Villa Melnik – under the sandy hill …
A sandy hill, tunnels beneath it, historical monuments, sunny hills planted with vineyards, incredible scenery are just some of the things we imagine when we start talking about Villa Melnik Winery. And we have not yet reached the magic of the wines they produce. Villa Melnik is not a non-accidental meeting of traditionalism with modernism and innovation in Bulgarian winemaking. Villa Melnik has opened in the spring of 2013 in the village of Harsovo, near the smallest town in Bulgaria – Melnik. The winery team calls their wines brave and combines local traditional varieties of grapes with international, mainly French. The warm Mediterranean climate in companion with an altitude of about 300 m, the long and dry autumns of the region, are the reasons for the even ripening of the grapes and the variety in the wine palette. The numerous varieties of wine, skillfully interwoven in blends by Villa Melnik, do not let the wine lover stop with only one or two wines but tempt him to taste more and more.
I wish to begin my short story with Villa Melnik‘s orange wine, that is from vintage 2017 and is one of the first reasons to name the team innovators and modernists. The famous Sauvignon Blanc provides a real fiesta for the nose and the palate – sweet perfume, intense quince flavor, orange peel marmalade aromas, a sinful nuance of Turkish delight, mysterious sweet spices. This rich and appealing dessert described above does not impose and does not leave weight behind itself because of its combination of elegant acidity, that balances the overall delight and refreshes the palate. This orange wine would be suitable both for a hot summer day, when could be sipped well-chilled and without food, as well as in the company of charcuterie, strong cheeses, juicy, grilled autumn vegetables, traditional pumpkin dishes, and why not with foie gras and light desserts. The romanticism of this orange wine lies in the secret that continuously improves its taste, develops, and brings new elements into the mosaic of flavors.
After the orange adventure, it’s time to mention Bergule – the blend of Broad- leaf Melnik with Pinot Noir. Let’s start from here that the mission of creating high – quality wine from Pinot Noir very often turns out to be impossible for the winemaker and carries many difficulties. Especially in Bulgaria, a land of heavy red wine varieties, where production of quality wine is just starting. Pinot Noir here often feels in shaky hands, where could be made up to high alcohol levels, with low acidity and jammy fruit. All this takes away its inherent elegance, grace, and sophistication of which it is famous in France, and in particularly in Burgundy, its real home. But this is not the case with Bergule wine. The decision of the winery to make a blend with Broad-leaf Melnik can undoubtedly be called bold and reinforces the central Villa Melnik concept of promoting courage in meetings between local and international varieties. Although the wine has 14% alcohol content and dense body, it streams natural elegance, fruit balance and aromas, soft, palatable tannin, and refreshing acidity. The twelve months spent in French and Bulgarian oak barrels not only have not destroyed the abundant red fruit, cherry typical for Pinot Noir but also compliments with integrated notes of vanilla and sweet spices. This red-colored feast for the palate and the nose could be tasted by itself, after a hard day at work or on a day off, but also successfully combined with red meats such as beef, duck, pork, game, and redfish such as salmon and trout. And not surprisingly left for a few more years aging in a bottle, the feast will continue with flavors of leather, tobacco, smoked meat. Broad-leaf Melnik will reveal other parts of its character.
The surprise list does not allow me to miss the Aplauz Early Melnik(or also called Melnik 55), Reserve from vintage 2016. The name of the series Aplauz comes from the English word ‘’applause’’. In this regard, Applauz Melnik 55 Reserve is the wine I can applaud to. Few people have yet heard the term “Bulgarian oak barrels.” The phenomenon ‘’maturing in Bulgarian oak’’ was successfully introduced in Villa Melnik. In this case, the period of aging in Bulgarian oak barrels is 15 months.
What is the role of the barrel here? It softens the wine, balances it, without overloading it with extra heavy aromas and without overpowering the fresh, ripe fruit: the result – a successful combination of dark fruit – blackberries, blueberry, cherry, with notes of milk chocolate, elegance, lightness, completeness, density, pronounced soft ripe tannin, an invitation for more and more. It is no coincidence that the predecessor of Aplauz Melnik 55 won a silver medal at the Vinaria 2015 international competition in Plovdiv, a silver medal at Vinobalkanika 2015 in Veliko Tarnovo and a silver medal from the Decanter World Wine Awards.
There comes a time to mention that Villa Melnik is a family winery, uniting two generations – both parents Nicola and Lyubka Zikatanovi and daughter Militza Zikatanova. Again here is the motive for the traditions, the founder of which is the parents. The father is a native of the neighboring village of Hursovo Kapatovo and has spent many years in the family vineyards before the current project begins. The innovator and inheritor Militza has worked for several years at global spirits giant Diageo. She can often be seen at the stands of Bulgarian and international wine fairs. We can always recognize her by the smile on her face and the inexhaustible energy to reveal the secrets of the wines from the Melnik region. Villa Melnik sets up a level of quality in the Bulgarian wine world. Class, lined with strong family traditions, with a sense of eternity.