Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar, Bulgaria – where alchemy happens

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We first visited the new building of Zlaten Rozhen cellar on a cold February day in 2018. It had just opened in the village of Kapatovo, near the town of Melnik in the famous Struma Valley region. By the entrance was proudly standing a Mercedes from 1969 and inside was the just-opened shop and tasting hall. We made a quick tasting and left because we were very tired after a long day.

7 months later we return here, the Mercedes is still there and upon entrance we meet a smiling and enthusiastic Italian man who wants to tell us everything about the wine cellar. However, we have to wait for a while because he is being interviewed by a local magazine. He is quite famous in the area and there is a reason for this. This is Federico Ricci, the chief enologist and product director of Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar. He took this role in the beginning of 2018 and creates a lot of dynamics in the cellar, including new interesting series of wines.

The Mercedes that welcomes every visitor at Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar. It is a very special car because it ws produced on the birth date of the owner of the cellar, in 1969
The Mercedes that welcomes every visitor at Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar. It is a very special car because it ws produced on the birth date of the owner of the cellar, in 1969

While waiting for Federico, we are welcomed by two wonderful girls – Maria and Valentina. They are the ones who welcome every guest in the winery and organize the tours and tastings in the winery. And of course their first suggestion is to start the conversation on a glass of wine in the new tasting room upstairs, where they told us some important basic facts about the cellar.

The new tasting room of Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar
The new tasting room of Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar

Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar in Kapatovo village, Bulgaria

If you are driving on the highway from Sandanski to Greece, you will notice the big billboard advertising Zlaten Rozhen winery. It is located in one of their vineyards and the wine cellar itself is just a 5 minute drive from it in the nearby village of Kapatovo. If you are coming from Greece, you will need to leave the highway slightly before you see the billboard.  

Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar was established in 2010 and is continuously growing and developing through the years. In 2017 it acquired another local winery with its vineyards which made it one of the largest vine owners in the area. Currently Zlaten Rozhen owns 800 decars of vineyards, planted with various varieties. They have both local varieties like Broadleaved Melnik (known also as Shiroka Melnik), Melnik 55 and Rubin, and the classics Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They also have plantations with some exotic varieties for the region, like Sangiovese and Nebiolo.  

The new vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon, ready to take the way to becoming a wine
The new vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon, ready to take the way to becoming a wine

Because of this serious grape production, the winery itself is also to be extended. They already plan the construction of a second cellar that will give Federico Ricci and the owners many new opportunities to make amazing and memorable wines.

However, I think we are getting too serious. So let’s now move to the more interesting part – the wines we tasted.

Sandanski Misket and what we did not know about it

The conversation started on a glass of Sandanski Misket – the first wine in every tasting. Sandanski Misket is a locally created white grape variety, very aromatic. However, we were surprised to hear that it was a hybrid between three varieties, only one of which white. The parents of Sandanski Misket are actually Tamianka, Broadleaved Melnik and Cabernet Sauvignon. We are always very curious about the different grape varieties and especially about the Bulgarian ones.  

The red fountain

We did not finish our tasting but instead headed to the fermentation hall to see how exactly the grapes are turning into wine. Despite we have been to many wineries and know the technology process in theory, we have rarely visited during the campaign period. So we were happy to see how the ripened grapes are going their way to the bottle. 

The grapes are moved to the inox containers where they release their juice under their own weight
The grapes are moved to the inox containers where they release their juice under their own weight

So the just harvested Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were put on the line that takes them to the inox containers. There, under their own weight, the grapes break and the juice goes out. It is very attractive to watch the red fountain through which the grape juice is moved to another tank for fermentation and further processing. And we were also happy to taste the sweet non-alcoholic juice which was just amazing.  

The very attractive red fountain with fresh grape juice
The very attractive red fountain with fresh grape juice

Tasting the youngest wine

We spent a lot of time in this hall, where the first stages of the winemaking process occur. The enologist Mitko explained us a lot of things but the most interesting thing was listening to this lecture on a glass of wine straight from the fermentation tank. 

Maria tasting fresh grape juice
Maria tasting fresh grape juice

Besides the fresh grape juice, we also tasted the new vintage of Sandanski Misket. It is already fermented and only a few technological steps are left before being put in a bottle. It will definitely be a wonderful wine for the next spring and summer. 

Mitko also introduced us our favourite from the new vintage – the rose from 100 % Sangiovese. It was actually in the middle of the fermentation and was still sweet, but we just adored it. In order to avoid getting drunk with it, we quickly moved down to the next hall – the cellar. 

We loved the Rose which was still fermenting
We loved the Rose which was still fermenting

On the way to the cellar we also met another attraction in the winery – the dog Aira. We did not remember what breed was she but she was just huge. And very kind, too. 

Anna and the dog Aira
Anna and the dog Aira

The dreams of an Italian man about the Melnik wine

It was now time for Federico to come and tell us about his views about the wine cellar. He fascinated us not only with words and passion but also with the amazing wines he is preparing. Most of them won’t be on the market at least one more year, but after this they will be really amazing. 

