An Excellent Reason to Taste Bulgarian Wines
41° 28' 24" N
23° 23' 19" E
Villa Melnik has long been on our list of Bulgarian wineries we want to tell you about and we are extremely happy that the time has finally come. Besides the visit, we had the chance to get to know their beautiful region that (we admit) was somewhat unfamiliar to us.
As the name suggests, Villa Melnik is very near the town of Melnik and another famous wine village, i.e. Harsovo. The views to and from the winery are stunning and pictures fail to recreate the 360-degrees of beauty of the area.
A strategically positioned platform above the winery allows you to see Mount Kojuh, Ograjden, Belasitza, Alibotush (or Slavyanka) and Pirin plus parts of the famous Melnik sand pyramids. Even if you're not there for the wine, you can take in the energy of the place as a treasured memory and sleep peacefully knowing that there is a place where Bulgaria's nature is still beautiful and unspoiled.
Right in front of the winery our eyes glide effortlessly over some 100 hectares of vineyards and there are 200 more nearbu, behind the building. It is of these carefully cared for vineyards that the team of Villa Melnik creates their wines from the Aplauz, Bergulé and Villa Melnik series. The winery is striving for an image relying mainly on local Bulgarian varieties. These make up to 50% of their vines and include the varieties Shiroka Melniska Loza, Ranna Melnishka Loza, Rouen, Mavrud (which is rare in the region), Sandanski Misket and Tamianka.
To the delight of visitors, the winery has planted 22 varieties of table grapes, pomegranates, persimmons, figs, almonds, and even a young olive grove. For now, it can't offer you shade, but if only you wait for another 200 years... Ah!
Our tour starts from the reception hall, where gravity takes care of the grapes with minimum stress to the juice. We also feel stress-free in this environment since the temperature and humidity are at their most natural for every loyal Enosiast (a wine enthusiast of sorts).
The fermenters are made by Rodina, Haskovo and we took special interest in the horizontal rotary fermenters which are used during the silent fermentation of the reds and mainly during the fermentation of the white grapes. The fermenters rotate slowly, thus ensuring the maximum extraction of the noble precipitate. How delightful!
Every variety is stored in a separate fermenter until the final blending takes place. Villa Melnik rely on two young local oenologists: Rumiana Stoilova and Kostadin Kafenarov. Wine needs just a little bit of help to become magic...
The winery is dug into the hill, taking advantage of the constant in temperature that the underground levels offer. We go through the newly open and impressive underground vaults whose walls reveal the profile of the soil around Villa Melnik. Soon, these tunnels will be used for bottle aging. Do ask to see them, especially in the hot summer days.
Ever since we starter communicating with the Villa Melnik team as a wine blog, they have made some serious progress. If you haven’t tried their wines yet, go ahead and do it now... and i mean NOW. The two owners of this family winery: Lyubka and Nikola Zikatnov, are always there and are genuinely interested in your opinion.
This is a rare phenomenon in our small country so make sure to talk to them in person about everything wine-related when you see them in the winery or at one of the forthcoming wine fairs. The winery offers a variety of wine tours including tastings of selected Villa Melnik wines. They are open every day between 9.00 am and 6.00 pm, so making a call in advance is not a must.
The team of Villa Melnik is among the few who dare to experiment extensively with Bulgarian oak barrels. This experience can be useful to many winemakers, especially when it comes to matching our values to the [supposedly] better imported barrels, according to some experts (other experts are still not fans of Bulgarian oak, so you need to find out where you stand on the subject... whenever you get a chance).
Despite the critiques, Bulgarian oak won 22 medals for Villa Melnik at different wine competitions, four of them awarded at the 2014 Balkan International Wine Competition. Villa Melnik’s biggest achievement so far (as of the time this article was written) is the gold medal for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Aplauz Reserve, 2011 at Sélections Mondiales des vins, Canada. In order not to challenge the status quo completely, the winery also uses oak barrels from Canada and considers the purchase of some French barriques in the near future.
With their overwhelming desire for growth, Villa Melnik are able to meet our requirements in terms of the parameters that make us smile:
- Good wine;
- Friendly communication with wine lovers;
- Professional packaging;
- Excellent facility in a beautiful region;
- Participation in important wine events.
These are the settings we are confident will help Villa Melnik achieve new heights and win international awards soon enough.
Currently, Villa Melnik does not offer accommodation, but the charming town of Melnik is extremely close. It is also worthwhile to explore the villages of Vinograd, Harsovo Kapatovo, Kromidovo, Hotovo, Levunovo and Lozenitsa if only as an excuse to avoid the highway on your way to Greece.
Hence, you have no excuse whatsoever not to visit Villa Melnik, and if you've already done that, take some friends... paint the town red! We left with a box full of some new favorites and a stockpile of our old ones from the Aplauz and Bergulé series.
We were told by the owners that that there was no need to go all the way to Tuscany in order to find a beautiful wine region. We had a hard time believing that, but now we feel that we are closer to the truth (and the Mediterranean) than we think. :)