So you are a lover of good food and wine then put Bulgaria on your radar. It is the perfect time to plan a Bulgarian vine inspired escape. Yes, Bulgarian wine is experiencing a rebirth. Robert Smyth, writing for Wine Connoisseur suggests that Bulgarian wines are not only back but also, the wines are better than ever. True, there has been long history of wine making in Bulgaria, dating back to the Thracians. In 1980’s Bulgaria was one of the largest wine producers however, with the collapse of communism wine production declined. I recently visited the Rose and Struma Valley wine regions where I discovered wines made from exciting indigenous grape varieties, such as Shiroka Melnishka Loza (Broadleaf Melnik), Melnik 55 (Early Melnik), Mavrud and Ruen. You will also find excellent wines made from international grape varieties too.
Chateau Copsa, Rose Valley
From Plovdiv we drove 50 km to the Rose Valley. We arrived at Chateau Copsa we toured the castle and the wine cellar before checking into our accommodations. I took the time to have a relaxing massage but not before exploring the vineyards. It was great dinner with international cuisine and wines made from the international grape varieties (Muscat, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah).
Chateau Copsa was definitely a very nice stay and the wines I tasted were good. Next morning I arose early to catch the sunrise over the castle. I could not resist a sunrise experience in the Rose Valley. After breakfast we were off for the Struma Valley.
We retraced our journey back to Plovdiv where we travelled onto Sofia. From Sofia it was a 2-3 hour drive to Melnik, near the Greek border. This route took us through a beautiful gorge between Rila and Pirin mountains.
When we arrived in Melnik, the smallest town in Bulgaria, with a population of 385 people, the owners of Villa Melnik met us. Lunch, a typical Bulgarian meal, was amazing. After lunch we explored Melnik, stopping for a visit at Kordopolova House, a 200-year-old historic house from the National Revival Period. The Struma Valley wineries that we visited included:
1. Villa Melnik Winery
Villa Melnik Winery, Harsovo is a boutique family-owned winery. At Villa Melnik we viewed the vineyards, toured the modern winery facilities, and the underground cave-like cellars. The wine tasting at Villa Melnik included both international and indigenous varieties. I was very impressed by the overall quality of the wines that I tasted. Melnik 55 was a big hit with our group.
2. Orbelus Winery
When we arrived at Orbelus Winery, Kromidovo the moon was already beginning to rise. This organic winery’s unique architecture definitely creates a wine inspired setting for wine tasting. If you are looking for high quality organic wines then Orbelus Winery is a winery to watch.
3. Zlaten Rozhen Winery Hotel
Our final stop for the day was the winery hotel Zlaten Rozhen Winery, Kapatovo. There we enjoyed a pleasant wine tasting, dinner and a relaxing stay. Some members of our group took the time to visit Rozhen Monastery before breakfast next morning.
4. Orbelia Winery
Orbelia Winery’s philosophy is to produce premium wines from grapes traditionally grown in the area. Given that the winery only produced its 1st vintage in 2013 it is well on its way to producing good wines.
5. Sintica Winery
Sintica Winery, Sandanski gets its name from an old Thracian tribe that once lived in the region. It was once the site of Complex Experimental Station (CES) established a reputation for the grape hybrids and wines produced there. CES created Melnik 55, which Sintica produces. Their portfolio however, is mainly international varieties. Their focus is on producing premium quality wines. After wine tasting we enjoyed awesome Bulgarian lunch at the Oasis Restaurant. We also visited the Sandanski Archaeological Park.
I would recommend a longer stay in the Struma Valley, with stopovers in Melnik and Sandanski. See also Sue Tolson’s article for further suggestions. Clearly, the rebirth of Bulgarian wines in the Struma River Valley, means there is a wide range of winemaking styles to explore. Moreover, I would love to visit more Rose Valley wineries to get a broader perspective on the overall wine scene. I invite you to join me in my travels in Bulgaria and elsewhere at Spaswinefood, or visit my travel column at the Examiner.
© Sharon Parsons
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