Old school wines in Veliko Tarnovo
Can we connect the touristic destination Veliko Tarnovo with wine tourism? Except for its precious nature and unique culture/traditions, the region attracts the seekers of quality wine, who are curious to discover the secrets of winemaking in these lands.
As knowledge has always been our priority, we’ve decided to visit an old school in that region. A school like no other, beautifully transformed into a wine cellar with a tasting room, wines of which has impressed us more than once. We know the winemaker and its work and we are sure that the trip to Yalovo winery is gonna be worth it.
Even if we hadn’t planned a wine tour in that region, the sign with a wine colour “Welcome wine road Veliko Tarnovo” would have made us detour. At the entrance of Kilifarevo village there’s a small vineyard of 1 ha and a beautiful ceramic plate announcing that it belongs to Yalovo winery. The vines are young and the varieties they grow are Dimyat, Pamid, Gumza, Rubin and Chardonnay. During the tour at the winery we were told that the owners have been planning to plant some local and almost lost varieties as Kokorko, Varnenski mavrud, Vinenka and Cherna Ybladzha. Until these vineyards start to give grapes, the winemakers currently buy grapes from selected local vinegrowers.
The beautiful entrance of the wine cellar indicates that the art here is highly appreciated. The local artist Damyan Bumbalov has thematically implicated his love for wine and female beauty in his paintings, sculptures, exterior and interior design. Really impressive!
The massive stone building of Yalovo cellar is actually a former school, built at the beginning of XX century with donations of the inhabitants of the village. The depopulation of the village in the 50s led to its closure and the building was transferred to the Civil Protection.
In 2014 the new owners – the winemaker Dimitar Dimow and the visioner Anton Tanev transformed the school into a winery, with the common purpose of making quality craft wines, reviving local varieties and developing wine tourism.
Our guide is going to be Mitko, who is a third generation winemaker. In love with wine, he graduated vinegrowing, winemaking and economics in France and came back to Bulgaria years later to create wines with his own style.
The main production is located in a small extension of the main building where the winemaking tanks and equipment are precisely arranged. The capacity of the winery is small – 20-30000 bottles, with gravity pouring of the grapes in the tanks and sparing mechanical treatments. With a smile Mitko talks about the challenge of arranging all this equipment in the small winery in order to make it more functional. His precision, patience and attention to every detail can be noticed in his wines as well.
The original architecture of the stone building is preserved, even the ark in the theater hall is still there. Some classrooms are transformed into a barrel area, others in a tasting room, the salon and the theater hall are now a seminar hall, arranged with old school furniture from the old radio manufacturer in Veliko Tarnovo. The teachers’ rooms are currently a laboratory, where the winemaker makes his analyses.
Here is the time to taste the wines in the tasting room, which can seat 15 tourists in the big bar and some small tables. The chairs with the shape of champagne cork stopper drops a hint to the welcome drink – namely sparkling wine. The first vintage of their sparkling wine made in Methode Champenoise was from 2009, vinified in Lyaskovets winery, where Mitko’s father was the winemaker for a long time. This wine was sold out. That’s why we were offered to start with a wine made by an even older winemaking method than the Champagnoise itself – Pét-Nat from Pinot Noir. It impressed us with its raspberry aroma, pleasant playfulness of the bubbles, well balanced acidity and sour fruit finish. We’re looking forward to the new sparkling Dimyat from 2019.
Along the tour we started to put together the puzzle of the whole concept for their new brand Old school wines. Firstly, their plans of revival of some old, almost lost, local grape varieties, which were used for making magnificent wines many years ago, followed by the authentic look of the building, an old school, where the winery is located, and the ancient Methode Ascentrale for sparkling wines at the end…And somehow we started to see the whole picture of the winery.
Even with their entry level wines, we are approaching the end. Kilifarevo village is famous not only as a vine nursery center but with its high quality braids, the so called “gaitans” as well. They were so well twisted that the expression “Twisted in kilifarian style” has became an expression of quality. Today “Zasukano” which means twisted is the name of Yalovo’s entry level wines, reminding us of an almost lost local tradition but still known for its unique performance. We tried the blend Red Misket & Rkatsiteli and we added another part in the puzzle – the wine is made without sulfate. It has a sweet nose, with fine floral aromas and grass. An elegant wine that you can enjoy every day.
Our interest was attracted by the Sauvignon Blanc Cuvee 2019 and we were curious to taste an older vintage of this variety. It reveals beautiful bottle development and complex nose with aromas such as wax, jasmine, petrol and the typical for Sauvignon Blanc green grass and basil. An excellent balance has been achieved between the waxy texture, high acidity and intense flavours. There is a potential to age for a few more years in the bottle, so don’t hesitate to add it to your enoteca. The next harvest Sauvignon is going to be in the higher brand (Golden Hands), so the 2019 “deal” is now quite good. We also tried the 2021 harvest (still unbottled), which showed modesty initially but after a short stay in the glass it revealed a beautiful mineral nose with hints of nettle and grass.
With the next wine – Chardonnay Golden Hands 2019 the tasting became even more interesting. The wine has a medium lemon colour, the nose is complex, with high intensity and aromas of lemon, spring trees, elderberry, pineapple, cream, brioche and oak. Medium body with an excellent balance between flavours and freshness. It can age for another 5-6 years.
After the fresh and tasty rosé from Rubin and Pinot noir 2021 we continued with red wines. So called “Rubin without makeup” impressed us from the beginning with the fruit and floral notes that hint the carbonic maceration the wine has been made with. We rarely see this approach, especially with the Rubin variety, which is more often presented as a Reserve wine. It is medium-bodied, with cherries, toasted crust and oregano in the palate, and the finish is herbal
Rubin Reserve 2018 has a typical southern character (from where the grapes come from). Deep garnet colour, intense aroma of ripe black fruit, licorice, mint, earthy tones and smoked meat. Full-bodied with velvet tannins. The grapes for Merlot Grand Reserve 2018 are from Suhindol (Danube lowland) from a vineyard with an altitude of about 400 m. It ages 2 years in two different barrels. Medium garnet colour. The nose is intense and spicy, eucalyptus, resin, ripe plum and iron can be detected. Round body with velvety tannins and a long finish. Wine with the potential to age for another 7-8 years.
The tasting in Yalovo was full of variety and enriching experiences. We faced excellent realization of the classic styles as well as slight provocations. An excellent balance that makes us think we are going go back there again. We would also highly recommend this destination because of the beautiful and creative city of Veliko Tarnovo.
We stayed at Park Hotel RAYA Garden, which is only 5 minutes drive from the center of Veliko Tarnovo. You can take a taxi without worrying about parking on those charming and yet steep and narrow streets. And at the end of the busy day you could enjoy the blissful silence in the outdoor garden of the restaurant with a beautiful view of the city. Here you can round off your tour nicely with delicious food and local wines. If you have not had the chance to visit the Yalovo winery, you can taste their wines at the hotel as well, by prior reservation. Various activities are available in park in case the group has different interests – children’s playground, lake for sport fishing and mini football.
We are very happy that we finally reached this wine destination and took not only wine bottles, but many sweet memories as well. We wish you this wine experience as soon as possible!
Give yourself the same wine holiday: