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AT A GLANCE:

Name of wine estate: Wine Cellar Villa Melnik
Country: Bulgaria
Wine region: Melnik
Standout points: Ideal location in the heart of Melnik, Bulgaria’s historic wine capital; wines made from indigenous Bulgarian grape varieties
Winemaker: Nikola Zikatanov
Wine style: A wide variety of styles but focusing on local varieties such as Mavrud and Melnik

Website: https://villamelnik.com/

In the spotlight
The wines of Central and Eastern Europe are enjoying their fair share of the spotlight these days, and good news that is too when it leads to discoveries like Wine Cellar Villa Melnik. This family-owned winery boasts more than 200 years of documented vine-growing and winemaking history in a region whose winemaking footprint dates back 2,000 years, to the civilisation of Ancient Thracian. With its friendly welcome and beautiful hilltop setting, Villa Melnik has become a focal point for visitors to this historic wine capital in the heart of the Struma River Valley.

Native wit
Located just outside the village of Harsovo, the winery is surrounded by 30ha of own vineyards which benefit from the Melnik region’s favourable Mediterranean climate and sandy soils. Although owner-winemaker Nikola Zikatanov produces wines in an array of styles, Villa Melnik specialises in wines made from native grape varieties such as the pale red Melnik and the deeper, spicier red Mavrud. The estate’s modern production facility is open to visitors all year round and tours – five are available ranging in price from 3-30 Bulgarian Lev – are typically led by a member of the family. A perfect time to visit is during harvest, when guests are invited to help pick the grapes under the mellow autumnal sun.

On the wine route
Given Melnik’s status as Bulgaria’s historic wine capital, it makes every sense to visit Villa Melnik as part of a broader exploration of the region. The Melnik Wine Route takes in such sites of interest as the spa and mineral springs in Sandanski, Rozhen monastery, the ruins of the ancient town of Heraclea Sintica and the extinct volcano of Kozhuh. Villa Melnik also participates in many community events throughout the year, from cultural celebrations to folklore festivals to barbecues on the hill above the winery, with 360-degree views of the resplendent valley.