19.08.2016 Two special wineries on the edge of the Thracian lowland

When Mr. Chris Drake, a wine blogger from Scotland but living currently in London let me know that he intends to visit Bulgaria in order to talk about our wine project VIA VINO and hopefully to write an article about Bulgaria as a (still hidden) wine tourism destination, I have not hesitated long before suggesting these 2 excellent wineries – RUMELIA PANAGYURISHTE and MANASTIRA WINE CELLAR. Main rasons: 1) proximity to Sofia; 2) these guys do succeed in achieving great results from the Bulgarian flagship red variety – Mavrud!

I have always respected very much the approach, the development in recent years but mostly the wines produced by one of our most reliable partners – RUMELIA. The family winery has just turned 10 years and we had the chance to visit them in preparation for harvest 2016. The establishment of the vineyards started in 2005 after numerous studies and tests of the region, in terms of soil, climate and air currents. Tsveta (our hospitable host and one of the owners) has explained us in details how much attention they pay on the quality of vines throughout precise scientific observation and control systems. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Well, I would just add that considering the results all efforts and investments are worth! We tasted a few really exceptional wines – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mavrud (one of my favourites!) but also Musat Ottonel from the whites. The village of Smilec where their vineyards are located has long history through the centuries. Its existence can be traced thousands years back to the Thracians. They have highly admired the wine as a divine drunk, crafting precious golden jugs, rhythons, amphoras, etc. IMAG5638Less than 70 years ago three brothers discovered by chance a unique find giving the small town world recognition – the Panagyurishte golden treasure, owned by an Odrysian ruler (IV-III century BC) which could be seen today in the City museum. The main brand of Rumelia winery is MERUL, called after the area where the treasure was found…

We had an exceptional lunch in Mehana Starata Kashta, part of Hotel Djudjeva House (certified as a Green Lodge by BAAT) – an authentic guest-house from the 19th century where one could feel the spirit of those times by enjoying home-made food accompanied by excellent wines. The house itself has a quite interesting story. It was built in 1860 by Stayko Dedev a very rich merchant and innovator (first house in town with electricity). In 1964 it was declared for a cultural monument and 20 years later was turned into a residence of Pencho Kubadinski – one of the major communist leaders in Bulgaria.

The next wine travel destination: MANASTIRA WINE CELLAR is just a stone’s throw away, approximately half an hour drive from Panagyurishte.

It is a boutique winery, specialised in producing high quality wines, located in a deep valley surrounded by the slopes of Sredna Gora, in the village of Lesichovo. The region is known for its rich culture and historical heritage. Translated the winery name means “The Monastery” – an ancient one was destroyed by the Turks who conquered the lands along the middle reaches of Topolnitza River at the beginning of XV century. They set the monastery on fire and pulled down the high stone walls. Only the solid foundations remained to witness its existence. The Christian centre in the past gave the name of the area – “The Monastery”: “The walls of Christian monastery shone in a beautiful place, huddled in oak forests, clod with green grass. It cherished a miraculous icon of the Holy Virgin, which healed the sick who believed in the heavenly power”… OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMAG5581We were warmly welcomed by the owner’s daughters and the wine maker. After the tour we had the chance to taste their fascinating wines. Both Roses were (once again!) the big, pleasant surprise for me – one made in the typical Provance colour and style, and the other – ripe strawberry colored, full-bodied, “Bulgarian” from 100% mavrud. A good wine for every taste…

Chris was as impressed by both wineries and wines as I am every time when I taste their wines. Well, pronouncing all above mentioned names is not the easieast task for a foreigner but… I am really looking forward to his article!

Check out our VIA VINO day trip to that marvellous region (of course, it could be modified and tailor-made)