Why you want to visit a Bulgarian winery and what you will find there

Life is too short to drink bad

Bulgaria might not be the most famous wine destination but it is actually quite underestimated. After our recent trip to Italy we had the opportunity to taste many local wines and we really think that Bulgarian wines are not less good. If you are wine lovers and love travelling, why not go where good Bulgarian wine is being produced? We really envy people that have built their own wineries for the wonderful location and even more wonderful products they are making. Visiting every Bulgarian winery is our new passion and we find it very exciting.

Choosing a Bulgarian winery to visit

There is nothing easier than attending a wine tour in Bulgaria. There are tens and maybe hundreds of wineries all over the country. So no matter where you are now, there is probably a winery open for visitors around you.

The small boutique wineries – our favourites!

The best thing about small wineries is that you will be usually welcomed by the owner himself. I love hearing stories from the first hand and enjoy the passion and sincerety which is typical when a person speaks about something he achieved by himself. You can hear very interesting things from the owners – about the vineyards, technology, some local legends and even some spicy details about life in the winery. Visiting a small family winery, you could be let to stay a little bit longer and ejnoy private attention. And such places are usually calmer and quieter – just the way we love them!

Family-owned wine cellar Villa Melnik

Family-run wine cellar Villa Melnik

What about the big wineries in Bulgaria?

Of course, large wineries with mass production are also interesting places to visit. You will usually be welcomed by staff that is well-trained and extremely kind and helpful. Another good thing about bigger wine cellars is that some of them have good restaurants and you can have a delicious meal together with the wine tasting – we know such one in Mogilovo village.

Another thing we love about bigger wineries are the recreation facilities. Many of them feature nice hotels, some with SPA facilities – the perfect conditions for rest and recreation. If you are interested in this kind of tourism, write us and we will give you suggestions where to go. However, if you have been somewhere and loved it, we will be happy to hear about your experience. We have not been everywhere and we are always happy to discover new places.

The beautiful vineyards

It is wonderful if the winery has its own vineyards and grows its production locally. We love the view to the neat rows of vines and also like walking between the rows. If you want to try, note that you need comfortable shoes because walking in the soil is not that easy. Some wineries would organize a picnic among the vines if you want, or another nice experience.

The vineyards of Villa Melnik winery

The vineyards of Villa Melnik winery

Some wineries do not grow their grapes but buy them instead. This is not a bad practice because they can pick the most suitable product for their pusposes. We have visited one such small Bulgarian winery offering great wines in the village of Mezek.

Mezek wine cellar

Mezek wine cellar

What to expect from a Bulgarian winery

Bulgarian wineries are usually located in very beautiful areas and some of them have attractive buildings. But the most important thing is going behind the walls and seeing how wine is really being made there. If you are not very familiar with the wine production process, you might get a little bored watching metal containers and listening to words you don’t know. But if your host or guide is a good speaker, he will probably do his best to keep you interested  and engaged.

In general, they will take you through the whole process – from collecting the grapes to bottling. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions, no matter whether you are a newbie or a professional. The guides will be happy to answer all of your questions. It is really boring for them to talk to people who only smile and do not look interested and engaged.

Underground tunnel in the rocks near Melnik, Bulgaria

Underground tunnel in the rocks near Melnik

Finally, they will take you to the wine cellar where wine is stored in barrels or sometimes bottles. Each cellar is different and usually the cellars are among the most interestiing places in a winery. Some wines are left to mature for some time, others are bottled immediately. The maturing process is also specific and usually the barrels differ on size and material. French oak barrels are a classic, but some wineries in Bulgaria like to experiment with Bulgarian oak and other local materials.

