Home TravelsBulgaria Rupel Wine Cellar, Bulgaria: Where the warm winds of the Rupel Gorge meet the purity of the spirit

Rupel Wine Cellar, Bulgaria: Where the warm winds of the Rupel Gorge meet the purity of the spirit

18 minutes read

To the left is Pirin mountain, then Slavyanka, then the Angistro mountains in Northern Greece and to the right is Belasica. The numerous blue peaks in the distance surround the hill we are standing on. From here we enjoy not only the beautiful mountains around but also the 300 decares of vineyards that fill our eyes and souls with pleasure. Nothing that right now is the end of pruning and the vineyards are not in their richest form.

There, between the mountains, there is a light triangle. This is the Rupel Gorge, a steep valley of Struma river south of the Bulgarian-Greek border, between the mountains Belasica and Angistro. Its role in Rupel Winery is quite more interesting than its geographic location. And it is not a coincidence that it has given the name of the cellar.

Where is Rupel Winery

It is not unusual wine cellars to be named after their geographic location. Indeed, I think it is more a rule than an exception. In Melnik area in Bulgaria (Sandanski – Petrich hollow) I cannot think of a winery not named after a famous local site or legend. In this case, the Rupel Gorge is really on of the most important factors influencing the vineyards and the wines of Rupel Winery.

[info]The easiest way to reach Rupel Winery is by Struma highway (the highway that connects Sofia with Kulata and Greece). You should exit at Matikostinovo village and then you have around 10 km to the winery in Dolno Spanchevo village. It is a great idea for a stop if you a travelling to or from Greece from Sofia. [/info]

A view to Angistro mountains in Greece from the vineyards of Rupel Winery, Bulgaria
A view to Angistro mountains in Greece from the vineyards of Rupel Winery, Bulgaria

The Rupel Gorge

The Rupel Gorge, that light triangle, is the corridor carries the warm air flows from the Aegean sea to the vineyards of Rupel Winery. These air flows pass right above the vineyards, all located between the villages Dolno Spanchevo and Harsovo. The 300 decares of land are planted with various grape varieties – Melnik 55, Pinot Noir, Rubin, Tamianka, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Marselan, Nebbiolo. In the recent years the owners also experimented with new plantations from white varieties – Viognier, Vermentino, Sandanski Misket. And despite the vineyard may look too pied for some, it gives the opportunity for more interesting experiments, for shorter series and large variety of wines. And everyone can find his own wine.

Before Maria starts explaining too many technical details, let me first tell a few words about our story in Dolno Spanchevo village. You may know that we write our articles together, while the little girls sleep. But Maria is usually the one that writes more about details because she is more familiar with them.

The purity of spirit, the beginning of everything

We put the overshoes, together with the couple of friends from Plovdiv joining us on the tour in the winery. The kids are sleeping in the car and we left Anita to watch them. Meanwhile, together with Pavel, we entered the winery – the place where wine is made and where everything is extremely clean.

Anita and Pavel Gramatikov are the owners of the winery and we were very happy to meet them. Earlier, Pavel shamed me with his knowledge about the mountains around. Then we entered the clean halls, first noticing the motto of the winery: “Purity of manufacture, purity of varieties, purity of spirit”. We will not dig into the details what the author wanted to day with this sentence. However, we believe that it all starts with the purity of the spirit. Where there is pure spirit, everything else goes well.

With attention to the grapes

Rupel Winery is one of the wine cellars that count entirely on own resources for making their wines – from the grapes to the final cuts and marketing. They do not buy grapes from outside producers and have all necessary systems needed for independent wine making.

The hall with fermentation tanks at Rupel Winery
The hall with fermentation tanks at Rupel Winery and Maria in the background

What we noticed is that they do not have a sorting table. Pavel explained us that they did not need one because the grapes pass quality control on the vineyard. First, they take the necessary measures to ensure that the vines are being cared for in the most proper way to produces quality grapes. Then, during harvesting, the grapes that are not good enough are just not picked. Such, the sorting is made during harvesting.

Rupel Winery also has its own system for nitrogen production. All the vessels in contact with wine are filled solely with nitrogen in order to prevent bacteria growing.

This is the small room for education, where bottled from all wines produced by Rupel so far are stored as well
This is the small room for education, where you can also see bottles of all wines produced by Rupel Winery so far

We heard so many other technical things about the winery but I admit we could not remember all of them. Moreover, we did not quite understand some. This is why we will not go too deep into the winemaking details. If you are more familiar with winemaking than us, you are always welcome in the winery to ask your questions. Instead, we rather appreciate the emotional part of visiting a winery, our meeting with the winemakers and the feeling they leave in us. This is why we are mostly speaking about this side of wine.

