Shiroka Melnishka Loza [Broad Leaved Melnik] is an old Bulgarian grape variety that has been cultivated since ancient times in the region of Melnik in south-western Bulgaria; hence, it’s name. Shiroka Melnishka Loza is an endemic species and all attempts to cultivate it outside the Melnik area have failed. The wines from Shiroka Melnishka Loza were a highly sought after commodity for rich European families in the 19th century. In more recent times, wines from Shiroka Melnishka Loza were Winston Churchill’s favourite – the British politician, famous for his penchant for quality beverages, purchased 500 litres of wine from this variety each year.

The story

A story from the late 19th century tells us how the wines from Shiroka Melnishka Loza became hugely popular. Melnik families were famous for being good merchants and also excellent wine-makers. As all respectable trade people at that time, Melnik merchants participated at the world fair Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. The Melnik group arrived late to the fair and had to exhibit at a stand in one of the fair’s corners. Understandably, the Melnik stand was not visited by many people which prompted the Bulgarian traders to find a way to attract more visitors to the stand. Travelling with the Melnik group was the famous gaida [bagpipe] player Costa Radanov who offered his services. He tucked a leather bag full with Melnik wine into his bagpipe and started playing in front of the Eiffel Towel. Every now and then, and especially when there were people gathered around him, he would stop playing and fill a glass of wine straight from the bagpipe. He would take a sip and then offer Melnik wine to the bystanders. The “wine bagpipe” became a huge sensation and people were flocking to the Melnik stand after trying the wine from Shiroka Melnishka Loza. At the end of the fair, the Melnik wine-makers had so many requests for wine purchases that they estimated it would take 184 years to fulfill all of them.

Gaida - wine from Shiroka Melnishka Loza was tucked in the instrument at the fair in Paris in 1889
Shiroka Melnishka Loza

Grape characteristics

As the name of Shiroka Melnishka Loza [Broadleaf Melnik] suggests the leaves of this grape variety are large, broad and rough-surfaced. The grape bunch is medium to big in size, semi-compact, and winged, often double-winged. The grape itself is small, oval with a thick bluish-black skin. Shiroka Melnishka Loza’s grapes are juicy with a pleasant sour taste.  Shiroka Melnishka Loza is a late-ripening variety – it ripens in the first half of October. The grapes are not resistant to low winter temperatures and require higher spring temperatures, hot summer, long and dry autumn and relatively mild winter.


Wines from Shiroka Melnishka Loza have specific characteristics and aroma. The wines have dense cherry colour. One could taste a mix of strawberry and cherry flavour, supplemented by typical spiciness. Shiroka Melnishka Loza wines develop nicely in contact with oak. When the wines mature, they acquire rich and complex flavour with nuances of tobacco, leather and black pepper, while at the same time preserving their characteristic freshness. Shiroka Melnishka Loza is also used in various blends.

Shiroka Melnishka Loza is a grape variety, unique to a single region in Bulgaria and in that sense constitutes an important part of Bulgarian viticulture. The wines from Shiroka Melnishka Loza have been popular among the general public for many years and are probably the grape variety that Bulgaria is most associated with.  In addition, there have been a number of hybrid varieties developed from Shiroka Melnishka Loza from which excellent wines are being produced in the Melnik region. One thing is for certain – one cannot leave the Melnik area without trying wines from Shiroka Melnishka Loza and experiencing the pride that the locals take in this grape variety.