On a cloudy and misty morning in May when the tree leaves were bright green and the flowers were blooming, we left with Bulgaria Wine Tours from Trimontium Princess Hotel in Plovdiv to spend a day surrounded by roses and wine in the Bulgarian “Rose Valley”. And while everyone else was worried about the weather, I was enjoying the moody skies and soft light enveloping nature that would make photography so much more enjoyable! #nobadweatherjustbadgear
Did you know that Bulgaria is the biggest producer of high quality rose oil in the world, accounting for 70-80% of the entire world production? Did you also know that rose oil is SO valuable and expensive international banks actually accept it as a liquid asset? Price can reach up to EUR 10,000 per kilogram depending on the year and 1kg of rose oil takes around 3000 kgs of rose petals to produce. Over 90% of the rose oil produced in Bulgaria is exported, with France being one of the biggest buyers.
The Bulgarian Rose Valley is situated in the foothills of Stara Planina, between 2 rivers and 2 mountain chains. Since it is crucial for the roses to get lots of water and not too hot of a sun, the cooler and wetter but still sunny climate of the Rose Valley ensures very high percentage of oil in the local rose petals. Rose harvest season is only about a month long, so for us to be able to see the product in the making was quite a treat ❤ If you missed rose season, you will get a second chance to visit this incredible region for lavender picking later this summer. Definitely sign up for a trip to the Valley of Roses, lavender dates are soon to be announced!
To diversify production and extend their harvest season, farmers who grow roses also grow lavender, chamomille (laika), melissa (matochina), and fruits and vegetables. In recent years Bulgaria became the 2nd largest lavender oil producer in the world, only after the Provence region of France!!! #unbelievablebuttrue
Bulgaria started producing rose oil in the 17th century, more than 300 years ago. The Damascena rose has the highest percentage of rose oil in the world. A newly planted rose bush takes 2 years to start bearing oil containing flowers.
We arrived at Sarnegor Rose Oil Distillery right on time to see first hand the delivery of freshly picked rose petals and the start of the distillation process ❤ It is crucial for the rose petals to be harvested, transported and transformed into rose oil as fast as possible because this ensures the high quality of the oil. Tsveti, daughter of the owners and general manager of the distillery, was so warm and welcoming and incredibly kind and informative. You could see and feel her passion for the trade ❤ The grow cycle and distillation process are 100% organic and no chemicals are used in production. They work ONLY with local petals, supporting the village economy while ensuring highest quality of product. Each distillation cycle takes around 2 to 2.5 hrs and Sarnegor Rose Oil Distillery works on a 24/7 production schedule during harvest season. Everything is done by hand hence the high price of Bulgarian rose oil.
The Rose Valley wine region is the smallest of five viticultural regions in Bulgaria with 9 certified producers. It is very famous for its fragrant, dry white wines, especially the local Bulgarian grape, “red misket” or “cherven / Karlovski misket”. It is a white grape named “red” due to the reddish hue of the grape skin when picked.
Zina, the owner and founder of Bulgaria Wine Tours, was our guide for the day and what a delight it was to be given the lay of the land by a person with a Master’s degree in Alternative Tourism and a specialty in Bulgarian wine!!! She took us to Chateau Copsa, right outside Sopot in the little village of Moskovec. The chateau is a family-owned wine cellar where the wine is produced at the site of grape picking in a village with steady air temperature throughout the year. Chateau Copsa makes 150-180 tons of wine per year ONLY with local grapes that are grown on 500 dekars (50 hectars) of family vineyards.
Our tasting of the “Zeyla” wine series included 3 whites and 2 reds, perfectly reflecting the nature of the region and its specialty in white wines. In addition to their spectacular red misket, I was particularly impressed by Muscat Otonel – an ancient grape which was fragrant like a perfume but surprisingly dry, light bodied and NOT sweet! It smells so wonderful that Bulgarians like to prepare rakia (grappa, moonshine) from it.
We also learned that while most white wines never touch wood, chardonnay is an exception. Oak gives the wine butter, vanilla, and toast flavors. Chateau Copsa uses French and American oak barrels, which fit 225L and fill 300 bottles. An oak barrel is used a maximum of 3 times and then it is sold, thrown away, or recycled (a very thorough and complicated process). A red that impressed me was actually a coupage – “Cuvee Rouge” – 50/50 cabernet and merlot blend. The winemaker first matures them separately in oak barrels for an year and then he mixes them and matures them together in an oak barrel for another year.
When you say “Cheers” (“nazdrave” = to health) in Bulgarian – you clink your glasses and look each other in the eyes. And you do that a lot with every pour resulting in sparkly eyes and wobbly legs 🙂 Hence instead of driving to the wineries yourself, you should take a guided tour 🙂 You’ll learn a whole lot more!
Since entering the European Union in 2007, Bulgaria has experienced a true revival in wine making and wine and spa tourism. The wines are of very high quality and the region is very up and coming worldwide. Bulgarian wines are the most awarded wines in Central and Eastern Europe, more than Macedonia and Hungary combined. If you would like to purchase wines in Plovdiv, Lexi Supermarket has a fantastic selection. To watch a short video on the Magic of the Bulgarian Rose, click below: