The Rose Valley is the smallest wine region in Bulgaria, nestled between the Balkan Mountains and Sredna Gorna Mountains. As the name suggests, rose growing and rose oil production are central to the region; over 70% of the world’s supply comes from the valley. Nonetheless, the soils and the climatic conditions also provide the ideal environment for the cultivation of high-quality grapes.
Indeed, the valley’s potential for winemaking has been uncovered since antiquity. Chronicles from the 5th century BC document lively trade between the local wine producers and the Hellenic Black Sea colonies. During the First Bulgarian Kingdom, part of the majestic medieval fortress of Markeli played the role of a wine cellar.
Geographical and climatic influences on the wines
The valley’s unique position between the two mountains shields it from extreme temperatures. The southern slopes of the Balkan Mountains act as a barrier for the cold air coming from the north, while simultaneously allowing necessary ventilation. The soils are mostly brown and cinnamon-forest soils, mixed with limestone and rubble, which facilitate drainage. This is especially important as the annual precipitation is higher than the average for Bulgaria. The higher number of rain days prolongs the flowering period and slows ripening, thus increasing the levels of compounds associated with the wines floral and fruity notes.
No wonder then that the region is mostly famous for its aromatic white wines, fruit-driven rosés, and elegant cooler climate reds. Red Misket, Riesling, Rkatsiteli, Traminer, Muscat Ottonel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot thrive in the Rose Valley.
Indigenous grape varieties
Red Misket is perhaps the most notable grape variety, typical of the Rose Valley, that is hard to find anywhere else. It is a late maturing cool climate white grape variety with pink to purple-red skins with medium thickness. The medium-sized grapes are often dotted with little dark spots. They are juicy and sweet, exhibiting a Misket flavour. The wines usually have clear pale-gold colour and intense aromas of yellow and tropical fruits, with hints of rose petals, vanilla, and violet. They tend to be full-bodied, with well-integrated (medium to high) acidity, structure, and balance. One Red Misket example is Château Copsa’s Axl Rose Valley Misket, which has medium acidity and mild texture, displaying aromas of ripe peach, citrus fruits and white pepper, and finishing long and creamy.
Another representative of the region is Pamid, an ancient grape variety, widely cultivated in Bulgaria since Thracian times. It has thin red skins and is highly fertile. Pamid does not need any particular kind of soil, but the grapes tend to benefit from hilly areas with well-drained soils.
Château Copsa was established in 1998 by the Minkov family, who run it to the present day, controlling the whole process from the picking of the grapes to the bottling of the wine. They own 50 hectares of vineyards, located in the very heart of the Rose Valley. About 80% of the plantings comprise of Red Misket, Muscat Ottonel, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, with the other 20% being Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The region’s cooler climate aids the production of fresh and elegant wines, reflecting the unique sense of terroir. The winery is a popular wine tourist destination, offering exclusive wine tastings experiences in the Château Copsa castle, which resembles the layout of castles from the Middle Ages.
Other wineries in the region include Starosel Winery and Vinex Slavyantsi.