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Wine tasting like a pro in the wineries in Bulgaria

23 minutes read

We are sitting on the terrace of the winery, watching the vines virescent and speak with the owners. The sun is already setting behind the hills. We taste the wines of the latest vintage and the owners tell us about the path of the wine to our glass. The wine reveals its character, we are not in a hurry and enjoy the warm welcome. The last visitors in the winery leave and we are still there, tasting another glass of unique good wine. Finally, we finish the glasses, buy a few bottles of wine and go to the nearby restaurant for delicious local dinner. Days, months or years later we open one of the bottles and recall the very day we were standing here and bought it. And we wish to visit again the wine cellar, do get our feet durty in the soil in the vineyards, to pick the ripen grapes and try the new vintages.

Life is too short to drink bad wine.

Andrey tastes wine at Orbelia winery
Andrey tastes wine in a winery in Bulgaria. Mimi really likes this photo

One unusual article

Many years have passed since our first visit to a winery and the first wine book we read. For us the world of wine is still a hobby and we enjoy it like this. Our passion for learning new things cannot be stopped by any professional limits and we love travelling, discovering, sometimes feeling silly and exposing ourselves. But why not talk of the way we visit the places where wine is made and what to expect there? We sometimes love acting as professionals and we will tell you our story now. Real professionals, please look at our thoughts with a smile and don’t stone us.

“Anyone who tries to make you believe that he knows all about wines is obviously a fake.”

Leon Adams, The Commonsense Book of Wine

Why visit a wine cellar in Bulgaria?

Because you love wine! Probably this is the most important reason or at least our most important reason. Our experience proves that we like the most the wines from wineries we have previously visited. The wine itself, mixed with the sweet memory of a wonderful adventure, is the best wine for us. For travellers who love wine this is one of the most valuable experienes – to visit the local winery in the region we are visiting.

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

Moreover, you will be able to learn the history of the place and meet the people who make the wine. You will see the barrels where wines mature and you will be able to try the new vintages even before they are released on the market. If you visit during harvesting time, you may be able to taste the grapes, too. (However, during the harvesting season the wineries are overloaded with work and some of them cannot accept visitors.)

Inox tanks for fermentation and storage in the Rupel Winery
Inox tanks for fermentation and storage in the Rupel Winery

Are you ready for a visit to winery?

  • Call in advance. Booking in advance is strongly recommended for a visit to a wine cellar in Bulgaria, especially if you are willing to visit a smaller winery. Many wineries are not open for visitors every day and some would open only with pre-arrangement. It is better if they know and are expecting you so they can prepare properly. I would recommend you to call a day or two before the planned visit, but if you call on the same day there is also a high chance you are accepted.
  • Maximum three wineries in a day. For us, even three are too much. We would advise you to start your tour from the winery that is the furthest to the place you are staying and finish with the nearest one. With good planning, you could be able to visit more wine cellars in one day but you should allow some time for food between the tastings. And you should better have a driver who does not drink wine.
  • Wine tour and tasting packages. Check in advance what are the options for wine tours and tastings and what is the price. Most wineries offer various wine tasting packages, depending on the interest and the enthusiasm of the visitors. So you can choose the one that fits you best. Of course, if you find yourself unusually enthusiasted during the tasting, you will most probably be able to upgrade your package.
  • Experience is most important. We do not intend to tell you what to do but for us it is important to travel slowly and enjoy every moment and all the tastes and aromas that the moment can bring us. It is a unique feeling when years later some wine reminds you of the amazing experience you had in the winery.
  • No perfumes on the wine tasting! Most people go to wine tastings to feel the aromas and the tastes of the wine. An often mistake made by unexperienced winelovers is using a perfume on such event. Of course, no one will take you out of the winery because you are using a fragrance but you will not feel anything from the wine.
  • Take notes. We also take notes so we can keep the informaton of what wines we have tasted and how they felt and looked. Later, we like to remember these experiences and maybe buy a new bottle. In many wineries you will be provided wine tasting leaflets where you can write your notes. We prefer to bring our own tasting notebooks so we have everything at one place.
Maria taking tasting notes while baby Adriana enjoys the day in her stroller behind - Chateau Kolarovo, Bulgaria
Maria taking tasting notes at Chateau Kolarovo wine cellar, Bulgaria