Villa Melnik wine cellar, Bulgaria

Villa Melnik wine cellar

Orbelus wine cellar, Bulgaria

Orbelus wine cellar

Wine tasting

Every wine tour finishes with the most pleasant part – the wine tasting. Despite walking around the winery is really interesting, the thought of tasting something new and good makes us really impatient every time we visit a winery in Bulgaria. I think the most important thing everyone should do on a wine tour is tasting something new, something that you have never tried before. Ask the hosts for a suggestions – they know best what to offer you! Some of the tastings feature some food as well.

But don’t expect wine tasting to look like a visit to a bar. You will be offered small quantities of different selected wines, instead of drinking there for hours. However, small quantities do not mean that you cannot get drunk. So make sure that the driver of your car stays away from the glasses. After the tasting you can buy the wine you loved and enjoy it at home.

Some tips for first-timers (nothing mandatory, however)

The only mandatory thing about going to a wine tour is that  the driver should not drink. Everything else is up to you.

Have a meal

  • Bring comfortable shoes if you are interested to walk among the vines
  • Have a meal before you attend a wine tour. If there is a restaurant in the winery, you can combine your lunch with the tasting. But check in advance, because some of these restaurants work only with reservations or with groups

Most of the wineries in Melnik wine region do not have restaurants but you can have a delicious lunch in the many restaurants in the town of Melnik.

  • Do not be shy to ask about anything you want to know or do not understand;

Try local varieties

  • Try local wines. Most of the Bulgarian wineries grow and produce wines from classical varieties of grapes like merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but in Bulgaria there are also many good local varieties. Try Mavrud, Melnik 55, Keratsuda or some other, recommended to you by the staff of the winery.

Vines at Villa Melnik, Bulgarian winery

  • Do not buy too many bottles if you are living in Bulgaria. You should better buy a few and then research how to order more later. Almost every Bulgarian winery will be happy to send you a few bottles through courier so you don’t need to turn your home into a wine cellar.

Do not store the wine on hot places

  • Do not store the wine in the trunk of your car, especially in the summer. You should better have a cooler bag or store them in the coupe if air conditioning is on.
  • Visiting more than 2 wineries a day can be exhausting, unless you are not a real and epxerienced enthusiast. For us, even two are too much.
  • A wine tour takes about 1.30 – 2 hours.
  • Allow some time to enjoy the vinewards, we love them!
  • Arrange an accommodation near the wine cellar you are visiting if you need to drive after the tour. Some wineries in Bulgaria also have hotels.

Which wineries we recommend

Balkan mountains, near Elena

Maryan Wine Cellar

Maryan Winery

Maryan Winery

If you are visiting the town of Elena, tasting the delicious Elenski but (a tradition local dry-cured ham), you may also want to taste some good local wine. One of the best places to do this is the winery in the nearby Maryan village, some 6 km from Elena. We met the owners of Maryan Winery – Svetla and Iliya and spent a couple of hours on their nice terrace, tasting more than 10 wines. They are proudly producing wine from the local traditional Dimyat grape variety, as well as other more common varieties. Do not miss to try  their orange wine (not from oranges, however). And they also make a great Rose – our favourite was Sense of Tears Rose, vintage 2016.

Maryan Winery

Maryan Winery

The Orange Wine (made from grapes not from Oranges)

The Orange Wine (made from grapes not from Oranges)

Melnik area

Villa Melnik wine cellar

Villa Melnik, Bulgaria

Villa Melnik wine cellar, Bulgaria

When you hear Melnik wine, you usually imagine home-made wine made in the area of Melnik, southwestern Bulgaria. The regions has been known for its wine production for years but we are not fans of home-made wines. Instead, our favourite place there is Villa Melnik – a family-owned winery producing amazing wines of any colour – white, orange, rose and red. The owners are extremely warm and welcoming people and the villa also features great views to their own vineyards, looking just like Tuscany, Italy. A unique place with unique spirit – do not miss it if you are in the area. Our favourite wine there – the Rose, of course.

 

The Orange wine of Villa Melnik

The Orange wine of Villa Melnik

I will update this list as soon as I find other wonderful places that I will be happy to recommend.


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