Struma Valley and Melnik wine region

Struma Valley and Melnik wine region

The Struma Valley and Melnik region is a wine region in south-western Bulgaria. The wines from this wine region were long ago internationally recognized and are even mentioned in old chronicles. The story goes that the wines were so dark and thick that when the snow-white skinned wives of the European aristocrats were drinking them, you could see the wine passing through their throats.

The Struma Valley and Melnik wine region possesses some specific characteristics mainly defined through the influence of the largest rivers in the region – Mesta and Struma. The latter flows to the Aegean Sea and gives the area a unique microclimate similar to the one along the Mediterranean. Thus, the Struma Valley and Melnik wine region is characterized with the highest average yearly temperatures in Bulgaria, as well as with diverse soil conditions. Typical for the region are long, hot summers and short and mild winters. These conditions, coupled with the cinnamon-brown and alluvial-diluvial soils explain the predominance of red grape varieties in the region.

The Struma Valley and Melnik wine region is home to a unique red grape variety cultivated there – Shiroka Melnishka Loza [Broad-Leaved Melnik]. Shiroka Melnishka Loza is an endemic species and all attempts to cultivate it outside of the region have failed. Shiroka Melnishka Loza is a late-ripening variety that is also challenging to grow. This is why several hybrid grape varieties, which aim to preserve the unique characteristics of this local grape variety, but at the same time make it easier to cultivate, were developed from Shiroka Melnishka Loza. Such hybrid varieties are: Melnik 82, Melnik Rouen and the most famous one Melnik 55 or Ranna Melnishka Loza [Early Melnik]. Typical local white grape varieties such as Sandanski Misket and Keratsuda could also be found in the Struma Valley and Melnik wine region. In addition to the grape varieties associated predominantly with the Struma Valley and Melnik wine region, other grape varieties grown here are: Mavrud (another native Bulgarian grape variety), Rubin (a hybrid Bulgarian grape variety), Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Marselan, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese from the red varieties and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, Viognier, Muscat Ottonel from the white varieties.

Shiroka Melnishka Loza from the Struma Valley and Melnik wine region
Rila Monastery - the largest Bulgarian monastery

Apart from the unique wines produced in the Struma Valley and Melnik wine region, the area is rich in cultural heritage and natural landmarks. The largest and most important Bulgarian monastery – Rila Monastery – is located in the region. In addition, the area played an important part in ancient history, especially through the figure of Spartacus who was from the Thracian tribe Medi that inhabited the Struma Valley. The region is also famous for the fascinating naturally formed sand pyramids that encircle the town of Melnik. There are also numerous mineral water springs in the region, most notably in the town of Sandanski and the spiritual centre Rupite. The architectural reserves of Leshten and Kovachevitsa further contribute to the diverse set of sites worth exploring in the Struma Valley and Melnik wine region.

The main wine-producing areas in the Struma Valley and Melnik wine region are the towns of Sandanski, Petrich and Melnik. Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria and when you walk down its main street and marvel at the 18th-19th century houses, you will discover that most of them are equipped with wine cellars used to this day that go deep into the sandy hills of the town. The Struma Valley and Melnik wine region will dazzle you with the unique wines found only in this region, the rich cultural heritage and the diversity of landscapes and nature in the area. Don’t compromise and experience it all!