. “There is no-one I would rather entrust our wine to than him,” says Tatjana Puklavec, making it clear that Mitja Herga enjoys the family’s trust.
He has a huge task ahead of him. p&f wineries cultivate 650 hectares of vineyards. On top of this, there are 450 hectares of vineyards commissioned by vintners from the region. The mostly terraced land on the hills mean that farming the vines with machines is largely impossible. All grapes are still hand picked, which contributes to the high quality the family is seeking. The soil is rich in minerals, combining a lot of chalk, calcium carbonate stone and marl with calcium-rich sandstone, thus providing the perfect subsoil for the vines.
In terms of grape varieties, p&f wineries build on the white wine varieties typically found in the region, such as Welschriesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Furmint. In so doing, the family is highlighting its Slovenian roots. This is also an important point in terms of sales. Certainly, targeted demand for Slovenian wines is not particularly great. But if the wines from p&f wineries impress a retailer with their quality, he is often happy that he has a special wine he can surprise his clients with and which his colleagues do not have in their portfolio. “We often hear comments to the effect that there is finally something new from the old world,” says Tatjana Puklavec, with a smile.
The concept of striving for optimum quality and first class value for money pays off. When the Puklavec started in 2009, they exported 2 per cent of their wines to two countries. Today, 70 per cent of their production is exported to more than 20 export markets. And so the family is coming closer to its target of making Slovenia known as a country producing top-quality wines. The people of Slovenia are also benefiting since p&f wineries has created 150 jobs there.
“Our priority is the achievement of perfect quality. Our wines are our pride and joy. They mean everything to us. Only those who comply with our high standards can later bear our name on their label,” says Kristina Puklavec, making it clear that their relationship with their own wines is not just one of passion, but also a family one. Snappy, fruity and modern wines are supplied to the food retail sector as part of the ‘puklavec & friends’ line. ‘Gomila’, in contrast, is reserved for specialist retailers. The precise and fresh taste of the wines is endearing, as is the moderate alcohol content. Those who enjoy wines love the Puklavec family’s motto: “The best things in life should be shared with others.”