Anyway, a friend of Tisho, who in turn is a friend of the Wine Anarchist, arranged for a guided tour as he works as a general runaround for the winery. On the day of his visit the first Traminer grapes were being processed, so the winery manager had just limited time for a tour of the premises and a tasting of some of the highlights.
To give a background, Varna Winery was established in 2008 in what is known as the 'bread basket' of Bulgaria due to its rich soils producing much of the countries grains and sunflower seeds. For wine the region is mostly known for its white wines, the influence of the Black Sea having a moderating influence on the climate, which is hot and dry during the summer, but gets very cold in the winter. This is on the northern part of the Black Sea coast with no major mountains protecting the area from the plains of Siberia.
The winery owns some 55ha of white grapes in the area, planted with Chardonnay, Misket Varnenski, the local clone of the native Bulgarian Misket, Rhine Riesling and even small quantities of Gruner Veltliner of Austrian fame. Red grapes are bought in from contract growers in the Thracian Valley. Varieties here include Syrah, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The soils of the region have a high mineral content, some closer to the sea are somewhat sandy, whilst a bit further inland they are the rich black soils typical for the area. They are some of the most fertile soils in the country.
The winery uses gravity for the transfer of any must, which is gentle on the delicate aromatic qualities of the whites in particular. Production at this stage is around 120,000 litres per annum, so this is a relatively small output. The wine making facilities are modern and up to date, except for this barrel, which may just be a bit leaky...
- Chardonnay 2012 Barrel Fermented: This elegant offering was only fermented not aged in oak and it was 4th passage French barrique, so the oak influence was not too overpowering. In appearance it displayed a pale straw colour; the nose revealed delicate apricot fruit, followed on the palate by a soft, silky texture and well balanced fruit and acidity, finishing long with just a hint of oak. Very nice and indeed.
- Riesling Varnenski Misket 2012: Very pale in colour, the nose was met by exuberant floral aromas, including rose petals; the palate showed more of the same floral notes, some delicate green apple fruit and some juicy acidity, with a decent slightly tart finish. Really pleasant wine and an interesting blend.
- Rosé 2012: This is made mainly from Sangiovese plus 15% of Cabernet Franc. The colour is a delicate salmon; the nose displayed some delicate fruit aromas such as raspberries and cream; the palate was dry and pleasant, but perhaps a bit one-dimensional. Would still make a nice summer time drink
- SMS 2012: SMS refers to the grape varieties used in more or less equal quantity: Syrah, Merlot, Sangiovese, matured in barrel for 6 months. The colour was medium ruby with a purple fringe; The nose revealed nice fresh fruit aromas, blackberries and fruit of the forest; the palate had some nice Sangiovese tartness with hints of cold tea, which was balanced by some lively berry fruit and a touch of chocolate on a long finish
- Sublima Red 2011: Made from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc matured in barrel for a year. Deep ruby in colour with a purple edge, the nose showed some intense herby notes of eucalyptus and rosemary, complimented by complex notes of coffee and elderberry. It was medium bodied, with a firm tannic structure,still young with more coffee notes and rich underlying fruit and a long complex finish. One to watch for the future.
- Sublima Dessert 2008: As a final bonus the Wine Anarchist was treated to this little gem. Only 600 bottles were produced as an experiment during the first year of the winery's existence. It is made from the same grapes as the Varnenski Misket / Riesling, but fermentation was stopped through the addition of grape spirit to retain 120g per litre residual sugar, bringing it up to 16% AbV. The wine underwent 5 years of barrel ageing, where it took on an oxidative quality reminiscent of sherry. This resulted in a wine of medium golden colour, a rich nose of walnuts, figs and honey, with more of the same following through on the palate, balanced by some great acidity and a never-ending finish. This would stand up even to some Christmas pudding, with which the Wine Anarchist will try and pair his treasured bottle he took away from the place.