Up above a railing and a grand sweep of a roof. Then a tiled cement tank holding last years vintage. Again I took a few shots. Again a barely heard comment from the ‘pro’, who hadn’t taken many photos at all. Perhaps I was thinking ‘art’ rather than potential photographic sales? My photo of the cement tanks, however, won me the Louis Roederer Artistry of Wine Award this year, so I must have been doing something right.
A few weeks ago in deepest Bulgaria, as I lay prone on my back pointing my lens up past stainless steel wine tanks to the ceiling several floors above, I thought of that pro again and wondered what he would have thought of my antics. It also struck me how undignified I was about to look as I attempt to stand vertically… I keep forgetting I’m not 30 anymore. I’ve included the two shots taken with me lying down in the gallery below, they lack a little in the composition department sadly; I wasn’t comfortable to be honest and didn’t really give much thought to the image, apart from the unusual angle. I was trying to encapsulate the gravity flow setup of Villa Melnik and am not sure I was that successful. It was fun though.
Later, as we toured the vineyard, I contemplated similar views of the vines but the soil was far too claggy from heavy rains. I just lost myself amongst the Cabernet Sauvignon and Melnik vines, many still waiting for full ripeness before harvesting. Nikola Zikatanov led us around, discussing his plans – olive trees perhaps on that slope next to the winery building where vines had once been planted but removed during a downturn after the collapse of communism – pointing out his home village, and showing some bush trained broad-leaf Melnik vines that he says produced the best fruit in the valley.
Photo Gallery: Visiting Villa Melnik Bulgaria
“In the spring of 2004, Villa Melnik planted the first high quality vines of the best domestic and foreign varieties: Broad Leaved Melnik Vine, Early Melnik Vine (Melnik 55), four of the best clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, also four clones of Merlot, Syrah, and one of the oldest Thracian varieties, Mavrud. The 3 hectars (7.4 acres) planted with Mavrud are currently the only industrial plantation of this sort in the area. Over the next three years, we added more red varieties to the vineyards: the relatively new Bulgarian variety Ruen, a second clone of Syrah, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese. We also planted three white varieties: the classic Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as the increasingly popular variety Viognier, in order to be able to ensure and guarantee quality wine for all seasons and tastes.”
I rather enjoyed the Ruen with its vanilla cherry jam, flavours with a hint of blackberry and spices while the Aplauz range, the Mavrud and Melnik 55 (the early ripening version) in particular stood out. Ruen is a Broad Leaf Melnik-Cabernet Sauvignon Cross. Less impressed with a Sauvignon Blanc left with a chunk of residual sugar. “For the wife”, explained Nikola, “she likes a little sweetness in her wines”. But not for everyone he admitted.
The standout wines for me were the Bergulé Melnik-Pinot Noir 2013 with its captivating aroma and savoury/tomato tinged palate and the Bergulé Pinot Noir 2013 which actually contains about 8% Sangiovese in addition to the Pinot. A new blend for 2015. Of the whites the Aplauz Chardonnay 2013 had delightful concentration and a well judged level of oak influence. While the Viognier-Chardonnay blend had a freshness and vibrancy plus a crisp palate with oak prevalent due to the wine being totally barrel fermented.
Tourists, wine aficionados and those of more modest interest, are welcome. A wide variety of tour options and tastings are available.