Our favourite place in every winery

Well, it is not the tasting room. Instead, it is the spirit of the cellar, where more serious wines mature for moths and years, waiting to become a divine elixir. And despite right now I am drinking a Rupel wine that has not matured in oak, I still recall this cozy place full with French oak barrels. For the greatest enthusiast, down there there is a small tasting room where you can enjoy the wines in the coziness of the cellar.

The cellar with the barrels - Andrey's favourite place in every winery
The cellar with the barrels – Andrey’s favourite place in every winery
The barrels of Rupel Winery, Bulgaria
The barrels of Rupel Winery, Bulgaria, Struma valley winery

The wines of Rupel – from Anita to Philosoph

To love new wines you do not always go to the wine cellar and meet the people making them, but it really helps. The more we travel, the more favourite wineries and wines we have. In Dolno Spanchevo village we found both new friends and wines that made our 14 February wonderful and full of joy. And I dare to say that this is one of our best holidays (in Bulgaria on this date we also celebrate the Trifon Zarezan – the day of wine growers and wine makers).

This evening we seated comfortably on the chairs in the tasting room and started with Anita – rose wine from sangiovese and nebbiolo, named after the lady of the cellar – Anita. But we will write about wines a bit later. Now we were just sitting on a friendly chat with good wine, cheese from North Macedonia and home-made chilly peppers jam. All of them you can taste in the cellar.

So we spent the 14th February, and on the next day we returned to the cellar because we were invited to a gourmet wine tasting with some of the most memorable wines of Rupel Winery. We will tell you about it now.

The new wine tasting room of Rupel Winery
The new wine tasting room of Rupel Winery

The wine is best when it is paired with the proper food

We settled comfortably by the fireplace in the new wine tasting room of Rupel Winery. It still smells of fresh wood and we were its first visitors. It is located in the small chateau up among the vineyards where the owners used to live until recently. We always start dreaming what would it feel living up there. But let’s get back to the tasting because we are writing an article about wine, not about real estates.

Our corner in the new tasting room at Rupel Wine Cellar, Bulgaria
Our corner in the new tasting room at Rupel Wine Cellar, Bulgaria

RUSALli Tamianka 2018

Tamianka by Rupel is well-known to us, they have been making it for the past 4 years. But the vintage 2018 is special because it is the first vintage made with grapes grown in the Struma Valley. The previous vintages of this wine were made from grapes from the Black sea region. And the scents and tastes quite differ. The tamianka from the Struma valley is richer in aromas and sun. It might not sound very professional but we really can feel the sun in the wines. The new tamianka is with tangible aroma of roses that probably comes from the terroir.

RUSALli Tamianka 2018 by Rupel Winery, Bulgaria
RUSALli Tamianka 2018 by Rupel Winery, Bulgaria

The tamianka was served with soft cheeses with herbs and fig jam. And this is probably the best food to pair it with. However, it will also go well with salad or white meats and fish.

Soft cheeses with herbs and fig jam - the perfect fit for the Tamianka 2018 by Rupel wine cellar, Bulgaria
Soft cheeses with herbs and fig jam – the perfect fit for the Tamianka 2018 by Rupel wine cellar, Bulgaria

RUSALIi Black Rose 2018

We were very curious to taste the new Black Rose by Rupel. We had a bottle of it at home but we hadn’t opened it yet. First on the table arrived its company – duck liver terrine. And we immediately imagined what would go perfectly well with it – something rich, with red fruits and maybe jam. The Black Rose is fruity, intensive, with middle body and pairs well with sea fish and pizza Margherita.

RUSALIi Black Rose 2018 with duck liver terrine
RUSALIi Black Rose 2018 with duck liver terrine

Gramatik Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

The Gramatik series of wines has double symbolism. First, the name comes from the surname of the owners. In Bulgarian it also means “grammar”. Second, the name aims to represent the “grammar” of the wine – to reveal the full potential of the classic (and not only) grape varieties, carefully selected, processed and matured in oak. In this case we tried the Gramatik Cabernet Sauvignon 2015. Anita explained that Cabernet sauvignon is a specific variety that has its fans but also opponents. Those who like it – drink it, others just avoid it. However, some time ago this particular wine won a very high score on a blind tasting in the United Sates. This is why they thought that it probably deserves wider attention. The Cabernet sauvignon was served in the company of baked sheep cheese with honey and walnuts. Another great choice that completed its intensive taste and aroma.

