Chasing the Orange wine through Bulgarian Tuscany – visiting Villa Melnik winery

Exploring and tasting wines in Melnik region, Bulgaria

Driving by the small roads from the town of Melnik to the village of Harsovo (Villa Melnik), we enjoy the landscape of green hills and vines all around. At the foot of Pirin mountains, the afternoon sun and the beautiful views make us imagine Tuscany. A hill with a gazebo on the top, lit by the sun, makes us a bit envious to the people enjoying their late lunch there. It is the best gazebo with the best location, we think, while looking enviously to the people up there.

A minute later we encounter the wonderful view of the vineyard and the winery we are heading to – Villa Melnik winery, Bulgaria.

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Вила Мелник 41.474020, 23.389378

Villa Melnik winery

The big white building with wide parking place and stunning view towards the vineyards attracted us instantly. On the door we are met by Militza and her mother Lubka – the owners of the family winery. We are impatient to hear all about this charming place and the legends that surround it. And here it all starts.

Villa Melnik winery

Villa Melnik winery

production has been a tradition in Melnik area for centuries so it is not strange that there are tens of wineries around. Because of the dry, sandy soils in the area, vines are among the very few crops that can be grown successfully there. Moreover, the warm climate and the hot summer (this is the warmest part of Bulgaria) provide great conditions for growing wonderful grapes. So after the hundreds of sunny hours in the summer, the winemakers are happy to harvest the well-ripe bunches of grape – the perfect base for a rich, tasty, emotional .

Villa Melnik vineyards, Bulgaria

Villa Melnik vineyards

We are standing on the terrace, enjoying the view to the vineyards and listening to stories about local wine traditions. Zikatanov family try to grow both traditional grape varieties like Pinot noir and local species like Shiroka Melnishka and .

A view to Villa Melnik vineyards and Harsovo village, Bulgaria

A view to Villa Melnik vineyards and Harsovo village, Bulgaria

They are also growing table varieties and we are definitely planning to come back in August and September to try them.

All the wines in Villa Melnik are produced by locally grown grapes because the owners have full control on the growing and the time of harvesting. They have a total of 300 decares of vineyards – 100 of them next to the winery and another 200 near Vinogradi village.

Vineyard of Villa Melnik

Vineyard of Villa Melnik, Bulgaria

Melnik 55, Broad Leaved Melnik, Ruen, Melnik 1300, Mavrud, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot noir, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon blanc, Keratsuda, Tamyanka and Sandanski Misket

The route of wine in Villa Melnik – from the vineyard to the glass

We start our tour through the winery itself, where most of the job is being done by.. simple gravity. This technology is most energy efficient and also best for the grapes, because the juice is being drawn in more natural way. At first, after the grapes are brought, several women check and clean them carefully from damaged sections. Then, with the natural help of gravity, they are moved to the lower level for fermentation. This process happens in inox containers, produced in Bulgaria.

Militza explains the wine producing technology to little Anna

Militza explains the wine producing technology to little Anna

We are very beginners in wine technology so I will avoid writing too many details about it. What impressed us the most was that the fermentation containers were produced in Bulgaria. We also learned that it is very important not to break the seeds during pressing for the juice because they contain strong tannins that could spoil the taste of the wine. For that reason, Villa Melnik has a special Italian machine that presses the grapes very gently in order to extract the juice without harming the seeds. Please don’t laugh too much, we are really the very beginners in wine making technologies.

Wine fermentation tanks at Villa Melnik winery, Bulgaria

Wine fermentation tanks at Villa Melnik winery, Bulgaria

The magic room

The office of the wine technician looks like an alchemist’s laboratory. There we also learned many interesting things about the story of the winery. Their first technician was a Frenchman, trying to bring the French way of life in the area. He used to stop in the centre of Harsovo village and kiss each woman’s hand, for the horror of the local men. Well, in some areas of Bulgaria women are not so emancipated and such action could be found offensive.  Anyway, as far as we heard, nothing bad happened to him. He worked in the winery for a year and was then succeeded by the Bulgarian technician Rumiana Stoilova, who was eager to experiment.

The wine technician's office

The wine technician’s office

Orange wine – the madness of Bulgarian Tuscany

The experiments in Villa Melnik started thanks to the new technician, but not only. 2 years ago, Militza said: “Let’s make something crazy and weird”. So was born the idea of Orange wine – wine from white grapes (Sauvignon blanc) produced by red wine technology. It became really exotic and unusual, very nice and tasty. Villa Melnik’s orange wine has many awards and we liked it very much, too.

Villa Melnik's orange wine

Villa Melnik’s orange wine

Every winery has its own style and nothing comes out of villa Melnik without being approved by the owners’ family. Making too light wines is a waste of grapes, thinks Lubka Zikatanova. She believes that all the good features of the ripe grapes must be transferred into the wine. So the wines produces in Villa Melnik are rich, tasty and emotional.

