Home Wine Tourism Villa Bassarea winery – the spirit of ancient Thracians from South Sakar, Bulgaria

Villa Bassarea winery – the spirit of ancient Thracians from South Sakar, Bulgaria

9 minutes read

We arrived at Villa Bassarea in the town of Harmanli, Bulgaria, on a rainy Saturday. We were late for our lunch appointment because before that we had visited the wonderful Thracian Tomb of Alexandrovo, only 20 km away. We quickly melted the ice of the “introduction” part because our hosts were so warm and kind people. So this is how we met Kamen Koev, Todor Bratanov ans Rumiana Bratanova, the owners of Villa Bassarea winery.

First meeting with Villa Bassarea

Kamen is both co-owner and winemaker. Todor is the other co-owner and friend of Kamen. Rumiana is Todor’s wife and she had prepared wonderful lunch for us. So we quickly sat on the table to enjoy the wonderful sarmi (a traditional Bulgarian dish – rice and meat wrapped in cabbage leaves) and of course, wine.

A part of our lunch, actually the dessert - baked pumpkin with walnuts with the wines of Villa Bassarea
A part of our lunch, actually the dessert – roasted pumpkin with walnuts

The wine cellar is relatively small and does not actually look like a villa. It is also quite new – the first produced series are from vintage 2014. Its capacity is for 70 tons of grapes yearly. They do not have own vineyards but instead buy selected grapes from local wine growers. Everything they buy is from the terroir of South Sakar mountains – one of the best regions to grow grapes in Bulgaria. Particularly, the vineyards are located on south slopes of Sakar mountains, near the villages Izvorovo and Kolarovo in Maritsa river valley.

Immediately after we arrived we headed for a tour around the cellar. It was one of the most detailed wine cellar tours we have ever made. Villa Bassarea might be a small cellar but they produce various wines. We tried 4 whites, one rose, 2-3 young red wines, several maturing in barrels and 2 bottled ones, among them their most recent series – Cabernet Franc Reserva.

The wines of Villa Bassarea

Let’s get back to the tour and what made it different than other wine cellars we have visited. Usually every tour starts with the theoretical part, explaining the technology process. This usually takes place in the fermentation room. However, this time we mixed theory and practice because our hosts had prepared the table just in the fermentation room. This is how we started exploring the wines of Villa Bassarea.

Fermentation room at Villa Bassarea winery, Bulgaria, Bulgarian winery, South Sakar winery
Fermentation room at Villa Bassarea winery

We started with Chardonnay 2017, just draught from the tank. Fresh and aromatic. (Note: We made our first visit in February 2018, this is why we are speaking of Vintage 2017. Later in the article we add some more recent wines). Next sip was Viognier 2017, a mix with 5 % tamianka, a local very aromatic grape variety. This quickly became our favourite among the whites. Finally we tasted the 100 % tamianka – even more aromatic, easy to drink and tasty wine. Next it was the amazing Rose from Cabernet franc, fresh and tasty. Can’t wait to see it on the market.

Wines of Villa Bassarea wine cellar in Bulgaria
Wines of Villa Bassarea

While white wines from the last vintage are almost ready, this cannot be said for the reds at this time of the year. We usually find them too young for our taste and we are generally not fans of young wines. However, we agreed to try how the reds of vintage 2017 are developing and we were quite surprised. Yes, they were cold and young but they tasted quite softer and better than many other matured wines we have previously tasted. So we do not doubt that they will become more than perfect when ready.

Tasting wines among the barrels

Despite the wonderful lunch table in the fermentation room, we were impatient to move to the smaller cosy cellar where the best wines are maturing in barrels. They have made a wonderful small tasting area between the barrels, making the perfect mood for wine tasting. And the best thing is that you can try straight from the barrels.

Home-made sausages and lukanka, a perfect pair for good red wine
Home-made sausages and lukanka, a perfect pair for good red wine

The first wine to impress us there was the Cherry. Well, is it not made of cherries, cherries are for jams. Instead, it is Cabernet Sauvignon that matures in cherry wood barrels. Despite we know that the kind of wood really matters, we had never been able to spot the difference between different oaks for example. However, we were astonished by the strong taste and aroma that cherry barrels bring to the wine. However, not everyone loves it because it is very specific. Actually, you either love it or can’t stand it. No middle positions. We loved it.

The cherry barrel
The cherry barrel, made in Bulgaria

We tasted both vintage 2016 and 2017 of the Cherry wine. Of course the older one tasted softer and fuller but the loved them both. Another interesting thing about the Cherry wine is that it changes very quickly – only a month longer maturing can make a great difference in taste. Moreover, the Cherry has a wonderful potential for maturing in a bottle. Kamen said that he still keeps several boxes of the first vintage – 2014, and they still taste great.

The stronger wines of Villa Bassarea

Besides the delicious Cherry, Villa Bassarea produces several more serious wines, all of them worth tasting. Among them is Image – one of their most popular high-class wines, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We are also in love with the Reserva series. We already wrote about the Syrah reserva 2014 and during our visit we tasted the recently bottled Cabernet Franc Reserve 2016. We have only one single problem with the Reserves. We are in constant inner fight whether to leave them mature even more and see how they will develop or enjoy them immediately. This time we decided to put a few bottles in our enoteca and a few years later we will share what is going on with them.

Syrah Reserva 2014 by Villa Bassarea, Bulgaia
Syrah Reserva 2014 by Villa Bassarea, Bulgaia

The headliner of Villa Bassarea is Saratok – a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Saratok is a high-class wine with its special character. And despite it was released on the market recently, half of the bottles are already sold. The idea behind Saratok is to sell it as a luxury gift with a special surprise for its owner. We think this is a great idea.

Saratok - the headliner of Villa Bassarea, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah
Saratok – the headliner of Villa Bassarea, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah

I know this article became too long but we enjoyed being at Villa Bassarea so much that we stayed there more than 5 hours. Of course, we left with 5 more bottles of their wonderful wines. I never believed I would ask someone to fill me a plastic bottle with wine straight from the tank but I did for the viognier. And these days we are enjoying the last drops of it.

Maria and me with the owners of Villa Bassarea, Harmanli, Bulgaria
Maria and me with the owners of Villa Bassarea

If you are around Harmanli, do not hesitate to visit Villa Bassarea. Despite it is a small winery, the people behind it have big and warm hears and are always ready to share with you their wine secrets. And the winery is just a minute away from Maritsa highway. 

Favourite wines by Villa Bassarea

Tasted in 2021:

Tasted in 2020:

Tasted in 2018:

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1 comment

Marius Turiac 2018/10/15 - 3:05 PM

Beautiful article, Andrey, as usual. However, I thing “Thracian”, “The spirit of Thracians” tend to become cliché and impersonal when talking about Bulgarian wine (unless we really talk about history). There are a lot of things to say and you do well what you do.


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