  • Have some food before wine tasting. It is not a good idea to go to a wine tasting hungry, except if you are not completely sure that there is a restaurant in the winery of you have arranged lunch or picnic in the vineyards (which I would strongly recommend).
  • Spit or drink? If you are a wine professional and wish to taste more wines, you would probably not drink the wine and spit it after tasting. This will be well-accepted, of course. However, we are not professionals and prefer to drink the wine. To avoid getting drunk after the first two wines, we always try just a few sips to feel the wine and take notes and then continue with the next wine. However, if we fall in love with some wine, we do not hesitate to drink the whole glass and enjoy it to the last drop.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. This is valid especially if you are planning a walk in the vineyards or you are visiting during harvesting time.
  • Buy a few bottles at the end of the visit. Of course, this is only a recommendation. You may have not liked the wine and this is aboslutely acceptable, no one will force you to buy. But we always bring with us a cooling bag or styrofoam box to carry the wine we buy. Then we bring it to the cellar at home and leave it to age for a year ot two more, if it is suitable for aging. Or we open it a few days or weeks later and enjoy it again. We have many articles where we show what we do with the wines we buy from the wineries.
  • Visiting a winery with children. We very often visit wineries accompanied by our two litle princesses. Despite wine cellars are mostly places of interest for the adults, kids often fidn a way to have fun there. Our little Anna has tasted juices, ate grapes and played with the corks or the dog during our tour. We never hesitate to bring our kids to the winery and we have always been well-accepted with them.
  • Do not drive after drinking.
  • Wine festivals and exhibitions. They are a great idea to visit many wineries in one day, sometimes totally for free. In Bulgaria there are many wine events. We would recommend you the Melnik Wineries Open Doors event which happens in the region of Melnik around 14 February every year. Moreover, there are wine fairs and exhibitions in most of the large cities in Bulgaria several times a year.
  • How long a visit to a winery would last? Well, as long as you wish. If you are visiting a wine cellar for the first time and wish to learn about the process of winemaking and the path from the grapes to the glass, and then make a tasting, the whole experience would take about 1-2 hours, depending on how curious and enthusiastic you are. If the winery tour is not interesting to you, you could make only a tasting. The base tastings include usually 3 wines and if you are not too long, you could finish in 30 minutes. If you are real enthusiasts, you could arrange a longer tour with more wines to taste, food and other experiences. We are always very long and if we could complete a visit to a winery within 3-4 hours, we count this very quick. So our absolute maximum is 2 winery visits in a day.
The barrels in Zlaten Rozhen become more and more
The barrels in Zlaten Rozhen become more and more

Big or small, famous or unknown?

Size does not matter in terms of wine. In the small wineries you will find coziness, personal story and warm personal welcome. Probably you will taste wines made with special attention to every bottle. You will taste limited series of wines carrying the spirit of the winery, the winemaker, the owner. Very likely, you will meet the person who makes the wine himself and he/she will have a lot to tell you. In the small wineries you will often be the only visitor and enjoy a wonderful and calm afternoon.

Federico and Mimi
Wine tasting straight from the tank – Federico Ricci, the product director of Zlaten Rozhen, and Mimi tasting their amazing syrah

Regardless of your choice, the experience will be wonderful. In the large wine cellars you could see and learn a lot of the industrial wine production and see various types of winemaking equipment. Some of the older industrial wineries are like museums of wine. At such places we have seen huge wooden barrels more than 40 years old with amazing works of art engraved on them.

Villa Bassarea winery, Harmanli
The cellar of Villa Bassarea winery, Harmanli, Bulgaria

Don’t be shy to ask

Asking questions is a must when you visit a winery. No one has been born with all of this knowledge so it is a great opportunity to learn something new. The technologies of making wine may differ a lot. You can ask questions about the local grape varieties, the peculiarities of the terroir and many other things. But be prepared that if you are meeting the owner or the winemaker, they can be overenthusiastic to explain you many details, like the air flows in the area, for example. We love listening to these stories, it is a unique opportunity to learn things you wouldn’t learn otherwise.

The vineyards of Rupel Winery in Bulgaria, Struma valley
The vineyards of Rupel Winery in Bulgaria, Struma valley

Wineries in Bulgaria

Our main principle is: drink local wine, wherever we are! Sometimes this means drinking wine from blueberries or plums in Estonia. Or amazing local varieties in Italy. You get it, right? In Bulgaria there are more than 300 wine cellars and even if you are big enthusiasts like us, one year would not be enought to visit them all and try everything. And the next year e new vintage comes.

