The flavour of Melnik: Melnishki cepage by Zlaten Rozhen, vintage 2016

Тази статия може да я прочетете и на: Български

With our noses deep into the glasses, instead of enjoying romantic talks, we have opened two wine books and compare colours and aromas. We are looking for fruits, spices, wood and more aromas. However, we are not good at this game and after a few smells we give up the search for separate aromas in the wine. But the answer of the question how this wine smells comes by itself. It smells like Melnik. Yes, this is the smell of the small Bulgarian town, when you walk between the sand rocks, the old houses and the restaurants with authentic local cuisine. The sandy-fruity aroma can also be felt near the Melnik Pyramids, the curious rock formations created by nature around the smallest town in Bulgaria. There, in these sandy soils, is the natural terroir on the traditional Melnik grape varieties that give the legendary Melnik wines.

Federico and Andrey making a toast
Federico, the product director of Zlaten Rozhen winery, and Andrey making a toast

We have previously mentioned that if you want do drink really good, high-quality Melnik wine, revealing the best of the terroir and the indigenous varieties, you should go a few kilometres outside Melnik. In the nearby villages is the real wine gold mine – the boutique wineries. Today’s wine, Melnishki cepage (Melnik cepage), is from Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar in the village of Kapatovo.

If you have not yet visited the wineries in the region, it is great idea to attend the annual event Melnik Wineries Open Doors, which is held every year in the weekend around 14 February, the day of winemakers and winegrowers in Bulgaria. We really recommend it. Here is the 2020 Open Doors program at Zlaten Rozhen.

The gems of the Melnik region

The gold mine of the Melnik wineries is the unique terroir, climat and indigenous varieties, some of which have been growing there for centuries. We have always admired the local winemakers for the effort and passion they put into reviving the local varieties and revealing their potential.

Melnishki cepage, vintage 2016 from Zlaten Rozhen
Melnishki cepage, vintage 2016 from Zlaten Rozhen

Melnishki cepage by Zlaten Rozhen is a mix of the Melnik 55 and Melnishki Rubin varieties. We have previously written about the Melnik 55 (a.k.a. Early Melnik Grape) that the variety is a hybrid, developed from the indigenous local Broadleafed Melnik (Shiroka Melnik, Shiroka Melnishka) and three French varieties. Melnik 55 has preserved the character of the indigenous Shiroka Melnik but ripes earlier and is more resistant to cold and illnesses, which makes it less risky to grow. Melnishki Rubin is another hybrid, created in the 1970 and again based on the Shiroka Melnik. According to the initial information, the other parent was Cabernet Sauvignon. However, recent studies deny this and the other parent of this variety is unknown.

Cepage is the winemaking technology when the grapes from different varieties ferment together. Just like the traditional technology for winemaking at home. So, even before we open it, the label of the bottle says a lot – the Melnishki cepage of Zlaten Rozhen is a wine that carries and will reveal us the indigenous character and flavours of Melnik wine.

Melnishki cepage, Zaten Rozhen. I served it with grilled red meat and potatoes
Melnishki cepage, Zaten Rozhen. I served it with grilled red meat and potatoes

A few words about the wine itself

We started with the nose in the glass. Red fruits, almost fresh, not like a jam, for example. Maybe red spices, too. We imagine how we walk by the path between the pyramids or go to the Rozhen monastery on a warm autumn day. The taste in the first drops is rich, warm and maybe a little sandy. It does not go away, we feel it for a long time, as we are walking between the pyramids for hours. We enjoy it without an appetizer – we actually don’t need such. Despite it is not the lightest wine (14 % alcohol), this Melnishki cepage is so rounded, nice and easy to accept that we don’t need anything else to enjoy is, besides some quiet time. And the books with the theory.. we closed them at some point and decided to write from the heart.

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

The wines of Zlaten Rozhen

Melnishki cepage is a wine from the new series of Zlaten Rozhen, created by winemaker Federico Ricci. Federico is an amazing specialist and a very attractive person and storyteller. And according to us, he is great at telling stories through his wines. Melnishki cepage is from the Family Reserve series – wonderful wines positioned in the up-middle price cegment (for the Bulgarian standard), which you can enjoy antytime, without needing any special occasion or preparation. From the same series is one of Maria’s favourite wines – Sansi. And for special occasions and for gifts you can check the really special Exclusive Lot selection, as well as the very interesting SYCAGY wine.

Wine:Melnishki cepage
Country:Bulgaria
Variety:Melnik 55 and Melnishki Rubin
Vintage:2016
Producer:Zlaten Rozhen Wine Cellar
Location:Kapatovo village, Petrich
Price:18,90 BGN
(you can order through the winery’s online shop)
Barrique:6 months in French oak barrels, third loading

Zlaten Rozhen logo

The best thing about our hobby is that we make wonderful acquiantances and partnerships. One of the best examples is Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar. We quickly became friends with them and were able to learn so many interesting stories. We are happy that we met Marusya Osikovska, Federico Ricci, Maria, Valentina and Aira the dog and we wrote about this wonderful winery where you can meet them, too.


We adore wine and it is not only a part of our travels but also reason for them. Read more about the wines that have impressed us or for our favourite wine cellars.


Instagram Andrey Andreev PhotographyIn our Instagram account we share more photos and thoughts from our trips and daily life, so if you are curious, follow us there, too.

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