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

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Welcome to the cosy wine cellar in Maritsa river valley, Southeastern Bulgaria

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.

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Вила Басареа 41.925813, 25.921563

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 – rise 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 – baked 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 bottles 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 “theory” 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 to explore 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. 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 tested 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 between 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.

How we discovered Villa Bassarea?

We learned of Villa Bassarea in January from Geri, from Winetours.bg. Of course she knows more about wine that us so we often ask us various wine questions. And when one day we asked us to recommend us a nice winery that is not very famous, the first option was Villa Bassarea, Thank you, Geri for meeting us with these wonderful people!

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. 

Syrah 2014 Reserve by Villa Bassarea, Bulgarin red wine

One of a thousand – a bottle of Syrah Reserve 2014 by Villa Bassarea, Bulgaria

January 31st, 2018 Мария Андреева Villa Bassarea Syrah 2014 - a wine that you must taste in 2018 Every wine that has arrived at our home receives special attention. No matter the colour, the price or the cellar. We just try to explore carefully every scent of it. However, there are wines that make us extremely excited even before we…
Villa Bassarea Cabernet Franc Reserve 2016

Celebrating Saturday night with a bottle of Villa Bassarea Cabernet Franc Reserve 2016

March 12th, 2018 Мария Андреева Welcome another great wine by Villa Bassarea, the boutique winery from South Sakar, Bulgaria I admit that tasting good wines and writing about them is something me and my wife Maria adore. We always spend a lot of time wondering which one of the many tempting bottles to open this day. And after this, we…



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