Family Winery & VineyardsSecretly, (but not any more) our team hung to the belief that we were the ones who discovered Bratanov's Tamianka at the beginning of the year, we stuck a flag on top of it and said "It's ours!". It was much later that everybody else recognized its existence, which made us raise an eyebrow in a "Whoa there!" fashion. This is what happens with the few good findings, which you fear might become mainstream, but when something's really worth it, it is hard to remain unnoticed. The truth is that everyone puts greater weight to the findings, which she makes for herself, but this does not mean that you won't find an intrigue in this prose. On the contrary! We will tell you a story dedicated to some very intriguing people and wines.
BRATANOV are one of the family wineries, which, according to my humble observations, are getting better with each subsequent vintage. Based on several samples "from the kitchen" I am sure they will soon show us many more memorable wines, which would be worth talking about, as this is already happening with their new Chardonnay Sur Lie.
We meet with Hristo Bratanov and Tanya Avramova on a square just in front of the City Hall of Bulgarian village. It's a promising start, and the even more promising sun is already high in the sky confirming our suspicion that it's now 12 o'clock on one of the hottest summer days. That's fine. We have the hats necessary to take a look around the vineyard located in the neighboring village of Shishmanovo, only a few kilometers away from the town of Harmanli. We have no other option but to believe the Single Vineyard label because we are standing in front of the vineyard with Tamianka; I saw it with my own eyes and tasted the grapes. The plot is now 9 years old and the Bratanovs consider experimenting with wild fermentation this year. We are as excited as amateurs before harvest.
While I snap shots, I'll give you the numbers for the 24 hectares of vineyards owned by the family: 1 ha of Tamianka, 1 ha of Rubin, 10 ha of Merlot, 5 ha of Syrah, 3 ha of Cabernet Franc, and 4 ha of Chardonnay. They tell us that they don't have an irrigation system and it is not an investment priority right now because they like the current results just fine.
Wine tourism in the region is underdeveloped but thanks to the concentration of quality producers and favorable climatic conditions South Sakar is becoming ever more popular as a wine destination. Two other brands are currently using Bratanov’s facility to vinify their wines: Ivo Varbanov and Eolis. Chateau Kolarovo Winery is really close by and Castra Rubra will soon have their second winery in the village of Kolarovo. I believe that the region will become very trendy if the wineries keep their good relations with each other. The outlook is bright: they do recommend each other, work together on different projects: a real utopia!
We head for the winery.
Bratanov’s total capacity is 100,000 liters with 80,000 liters produced last year.
Aging is carried out in many 500-liter barrels; Bratanov like ot experiment with Bulgarian, Hungarian and French oak. I was surprised that the team often relies on wild fermentation but they are cautious with the release of too many "interesting" wines on the market.
As we speak, our group is joined by Stoycho Bratanov. We are informed that he's just returned from his vacation and immediately went to tour the vineyards, because, he explained, he is in a dire need to acclimatize as he is very tired from all the time off. We instantly got to like him. He claimed that he is "not very photogenic" but I skillfully manage to refute his claims and take a family portrait in a true family winery.
And another one!
If you have troubles finding the 10 differences, the second image includes the new addition to the team: their enologist Maria Stoeva, who just recently graduated from the University of Vine and Wine in Dijon, Burgundy, France, with a thesis entitled "Reduction of sulfur dioxide doses in the production of white and red wines". We LIKE! In fact, we cannot not like her. She is down-to-earth, ready for challenges, interested in what's happening on the wine market outside the winery and she is willing to share her experience while we are getting immersed in our role of "wannabe winemakers" in the 300 and Two Project.
Part of BRATANOV's beliefs are associated with minimal interference in the wine-production process. So each year they try to remove a product from an their enological practice. Yes. This being said, we are not surprised in their choice of enologist ...
Wait! There’s more good news because it’s tasting time:
- Beloslava Chardonnay, 2013, approximately 20% of which are aged shortly in 500-liter barrels.
- Next, we try Symbiose Rose, 2013, whose style is defined as "anti-Provencal'.
- Moving on to Mavroud, Single Vineyard, 2013, 1,190 bottles (to date, only 50 remain unsold, damn it!), aged for 12 months in a neutral tank and 20% in a new 500-liter Hungarian oak barrel. This is an elegant Mavroud with excellent bouquet and soft tannins, which is significantly less talked about. The question is why? I can only explain it by the fact that we are all still dazed by the heat. Summer weightlessness leads to deviations in the sales of red wine, but hold on, producers! Winter is coming!.
- Syrah Elitsa, 2012, aged for 12 months mainly in Bulgarian oak barrels. The wine needs to spend more time in the bottle, but in modern Bulgarian wine history this particular variety is emblematic for South Sakar.
- Tamianka, Single Vineyard, 2014. We ask whether the massive blog and social noise surrounding the Tamianka lead to good business results. The answer is positive. Unfortunately, my dreams to own all of the 4,155 bottles produced of this particular vintage have long been an illusion, but that's great for the other fans.
We also tried several samples from different barrels whose development remains to be observed for the next few years.
We tasted Cabernet Franc, 2013 aged in a Hungarian barrel made of French oak (what?!), which will be marketed as a varietal wine. Moving on to the one of a kind barrel of Rubin, 2013. It spent 22 months in its oak home and has a future shrouded in mystery. I make yet another attempt to concentrate and take a sip. Then, I begin to wonder how natural it is to have the best wines in such limited quantities. Most people can only hear and read about them, the rest is speculation, because there are no personal impressions. These are wines that build up a brand and image, they are legendary, and yet remain a legend. A handful of people are talk about them, know them, argue about them and generally demonstrate the passion that is inherent to all meaningful things. Little by little Bulgarians begin to create our own legends in the context of our small scale, our dreams and greatest hopes.
It’s getting late and we still are a long way from home.
We leave reluctantly. I conclude (once again!) that hospitality has always affected me in an extremely predictable way. Whenever I like the winemakers, I also tend to enjoy their wines. The aberrations from this simple formula are seldom. In an effort to remain impartial, I cannot remain indifferent when introducing different wines and the people devoted to them. I can only recommend you to see for yourselves in search of wines that will leave a lasting impression on you. I have no doubt whatsoever that you will become ambassadors of South Sakar!