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

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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. Our favourite Bulgarian wineries are: Villa Melnik, Maryan Winery, Medi Valley.

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 enjoy private attention. And such places are usually calmer and quieter – just the way we love them!

Family-owned Bulgarian winery Villa Melnik, one of our favourite wineries in Bulgaria, Bulgarian wineries
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 winery
Orbelus winery

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, Dimyat, Rubin or some other, recommended to you by the staff of the winery.
Vines at Villa Melnik, Bulgarian winery
Vines at Villa Melnik, Bulgarian winery
Vines at Villa Melnik, Bulgarian winery
Vines at Villa Melnik, Bulgarian winery

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 experienced enthusiast. For us, even two are too much.
  • A wine tour takes about 1.30 – 2 hours in a single winery.
  • 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.
If you prefer someone to take you around vineyards and wineries instead of driving yourself, you can trust our friends from Bulgaria Wine Tours

If you are wondering why wine is such a passion for us, read this article.

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 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

Near Blagoevgrad (on the road from Sofia to Rila Monastery)

Medi Valley wine cellar

We spent there 5 hours thanks to our kind host – tour organizer Rositsa Atanasova. She was so kind to explain us all about their wines and made us feel home.

Medi Valley wine cellar
Medi Valley wine cellar

Medi Valley winery is very close to the road to Rila Monastery, in a beautiful mountainous area in Smochevo village. It is located at 630 m altitude and its vineyards are in the northern Struma Valley area. (Google maps)

We were lucky to visit during the harvesting period and see how Merlot is being processed before it turns into wine.

Vintage 2017 - Merlot
Vintage 2017 – Merlot

Medi Valley produces three series of wines, both very good. Our top pick were A Good Year Traminer Pink – 2016, eXcentric Incanto Mavrud 2015 и Incanto Syrah. If you have tried anything else – feel free to share with us!

Wine and spa near Stara Zagora 

Midalidare Estate

We have been many times to the village of Mogilovo, some 30 km southwest of Stara Zagora. In the recent years its top attraction is the Midalidare Estate which includes a winery and SPA hotel.

Midalidare Estate - Bulgarian wine production
Midalidare Estate

Midalidare is a name for quality wines. We are always happy to open a bottle of their production. If you are nearby, they offer an interesting wine tour across the winery which ends with tasting of 8 wines. The tours are organized daily at 11, 13 and 15h. However, if you are going on a weekday, it is a good idea to call in advance.

Midalidare Estate - one of the big wine cellars in Bulgaria
Midalidare Estate – winery

The wine tour is very interesting indeed. You see how an old cooperation was turned into a beautiful estate with amazing gardens. They also have a small and cute museum of Bulgarian wine.

Midalidare is also the place from where our love to Riesling started. And their Traminer, too. Actually, all of their wines are good – it’s a matter of taste which one you will love.

We always combine our visit to the winery with a visit to their SPA center. The estate also features a hotel and guest houses but we have never tried them.

Ustina Village, near Perushtitsa

Villa Yustina

Villa Yustina is one of the coziest and most hospitable wine cellars we have visited. Every tourist is warmly welcomed and spoiled with interesting stories and of course wonderful wines. They produce wide variety of wines and you will not regret tasting any of them. Also, they have beautiful vineyards and a goat farm.

Villa Yustina
Villa Yustina

You can read more about Villa Yustina in our article “Discovering the real Bulgarian wine with Bulgaria Wine Tours

Villa Yustina is located at the foot of Rhodope Mountains, in the area known as Rhodopean Yaka (Collar). It is a perfect day wine destination from Plovdiv (26 km) or even Sofia. There are also opportunities to stay the night in Ustina village, but you have to check in advance. Next year they will hopefully complete their hotel.

