Rok’in on in County Mayo

The First Encounter

I remember first tasting Roka’s Laski Rizling from Kog, Slovenia two years ago on a sunny day in Cong, County Mayo. I found the bottle in a small artisan deli in the village and spoke with the owner about the wine to find out more…It turns out that they were stocking this rather unusual Slovenian wine because the winemakers behind it happened to live within the same county in Mayo, Ireland.

The names of these ambitious modern winemakers are Liam and Sinead Cabot from Westport, County Mayo. With an already well-established wine import business, Cabot and Co, the couple decided to get there hands dirty (literally, ‘Roka’ means hand..) in the Slovenian hills, just 1,000 meters away from the Croatian border. This location for winemaking was chosen due to a love for the lush, rural qualities reminiscent of Ireland and the affordability of buying a house and vineyard with a cellar.

From the range, I have been lucky enough to try only the Laski Rizling (Welschriesling), however, they also produce another white from old vine Sipon (Furmint) and a red wine from Modra Frankinja (Blaufrankisch).

The tasting notes from the latter two wines can be found on Jancis Robinson’s page here. As for the Laski Rizling, I have my own tasting notes and I can tell you for a start that this wine is way more complex than it’s minimal exterior might suggest.

Roka Laski Rizling 2017 tasting note

Appearence:

  • Slightly hazy (it’s a natural wine..)
  • Straw yellow
  • Bright with medium intensity
  • No sediment/gas

Nose:

  • Moderate intensity
  • Youthful
  • Fruit; lemon and lime zest, ripe green pear
  • Floral; white jasmine and honey suckle
  • Savoury; olive oil, biscuit

Palate:

  • Dry
  • Medium+ acidity
  • Medium alcohol
  • Medium body
  • Fruit; white peach, green pear, fresh lemon
  • Floral; white jasmine, honeysuckle
  • Savoury; almond
  • Limestone minerality
  • Long finish
  • High complexity

Roka’s accolades

The reason I have revisited this wine for my blog post today is because I recently stumbled across a full page article by Andrew Jefford in Decanter magazine’s February 2021 edition.

I was so excited when I saw the opening heading, ‘How did a couple from Mayo in Ireland pull this off?’. I instantly knew which wine the writer was referring to and thought to myself…I tasted it first!

In the article, Jefford praises it’s ‘explosive, fruit-bonded acidity’ and comments on it’s ‘lean, pristine, driving, concentrated’ character. As an experienced Laski Rizling taster, first encountering the grape 50 years earlier, Jefford asks himself “Have I ever tasted a Laski this good?”. I hope that at some point between pruning the vines in Slovenia and tending to their wine import business in Westport, Sinead and Liam got to read this article whilst enjoying a little happy dance for their obvious success with such a humble venture.

Nevertheless, this is by far the first article which praises their wines and their hard work as entrepreneurs. Their wines have been featured in the Irish Times‘ ‘Bottle of the Week’ along with an article written for Jancis Robinson’s site, after sending their samples with tremendous feedback.

Getting your Roka’s on the wine…

The Roka wine collection are sold via the couple’s wine import business Cabot and Co, which will ship, without a minimum order, all over Ireland and the UK. Other than that, if you find yourself in Ireland, you might be lucky enough to stumble across the wines in various independent wine merchants, especially those in County Mayo!

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