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There are many opinions on the question of which white varieties are signature for Bulgaria as a wine producing country. The endless controversies are caused by the divergence between the quality of internationally produced varieties of wines and the uniqueness of purely Bulgarian varieties.
For me, Sandanski Misket is a symbol of an exceptional character, diplomacy, but also an aspiration. Perseverance in expressing various terroir, finesse, sophistication, but even militancy. Its militancy stands out in the strong concentration of fruit, intense aromas, and infinite freshness.
It seems like a constant battle with the relentless heat of the Melnik region to send its message to the world: “No, I will not surrender; I will give my best.”
That is the story of two of its producers – Via Verde and Villa Melnik. I had the opportunity to taste Sandanski Misket harvest 2018 from these two wineries.
For Via Verde, Sandanski Misket is an old pal, and this is their second vintage after 2016, which was a manifestation of elegance, a profound expression of terroir and richness of several types of fruit – citrus, stone fruit and tropical.
That is why I was extremely curious and excited when I headed to their stand at the Fair of Independent Winegrowers in London with the idea of trying out my first wine of the day.
I knew that this would be the new vintage of Expressions Sandanski Misket 2018. It was entirely accidental that I would have the opportunity to taste it along with the newly bottled for the first year Aplauz Villa Melnik Sandanski Misket 2018.
Both wines are made from grapes grown in vineyards with a different terroir. Sandanski Misket of Villa Melnik comes from their vineyards next to the village of Harsovo, at 250-300 m above sea level, from a mixture of sandy and clay soils. That of Via Verde comes from the village of Ilindentsi, 580 m above sea level and limestone, carbonate soils. The relatively high altitude of both wine plantings plays its role for the preserved high acidity of the two wines – a synonym of freshness, which to a certain extent also derives from the nature of the grape variety itself. Different soils play their part, and Via Verde‘s Sandanski Misket has much more pronounced minerality that cannot be missed on both the nose and the palate. In Sandanski Misket of Villa Melnik, it is not missing, but it is very delicate and gives the impression of how a mountain stream touches a stony riverbed. Or a sense of elegance on the nose and the palate.
The grape harvest dates of the two growers also differ, as well as the number of bottles produced by them. Villa Melnik, due to the lower location of its vineyards and a slightly warmer climate, harvested the grapes for vintage 2018 in late August, and their colleagues from Via Verde in the first few days of September. Via Verde chose Sandanski Misket for their flagship white variety so far, and they have made about 4,000 bottles. Villa Melnik also vinifies other white varieties, and that’s why from 2018 Sandanski Misket has produced about 2000 bottles.

Bottle of Expressions Sandanski Misket 2018 in Veronika Vassileva’s hands, part of Via Verde‘s team.

And so Expressions Sandanski Misket 2018 – it shows an incredibly intense and complex nose with aromas of tropical fruit – mango, ripe peach, ripe red apple, lychee. The same flavors come up on the palate, supported by a full, well-expressed body, juiciness of the fruit, but also a freshness, which prevents the wine from tasting too heavy, but somewhat exceptionally well balanced. For high quality, adds the long aftertaste that remains on the palate minutes after the first sip. Expressions Sandanski Misket 2018 is a wine that I would recommend for long and sunny summer days but also to pair with many different food options at the dining table- fresh salads, grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, dishes based on tropical fruit sauces, seafood, young and not too strong cheeses like goat’s, and why not with pasta dishes in creamy sauces.

Bottle of Aplauz Sandanski Misket 2018 in Militza Zikatanova’s hands, part of Villa Melnik‘s team

Aplauz 2018 Sandanski Melnik Villa Melnik – a symbol of the femininity and delicacy of this variety, in contrast to the abundance presented above by Via Verde. Or a reminder of the variety’s diplomacy – a lift coming from a specific perfume or its aromatic, Muscat character, a variety of citrus fruits – grapefruit, ripe lemon, and last but not least a hint of honey that cannot be found in the wine of their neighbors. Sweetness for the soul I find in a dry wine with a complexity of aromas, a medium body, exceptional elegance, and a long finish. Food recommendations are the same here as I only would exclude dishes based on tropical fruit sauces, and I would replace them with the one flavored with citrus fruit. I would also prefer Aplauz for an aperitif glass before lunch or dinner. Both wines attract and tempt me with their different style, naturalness, an infinite layers of flavors and the worlds where they bring me to when I taste them. Sandanski Misket is one of my favorite grape varietals, and these two wines are some of the preferred ones made of it

With striking curiosity, I will expect the next vintages, as well as to try the same wines in a few months, to check out their development in the bottle. The beginning is undoubtedly promising both for the wines themselves and for the Sandanski Misket grape variety. Because of the mini skull plantings of it, can be acknowledged as an experimental and boutique at the same time, with the potential to rank among the leading Bulgarian white grapes.