Starman - Winemaker Peter Gönc and His Bowie-Themed Bottles

"There is no winemaking in Gönc Winery without good tunes playing in the background." - Peter Gönc


When I first began working at the Shop at the tail end of 2020, the first bottle of wine that I bought was a rosé that caught my eye. The label was simple, white, with two serrated holes in the middle and a single word, rather name, written is cursive: Anna. What really drew me to it though, was the color of the wine. That perfect light pink that represents Provence so well. Cracking it open, not only did I absolutely love it, but I was impressed. And as a die hard rosé fan, that was saying something. The wheels in my curious mind began to turn and I needed to know more about this wine that I had never had before. Point number 1 was that the wine wasn't from Provence at all. Matter of fact, it wasn't ever from France! Nope, this Anna rosé was from Slovenia. I had never had a Slovenian wine before; Austrian? Hungarian? Sure. But Slovenia? Nope. To be sure this wasn't just some fluke, I got another bottle. And yup, I still loved it, yup I was still unbelievably impressed. The Anna quickly became not only my go-to, but my favorite rosé! Fast forward to now. It's still my favorite. And I'm still no less enamoured with it. As far as vintages go, my first time trying it was the 2019 vintage. For the 2020 vintage I brought in to the Shop as much of it as I could. And now on the 2021 vintage, I've done the same.
I've done my homework since then though. The winemaker is a man named Peter Gönc. His flagship wine is the Anna, which pays the bills and keeps the lights on. Come to find out, Anna was his grandmother, whom he has dedicated this cuvée to. And those two serrated 'holes' on the label that I mentioned earlier are her fingerprints. When she was running the show at Gönc winery, this cuvée was hers. And when it was fermenting in the tanks, she would mark those tanks with her finger prints to identify it. Peter keeps it as part of the label in her honor.
As I thought more about it, I couldn't help but have this nagging thought that I had heard of Gönc before. But like I said, I knew that I had never before this had wine from Slovenia. It was bothering the hell out of me, like those thoughts that linger right there on the tip of your tongue but you just can't seem to grasp or formulate. So I did some research. And come to find out, I didn't even need to dig very hard. In winemaking there are several different types of barrels from countries all over; each different sizes, meant for different aging techniques. Somewhere along the way in my studies I had come across, and subsequently had forgotten about, a barrel type from eastern Europe called, you guessed it, a Gönc barrel. At 136 liters, the Gönc barrel was named for the Hungarian town and family from whence it came. These folks who created this barrel were ancestors of Anna and Peter before their family went down to Slovenia.
Of course I had to follow the white rabbit and tumble even further down the rabbit hole of Gönc wines. Do you want to know what I found there? WONDERLAND. Peter Gönc, like me, is a self-professed geek. A nerd. One of my all time favorite television shows is The X-Files. Peter's too! I love classic rock. Peter too; we have pretty much the exact same taste in music actually. We're both movie buffs. But not only that, but movie trivia and the Easter Eggs that go into many films and tv shows are things the both of us are proficient in. Peter and I have communicated over email and social media and we've discussed our passions. And recently when he made a trip to Charleston and I got to meet him in person, I was in awe. We talked about films and music and his wines and he showed me some of the Easter Eggs that he hides on his labels and he was impressed with how many I had already picked up on. It was an incredible afternoon of geeking out together.
Remember when I said that Cuvée Anna was what paid the bills? Well, what it also does is give Peter the opportunity to play with his own pet projects; namely the Grape Abduction Company. Another interesting factoid about Solvenia is that the country has quite a number of UFO sightings. This, combined with the fact that Peter is obsessed with the UFO-related program The X-Files, he has flying saucers hovering over his vineyards as several pieces of label art across the Grape Abduction line.
One of the lines on the Gönc website states, A story of Hugarian barrels and rock ‘n’ roll tunes. This brings us to Peter's segue from outer space to music. And who does that better than Ziggy Stardust, the famous alter ego of none other than the great David Bowie. Named for one of the tunes on Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars album, comes Gönc's skin-contact white wine called Starman. Electrified on the label is the likeness of Ziggy's orange lightning bolt surrounded by a David Bowie quote.
Ancestors, aliens and artistic musical license, we've got it all for you. If, like me, you never had Slovenian wine before, do yourself a favor and give it a whirl. What you discover just might change your world. Now you just need a bottle opener, wine glass and some Pink Floyd.
Justin and The Wine Shop Team

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