Over the last year the Northwestern region of Bulgaria has firmly established itself on the wine tourist map with a series of successful steps in the unification of wine cellars in the region, the celebration of the Vrachanski Misket in the middle of August and the rich variety of wine adventures.
We also set out to explore new opportunities for experiences in the area and our ultimate goal was wine cellar Tipchenitza. You’re probably asking yourself “Why there?”
The short answer: We know and love the winery’s wines, we emulate their sustainable approach to growing their vines and offering their wines in reusable bottles, we respect their social responsibility, and frankly, we’ve been looking forward to them opening their doors to tourists for a long time now. As for the long answer – you can find it in this article.
The winery and its story
Tipchenitza Winery is named after the village in which it is located – the village of Tipchenitsa in the region of Vratsa, only 54 km from Sofia. This part of Bulgaria holds a glorious past in viticulture and winemaking and a remarkable part of it is the period during which Tipchenitsa was a nursery centre, creating vine planting material. After the devastating phylloxera outbreak viticulture in the region recovered rapidly and the village of Tipchenitsa became the first and main viticultural centre in the region where refined planting material (young vines for planting) was created. Today one of those old nurseries in the village is the base that houses the wine cellar, bearing the memory of this livelihood with a modern look and feel.
Despite its longer history in winemaking we would say that the winery was reborn in 2018. That’s when old technologies gave way to modern ones and Nadia Mineva took on the responsibility for creating quality wines in short series. She is a certified biotechnologist specialising in oenology with many years of experience in other wineries and an invaluable specialisation in Montpellier, France.
Vineyards high up in the skies
The vineyards (part of which certified as organic) are located on hilly areas above the village at the remarkable altitude of 600 m for some of them. The winery owns 280 decares of vineyards where they grow the characteristic and invaluable local varieties Vrachanski Misket and Rubin as well as the international Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Due to the cooler climate and high altitude the grape harvest starts later and lasts until mid-October. From a tourism point of view this is a good opportunity as the grape harvest season – the most popular period for visits and team building events – is being extended.
Organic farming is becoming an increasingly popular topic and when we speak and call for such we really ought to have a better understanding on the subject matter. Part of it is that not every climate is suitable for organic farming. The challenges here are vast – high humidity, insufficient ventilation of some vineyards, clay soils. All these factors meant that in order to preserve the vineyards a switch to conventional agriculture should be implemented on some of them. When you value sustainability, practise a responsible attitude towards nature and from that gain like-minded followers, it shows in every step towards the final product, which we will talk about below.
Local varieties as part of cultural heritage and modern wine
It is no coincidence that we pay such attention to local varieties. They can be explored in a different style in each of their three series and were present in our glasses during the tasting in the tasting room…and in the cellar… and also in the wines we took home.
Vrachanski Misket is a typical variety for the region and although its origin is unknown it is considered Bulgarian. Like other indigenous varieties lost during the phylloxera outbreak and purposefully neglected during socialism, today this variety is experiencing a renaissance, challenging both technologists like Nadia to recognize its potential and wine lovers to recognise its different faces.
Rubin on the other hand is the fruit of scientific activity in viticulture during socialism over at the Institute of Viticulture and Winemaking in Pleven. It was obtained as a result of hybridization of the Nebiolo and Syrah varieties and confirmed as a new and original variety in 1961. Rubin is grown across the whole of Bulgaria but we can safely say that in the Vratsa region the variety feels right at home.
The different faces of the local varieties - the tasting
Not only are the styles of wines in Tipchenitza different but so is the way they are presented and offered for tasting in the tasting room.
The fresh white, rosé and red wines from the Tochka series were served straight from their dispense system which uses kegs under inert gas – we are familiar with it from the cellar’s wine bar “Garafa” in Sofia. An innovative system for Bulgaria that allows storing wines in large kegs and offering them in bulk in reusable bottles. Inspired entirely by ecological goals to reduce glass packaging (bottle, label, capsule, cork, carton) as well as carbon emissions related to their transport and production.
What is beneficial to tourists is the fact that they can taste and purchase quality wines from the Tochka series – bottled or draft, paying only for the wine and avoiding the disposal of the standard bottle after consumption. The only thing they need is a reusable bottle and the team over at Tipchenitza winery has taken care of that as well – you can get one in exchange for a deposit. It’s worth noting that residents of Sofia have a huge advantage because they can also fill their bottles at the Garafa store in Sofia.
We tasted the barrel-aged wines straight from the bottle but we shouldn’t forget to mention that even their standard bottles are lighter in weight.
Vrachanski Misket Tochka 2022 is a wine with a pale yellow colour with greenish hues, a rich floral aroma, peach, citrus flavours and a slight spiciness.
Vrachanski Misket Oak Barrel 2021 is an extremely limited series and has been aged for 6 months in French barrels. Its colour is straw-yellow and its aroma is rich and revealed gradually after each turn of the glass. Linden, quince, fig jam, pumpkin jelly and sweet spices take over the aroma and taste of the wine. A wonderful face of the variety that we hope they continue to showcase in the future.
The orange wine of the variety is very different from other orange wines in the country. Its elegance is impressive with an airy nose and an aroma reminiscent of sherry, apricot marmalade and linden with a slight phenolic taste. This wine was awarded Best Orange Wine at the “Balkan Wine Festival” in 2023.
Glass in hand, touring the cellar we moved on to the tasting of wines from Rubin and it was in one of the vessels that we discovered a white Rubin… Yes, a white wine from the grape variety Rubin mixed with Sauvignon Blanc! Wonderful, interesting, different… we won’t reveal more but instead we will leave you trembling with anticipation for it to hit the shelves.
We continued in the tasting room with Rubin rosé Tochka 2022, again from the keg dispensing and storage system but this time we personally poured ourselves a glass. A wine of medium intense pink and beautiful colour with aromas of berries, distinct strawberry and cherry, earthy tones and freshness on the palate. Radically different from Rubin rosé Oak Barrel 2022 – complex, coffee, mocha, vanilla, rose geranium, icing sugar, sweet spices, rounded body and making us want to take another sip… and another…
The red Rubin in the Oak Barrel series is definitely a wine with potential bearing all the merits of the red representative of the variety. Blue plum, mulberry and blackcurrant are the fruits that take over the nose as well as a well-woven aroma of smoke, vanilla and dried leaves from the barrel. A well-structured body that will mellow with time with the savoury fruit aromas well complemented by the juicy body and sweet vanilla, coffee beans and nuts.
The cellar actually has four series:
Vratitza and TI-RE are wine series for the winery’s commercial partners and the grapes used for them are from their own vineyards situated above the village. The series Tochka hosts the boutique wines of Bulgarian and international varieties which the artists of Winery Tipchenitza select from their own or from other vineyards in the region. The Oak Barrel series carries the wines aged in oak barrels. It is precisely those different wines from the two local varieties that we have chosen to include in the packages available in our online wine experience shop.
How to intertwine experience and wine
Tipchenitza Winery is now enjoying its new beautiful and cosy tasting room spacious enough to comfortably host 20 people. Decorated with geometric shapes, coloured in nature’s palette – brown and green, the tasting room is the cellar’s library where every visitor can find their favourite “literature”. After the walk around the cellar guided by the technologist, tourists can enjoy their wines presented by the wine specialist and paired with dairy and meat appetisers from local farmers, served in a plate made from a fused wine bottle (they melt used bottles giving them a second life through upcycling).
Currently under construction are 5 guest rooms, a restaurant, a co-working space, several guest houses and a museum where the rich viticultural history of the village can live on . There are plenty of reasons to extend your stay in the area. The Vratsa mountain region is filled with exceptional opportunities for adventure, both natural and historical sights and wine cellars to visit. Some popular sights include the Ledenika Cave, Temnata Dupka Cave, Cherepish Monastery, waterfalls, eco-trails, monuments and smaller monasteries.
A great location for team building events!
0 Waste, Better Taste
The initiative 0 WASTE, BETTER TASTE of Winetours.bg and Winetourmaker.com aims to inspire more wineries to say NO TO PLASTIC IN THE TASTING ROOM, and Tipchenitza Wine Cellar and Garafa Bar are among the wine establishments that not only have stopped using single use plastic but are also trying to limit single-use glass bottles and upcycle them. An excellent example of sustainable agriculture, tourism, regional development and social responsibility towards the local community centre and other significant sites in the village.