Orbelia Winery: Wineries of Bulgaria (6 of 7)

Most of the time, a name has a meaning or story attached to it and it is interesting to know how it came about. Orbelia, meaning beautiful White Mountain, has a lyrical side to it, for the young winery rests at the foot of the Belasitsa Mountain with the snow peaks showing its beauty to anyone gazing from under and to boot, there were clumps of crocuses growing in the area when we arrived. The vines growing in perfectly-lined rows with the mountain range surrounding them is picture perfect.

But for a winery, beauty is not the reason why they are situated there. It's the soil that makes everything important. Located in the sunny and warm Sandanski-Petrich area, the soil in Orbelia Winery's 100 acres of vineyards is diluvial and alluvial giving it a diverse richness making it ideal for making reds. The area has been considered excellent in viticulture where the Wide Melnik has been in cultivation since Thracian times.

The 4 pictures above were taken from Orbelia Winery's site.

Among the grape varieties that Orbelia cultivates are the late-maturing Wide Melnik which is widely cultivated in the Petrich and Sandanski area, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Ottonel, a high quality early white wine and dessert variety and Sandanski Misket, a white grape hybrid of Tamianka and Cabernet Sauvignon. Having just opened, its first vintage is 2013.

Orbelia Winery was our first winery for the day with an early morning start from Zlaten Rozhen Winery & Hotel in Rozhen Village. As we filed down from the dependable van we had been going around the Rose and Struma River Valley with, we were greeted by Orbelia's owner and oenologist for a warm reception and an informative tour of the winery.

The 3-year old Orbelia Winery uses modern equipment in making wines and ages them in American, French, Bulgarian and Hungarian oak barrels. The period of aging is determined for each wine by the Orbelia's oenologist Risto Zimbakov. Afterwards, the blending of the wines take place based on the characteristics of each variety that was aged.

Orbelia Winery conducts wine tours and wine tastings in the property where you get a bit of Wine 101. You get to learn about the proper wine classification, identification and pairing with food. It doesn't end there because they also have a unique "Do It Yourself Wine Program" where you will have the chance to make blends of two kinds of varieties to make your distinctive wine. That I guess is quite an experience.

After a brief tour of the winery, our Press Group settled at the traditionally-decorated wine tasting room. It gave us a chance to absorb a little bit of Bulgarian culture with the costumes, plates and traditional weaved products displayed on the walls and the tables. And the second best part (next to the wines of course) is the plates of local gastronomic delights. The sirene cheese, charcuterie and roasted chestnuts were great company to the wines that we tried that morning.

Six different kinds of white, rosè and red wines were introduced to us and they are as follows:

Sandanski Misket 2014, grown from 31-year old vines, is a very pleasant dry white wine with fruit and floral flavors. It has notes of violet which is typical of the variety.
Via Aristotelis Chardonnay 2014 spent 4 months of aging in French oak barrels thus giving it a light hint of oak. It is fruity with notes of apple, melon and peach. 
Via Aristotelis Rosè 2014 is a pleasant blend of 40% Merlot and 60% Broadleaf Melnik with a saturated pink color. It is fresh and has notes of berries.

Orbelia Barrique Melnik 2013 is aged in Bulgaria oak for 14 months. It has a medium body and has aromas of berries.
Via Aristotelis Cabernet Franc 2013 spent 10 months in a mixture of French and Bulgarian oak. It has an intense ruby color, medium body and aromas of berries.
Orbelia Merlot 2014 has aromas of berries and peppery note. The bottle we opened just came out and was still unlabeled.

In keeping with its philosophy of preserving traditions, Orbelia named one of its labels Via Aristotelis. Like the name Orbelia, it also has a meaning attached to its location and history. Via Aristotelis is the second largest bird migration route that passes over the Belasitsa Mountain where the winery is located. The wine label depicts two bird formations going to opposite directions. It symbolizes migration and change.

Our philosophy is to produce high quality wines of traditional grape varieties, trying to preserve the old wine tradition in the region, dating back to the time of the Thracian civilization.

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