3 great wines from Villa Yustina
3 great wines from Villa Yustina

Plovdiv/Brestovitsa

Bendida Wine Cellar

Bendida winery from Brestovitsa village is a small jewel, producing amazing wines from Rubin, Mavrud and other varieties. It has long traditions in winemaking. Their wines from Rubin and Mavrud are must-taste. And if you meet the owner Toni, she is the best at pairing food and wine, so not be shy to ask her for advice.

Read more about Bendida and other wineries around Plovdiv in this article – “Discovering the real Bulgarian wine with Bulgaria Wine Tours

Wines
Wines

You can taste their wines at two locations in Plovdiv – DeGUSTOstation bar in Kapana District and Enotheka Bendida

South Sakar and the wineries around Harmanli

Villa Bassarea wine cellar

Some of the best Bulgarian wines are coming from South Sakar mountains, around the town of Harmanli. Despite the area is still not very famous as a wine region, it is worth exploring the local wines and meet the warm people from the region. A must-visit is the small Villa Bassarea winery. We love all of their wines. One of the owners is an enologist so he really works with his heart to make the best wines.

Villa Bassarea winery, Harmanli, Bulgaria

We recommend to try Syrah from the area – the region is probably the best place to grow Syrah in Bulgaria. We also love the Viognier and Tamianka, as well as the Rose.

If you have more time, you can also visit other wineries in South Sakar – do not hesitate to ask the owners Kamen and Todor which one to be next!

Karlovo valley – between the Balkan and Sredna Gora mountains

Chateau Copsa – an estate with amazing view, great restaurant and wonderful wines

Chateau Copsa hotel and wine cellar in Bulgaria
Chateau Copsa hotel and wine cellar in Bulgaria

The amazing view was the first thing that brought us to the Karlovo Valley. In the middle between the Balkan Mountains and Sredna Gora, the place is enchanting. And together with it goes the opportunity for a quiet rest with great wines. (Google Maps)

Chateau Copsa is one of these cozy boutique wineries that we love and strongly recommend. The estate has two boutique hotels with wonderful service and memorable production. You may not find their wines on the shops but when you taste them, you will most probably take a few bottles home straight from the cellar. Particularly interesting are the wines from Karlovo Misket – a very typical local variety that was forgotten for some time but is revived now.

Thracian valley – Elenovo village, Nova Zagora

Edoardo Miroglio winery

Speaking of good wine, we must mention the wineries from the Thracian valley. One of the largest ones, producing memorable wines, is Edoardo Miroglio wine cellar. Here you can try amazing wines. Our favourites are those from Pinot Noir, but actually we love all of their wines.

Из избата на Едоардо Миролио
Из избата на Едоардо Миролио

Here you can taste many different wines, including some of the best sparkling wines made by classical method in Bulgaria. We welcomed New Year 2018 with their amazing Rose Brut from Pinot Noir. Above the winery there is a small boutique hotel where you can also enjoy nice food with Edoardo Miroglio wines.

Have in mind that in July and August the winery is not operating and the tours are organized by the hotel staff. Call in advance to book your tour. (location)

More from the Struma Valley – Kapatovo village

Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar

We are so happy when the world around us is developing. One of the newest places you should visit is Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar. It is a perfect place for wine tourism. They have wonderful wines, great staff and an amazing wine tasting room. Their new series Family Reserve is among our favourites. (Google Maps location)

The barrels in Zlaten Rozhen become more and more
The barrels in Zlaten Rozhen become more and more

The owners of the winery also own a hotel in the nearby area of Melnik. It is located in the village of Rozhen, a few km from Melnik and is a wonderful 3-star cozy family hotel where you can also enjoy the stunning beautiful surroundings.

Rosapina Rose – one of our favourite wines of Zlaten Rozhen
Rosapina Rose – one of our favourite wines of Zlaten Rozhen

We always buy wine from the wineries we visit but if you can’t go there, there are many wine shops where you can find wine from various Bulgarian wineries. One of them in Sofia is Vino Orenda, specialized exclusively in Bulgarian wines and offering something from almost every winery in Bulgaria. Where to find Vino Orenda.

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