Gramatik Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 with sheep cheese with honey and walnuts
Gramatik Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 with sheep cheese with honey and walnuts

Gramatik Melnik 55 2015

Gramatik Melnik 55 barrique 2015 brings the typical spirit of the Melnik grape varieties – rich, aromatic, but also a bit wild and sharp. In combination with blood sausage, it takes you to some hunting hut up in the mountains, to a cozy gathering with friends in typical Bulgarian style.

The blood sausage that went with the Gramatik Melnik 55
The blood sausage that went with the Gramatik Melnik 55

Spancha Nebbiolo & Sangiovese

This wine was a perfect fit to the dessert, which was a chocolate mousse with blue cheese. Fresh, balanced and fruity – it really paired perfectly with the cocoa and cheese. But you won’t be wrong if you try it also with beef or dried meats.

Spancha Nebbiolo&Sangiovese with chocolate mousse
Spancha Nebbiolo&Sangiovese with chocolate mousse

Some more wines by Rupel Winery that impressed us

After such a gourmet wine tasting there is only one feeling – pure pleasure. You don’t want to let it go, however you need to stand up and take your family to the hotel. The days after such an experience we could survive only on eggs and soups – this bouquet of tastes and aromas does not fade quickly from the mind. But let’s not forget about the visit to the winery the previous evening, where on a friendly chat with Gramatikov family we tasted a few more of their wines. Now I think we have tasted almost all of their wines and here are a few more to mention.


The Spancha series consists of wines that have not matured in oak and are fresh, fruity, more European-style. Pavel admitted that initially he was sceptic about this kind of wines because the Bulgarian taste leans more towards strong, matured wines. However, he agreed to the experiment and now he is quite happy with the results. The Spancha series offer us fresh, joyful, fruity wines, that we can drink every day, with or without friends, without too much engagement. From this series we have tried the abpve mentioned Sangiovese&Nebbiolo, as well as the triple coupage Spancha Sangiovese & Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon, which we really admire.

Spancha Sangiovese & Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon
Spancha Sangiovese & Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon

Ekzarh and Philosoph

Let’s not forget the two highest-class wines of Rupel Winery – Gramatik Ekzarh and Philosoph. The symbolism behind Ekzarh is that it unites the main red wines of the cellar – Melnik 55, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Marselan. Moreover, Ekzarh is Pavel’s wine and best represents his own taste for wine, closer to the Bulgarian traditions that to the current European trend. This is why Ekzarh is more than 40 % Melnik 55.

Philosoph is a blend of the best wines from Melnik 55, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Marselan, matured in selected oak barriques for 18-24 months and not less than 6 months in bottles before they come out on the market. But the technological facts do not have such importance to us, we appreciate the feeling more. In this case, it is a feeling of rich, complex, smooth, even “polished” wine in the good meaning of the word. Pavel described it as a more European-style, compared to Ekzarh. In our family the Philosoph was Maria’s favourite, maybe because women prefer finer things. About Andrey – he likes everything, but maybe he still prefers the Ekzarh a little bit.

The wine is good when it goes with good friends

When you meet nice and hospitable people and they invite you to taste their wines and enjoy their company, the will to write an article comes by itself. This is how our articles are born. Initially we start with more boring explanations but on the finale, after we get to know each other, start discussing our mother-in-laws. When you meet the right people, everything goes well.

When you have an occasion to visit the region of Melnik, do not miss the chance to visit the Rupel Winery and send greetings from us. We will probably go back in the spring to make better photos of green vineyards.

Wines of Rupel Wine Cellar, Bulgaria
Wines of Rupel Wine Cellar, Bulgaria

Where to stay and eat in the area?

We always insist to find a good place to stay and not only a bed and shower. During our latest trip to the area, we stayed in the very nice Mantar Spa Hotel near Marikostinovo village, just a few km from Rupel Winery and several other wine cellars in the area. Besides its great location, we also enjoyed its SPA centre and hot mineral pools, which are a great idea after the wine trips. More about the hotel you can read in our article about hot outdoor mineral pools in Bulgaria.

The restaurant of the hotel is also very nice and if you are staying there, you don’t need to look for another place to eat.

If you prefer to stay in a cozy village up in the mountain, we would always be happy to recomment the village of Rozhen, just below the Rozhen monastery. Last time we stayed in the very nice Zlaten Rozhen hotel. Another nice place in the village is Dinchova house.

Eating in the town of Melnik is traditionally delicious and cheap. In Rozhen you can eat well in both hotels mentioned above.

Tasting notes



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