Grape juice - the initial stage of wine production in the Zlaten Rozhen winery, a sweet memory from our September visit
Grape juice – the initial stage of wine production in the Zlaten Rozhen winery, a sweet memory from our September visit

Bulgarian wine is wonderful, good, sometimes experimental and most often, very high-quality. Also, it is totally unknown to the general wine world. The price of Bulgarian wine is quite reasonable. The wine cellars in Bulgaria are of various type. There are wineries with luxury 5-star SPA complexes and small garrage wineries, both making amazing wines.

Beautiful views and well-grown grapes at Villa Melnik vineyards
Beautiful views and healthy grapes at Villa Melnik vineyards
The tunnels where wines of Villa Melnik mature
The tunnels where wines of Villa Melnik mature

Expensive or cheap wine?

The price of the wine depends of the technology, the labour intensity, the bottles, the marketing and many other things. You may fall in love with wine in a simple bottle, without barrel aging, costing just 10 BGN (5 EUR) a bottle and this would be pretty normal. There is mood and time for every wine. Moreover, do not underestimate the right serving temperature and food pairing for each wine. We would advise you to buy all types of wines.

Maria picking wine to buy
Maria picking wine to buy

Organized wine tour ot single visit?

If you want to visit really good wineries in the region you are visiting but you are not very familiar with the local landscape, or you just prefer someone else to take care or the organisation stuff, you could trust a wine tour agency. We have used such services and since then the organizers have become our friends and we often go together here and there. There are many wine travel agencies in Bulgaria but of course, we have our favourites. Here is who we recommend for a good wine tour in Bulgaria:

  • Our friends Zina and Vasil from Bulgaria Wine Tours are one wonderful couple, based in Plovdiv but organizing wine tours all around the country. The whole team of the agency is very good at their work. Our friends from the wineries also love to work with them,
  • Geri from winetours.bg also puts a lot of effort in developing the wine sector in Bulgaria and we also consult with her for any wine-related questions. On her website you can see many offers for wine tours and wine experiences in Bulgaria.
  • Wine Tour Maker is a new project aimed at helping both businesses and tourists make wine tourism in a better way and enjoy its benefits to the most.

Where to stay?

Mimi and I do not drive after drinking and we advise you not to do it either. This is why we always look for places to stay at the nearest to the winery we visit. The advantage of joining an organized wine tour is that you do not care about transportation – you drink, they drive. In the latest years wine tourism in Bulgaria is quickly developing and more and more wine cellars build hotels and guest houses. There are also large SPA and wine complexes which we love.

Wine cellars in Bulgaria we have visited and recommend

Struma Valley and Southwestern Bulgaria

The valley of Mesta river and the only winery in this region of Bulgaria:

Sakar mountains and the valley of Maritsa river

Eastern Thracia

  • Maryan Winery, one of our favourite wine cellars, using grapes grown in the Thracian valley. The wine cellar itself is located in the village of Maryan, near the town of Elena in the Balkan mountains.
  • Edoardo Miroglio;
  • Midalidare Estate near Stara Zagora;
  • The small winery ROXS in Vinarovo village;

Rose Valley

Western Thracian valley

  • Zagreus Winery;
  • Villa Yustina;
  • Manastira Winery;
  • Starosel Wine & SPA Complex;

Danube Plain

Black Sea region

Stratsin winery

Maria on a gourmet wine tasting at Chateau Copsa
Maria on a gourmet wine tasting at Chateau Copsa

Our favourite gourmet wine tastings in Bulgaria and wineries with good restaurants:

  • Chateau Copsa near the town of Sopot have amazing restaurant and their gourmet wine tasting packages;
  • UVA NESTUM WINE & SPA near the town of Gotse Delchev and their restaurant with mostly home-grown products;
  • Enoteca Sakar (Sakar Wine Shop and Tasting Room) offers a wide choice of wines from the region and also make thematic food and wine events (organize your visit in advance);
  • Midalidare Estate near Stara Zagora;
The indoor pool at Uva Nestum
The indoor pool at Uva Nestum

The best wine and SPA complexes

Wine cellars with hotels and guest houses

We will keep writing in these lists before they are complete. The wine cellars in Bulgaria are more than 300 and we have a long way to go before we visit all of them. If you wish to recommend us any, feel free to contact us on Instagram of Facebook.

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