Federico Ricci, the enologist of Zlaten Rozhen, explains to Andrey about the soils in the area
Federico Ricci, the enologist of Zlaten Rozhen, explains to Andrey about the soils in the area

Federico started his lecture with words about the soils and how important are they. Three different soils can be found in the Zlaten Rozhen vineyards and each one of them has specific characteristics that also reflect on the grapes. Federico is an agronomist at the first place and we were fascinated by his passion and attention to detail. His mission in Zlaten Rozhen is to make unique, high-quality wines with a character representing the soils, the terroir and the philosophy of the wine cellar. 

Here is the time to mention why actually Federico is working especially for Zlaten Rozhen. He has been working with Bulgarian wine cellars for years but Zlaten Rozhen impressed him because they grow his favourite grape variety – Sangiovese, which is not very popular in Bulgaria.  

The Bulgarian-Italian alchemy

The name Zlaten Rozhen actually means Golden Rozhen, and Rozhen is a small but beautiful village in the same area of Bulgaria. This is why we are speaking of alchemy since the beginning.

In Zlaten Rozhen everything is very dynamic since Federico is there. He is making plans for new series of wines, expanding the production and new wine experiments. When we visited first in February the winery offered only one series of wines from the middle class, and one premium line.

Now Federico welcomed us with a new higher class line, called Family Reserve. Currently it is very limited but you can still find it in some specialized wine shops and of course in the winery itself. In this series we found this alchemy between the Melnik terroir and soils, the love of the Bulgarian owners to quality wine and the enthusiasm of Federico to create really amazing wines with unique character. The result is really Golden. 

The new premium series of Zlaten Rozhen wines - Family Reserve
The new premium series of Zlaten Rozhen wines – Family Reserve

Wines for friends or for special occasions

The wines in the new series are definitely interesting. We started with the only white among them – White Sand. A white wine, but not actually. It is a white wine from the red local variety Broadleaved Melnik. Very exotic and unusual.  

The cellar of Zlaten Rozhen winery
The cellar of Zlaten Rozhen winery

The rose from Sangiovese – Rosapina, has a scent more of flowers and herbs than fruits. We are used to taste roses with mostly strawberry and raspberry scents but this one is different. Not that the fruits are missing, they are just not dominant and the combination with the other tastes and aromas is really different and impressive.  

Rosapina Rose – one of our favourite wines of Zlaten Rozhen
Rosapina Rose – one of our favourite wines of Zlaten Rozhen

Here comes the time for the wine that became our absolute favourite from the new series – Sansi. It is a mix of Syrah and Sangiovese. Federico calls it Welcome wine – because it is juicy, delicious, light, and perfect for every occasion. For welcoming friends, for pizza, pasta, or just for no special reason. It will definitely help you make the night awesome without demanding too much attention and effort. But everybody will remember it. 

The barrels in Zlaten Rozhen become more and more
The barrels in Zlaten Rozhen become more and more

Finally, Federico revealed a few secrets about what new is coming from Zlaten Rozhen winery. We tried straight from the barrel some new wines that are still maturing and will be ready maybe next autumn. Complex, rich, explosive – this is what we can say about them. Wines for special occasions. Another fruit of the alchemy we mentioned earlier.  

Federico and Andrey making a toast
Federico and Andrey making a toast

When and how to visit Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar?

The wine cellar is open for visitors every day from 10 to 18 h. it is located in the village of Kapatovo, near the town of Melnik. There are signs on the main road and the highway so it is not difficult to find it. Anyway, we always use GPS. Reaching the cellar and parking there is generally easy. 

On the spot you can choose between 6 types of wine tastings. And they could also organize a tailored tasting according to your taste. The tour around the cellar is included and if you are lucky to meet Federico, this would be the jackpot. 

The tasting room of Zlaten Rozhen winery is opened every day
The tasting room of Zlaten Rozhen winery is opened every day
The wine shop at Zlaten Rozhen winery
The wine shop at Zlaten Rozhen winery

Don’t worry if you are visiting with kids – the staff is very welcoming and they will be happy to help you with them while you enjoy the wines and the tour. Our little Anna loved the two girls Maria and Valentina and wanted to return there the next day.  

Our family with Maria (black dress) and Valentina, the girls who welcome the visitors at Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar
Our family with Maria (black dress) and Valentina, the girls who welcome the visitors at Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar

You can learn more about the wine cellar from their official website. We strongly recommend you to combine your visit to Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar with a pleasant holiday in the Melnik area. The owners of the cellars own also the Zlaten Rozhen hotel in the village of Rozhen, 6 km from Melnik. It is a wonderful place to stay. In the evening there you can enjoy delicious home-made meals with a bottle of your favourite Zlaten Rozhen wine. 

Zlaten ROzhen winery

The best thing about our hobby is that we make wonderful acquiantances and partnerships. One of the best examples is Zlaten Rozhen wine cellar. We quickly became friends with them and were able to learn so many interesting stories. We are happy that we met Marusya Osikovska, Federico Ricci, Mitko, Maria, Valentina and Aira the dog and we wrote about this wonderful winery where you can meet them, too.

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