Lubka revealed another secret that contributes to this – even the white grapes are let to stay with the flakes for 6-7 hours before the juice is fully extracted and sent for fermentation.

Horizontal rotating fermenters at Villa Melnik

Horizontal rotating fermenters

Another special moment in the wine production in Villa Melnik is that the wine matures in Bulgarian oak barrels, instead of the widely used French Oak. We were impressed by this and we felt the wines of Villa Melnik even more Bulgarian.

Villa Melnik cellars

Villa Melnik cellars

Bulgarian oak barrels Teres tonnellerie

Bulgarian oak barrels Teres tonnellerie

Exploring the sand tunnels where the best wine is hiding

The most interesting part of our tour was the visit to the lower level of the winery – the tunnels where the barrels and bottled wines are stored to mature. The tunnels are dug in the sandy rocks than can be found in the whole Melnik area. They provide the perfect temperature in all seasons.

Tunnels in the sand rocks, Villa Melnik, Bulgaria

Tunnels in the sand rocks, Villa Melnik, Bulgaria

The tunnels store Zikatanov family’s private collection as well as bottles of wine bought by their visitors. Any visitor could go and buy a bottle of wine, leave it down there and come back after a few years to collect it for a special occasion. I hope soon we will be back to buy a couple of bottles and leave them there, too.

Wine bottles in the sandy tunnels

Wine bottles in the sandy tunnels

Underground wine tasting room

Underground wine tasting room

The perfect final – panoramic wine tasting on sunset

The wine tasting room is not less impressive than the winery itself. With stunning view to the vineyards lit by the sunset, it offered us the perfect atmosphere to taste the wines we learned so much about. Our daughter enjoyed the food while we were trying to guess the tastes and aromas of every glass. I admit that we did not recognize anything, but we truly enjoyed everything we tried. But I have always said that for me it is not important whether is smells of roses or citrus and can you feel the taste of green pepper or not. It is only important whether I like it or not. And I liked it.

Wine tasting room

Wine tasting room

We continued our conversation with Lubka and Militza and were later joined by the other two members of the family – the father Nikola and Aleksa, Militza’s brother. They all looked happy and enthusiastic about the place they created and it was obvious that they really love it. We also learned that they are friends with most of the neighbouring wineries which also made a good impression to us.

Later, we met the company returning from the uphill picnic, bringing back the baskets with empty wine bottles. We were again a little envious but next time we will go to this amazing gazebo, too.

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Sunset above Beli Breg, Harsovo village

The area where Villa Melnik is located is known as Beli Breg. In our sweet talk we lost any sense of time and while wandering between the vines, everybody in the winery had left, except us and the owners. But we couldn’t miss the beautiful sunset coming above and we stayed a little bit more to enjoy it to the maximum. It was already 4 hours since we came, despite the usual wine tour takes about 1.5 hours.

Sunset

Sunset

Visit Villa Melnik

Villa Melnik is run daily by a team of professionals and Zikatanov family can be fund there every weekend. When the times for tasting comes, they spend long hours in tastings and consultation with specialist in order to decide which blend should be bottled. Nothing goes in a bottle without the approval of the family. If they don’t like it, then apparently this is not a Villa Melnik wine.

Zikatanovi family and Maria and Anna

Zikatanovi family and Maria and Anna

Villa Melnik is open for visitors daily and during weekends you can meet there the owners. There are different wine tasting packages and you can also have a walk among the vineyards, if interested. If you feel romantic, take your glass and go up to the gazebo or wait for the sunset on the terrace. In any case, you will feel many positive emotions from your visit to Villa Melnik.

Visiting hours: Mon-Fri: 9-17h. Sat-Sun: 10 – 18h. Visits out of these hours also possible, call in advance

Villa Melnik wines

Villa Melnik wines

You can find the wines of Villa Melnik in many restaurants and hotels in Melnik and Sandanski, as well as some local shops. In Sofia you can directly call their office and ask for the easiest way to find them.

Wine routes in Melnik region

If you are visiting Melnik and love wine, you should try everything. Every pub in the town offers its home-made wine and local wine producers are offering their production straight on the street. Shestaka and Kordupulova House wineries are among the well-known producers in the town. But no matter how much you like the home-made wine, we also advise you to take a tour among the traditional wineries in the villages around. There are tens of wineries, some of them mass producers and exporters, each one offering its one blends and tastes. Discover them with the map of the Wine Routes.

Map of the wine routes around Melnik, Bulgaria

Map of the wine routes near Melnik

Going for wine tourism, it is also good to spend at least a night in the area. Melnik is a good option, offering old Bulgarian atmosphere and good hotels with reasonable prices. We also like Rozhen village, a few km away from Melnik, very close to the famous Rozhen monastery. If you are a lover of thermal springs and SPA, your place is the nearby city of Sandanski, known for its healing air and waters. The area also offers opportunities for luxury and gourmet tourism – so there is something for every taste.



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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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