We love wine. Red, white, rosé…we love it all. And while we are by no means experts, we have been to some pretty spectacular vineyards and wineries. In Temecula, we tried some of the best wine in California. In Valle de Guadalupe, we sipped delicious Mexican wine with sweeping views of green mountains.
Both of these memorable wine tasting experiences were dethroned during our wine tour in Bulgaria. It was an enlightening experience. Not only did we get to see first hand how wine is made, we also got to learn about Bulgaria’s wine industry from the people who know it best: Bulgaria Wine Tours.
About Bulgaria Wine Tours
If you want to experience Bulgaria’s winemaking industry firsthand, there’s no better way than with Bulgaria Wine Tours. They offer both day and half-day tours, as well as tours in a private or group setting. So there’s really something for everyone.
Bulgaria Wine Tours is run by Zina and Vasil, a couple who are very passionate about the wine industry. They first met because of their shared love of wine, and even married on a vineyard that we got to tour. Aww! We found their passion for wine very refreshing, and it even got us excited to learn more as well.
The tours are extremely well organized and informative. You’ll learn about Bulgaria’s growing wine industry, see first hand how wine is made, and get to try some delicious wine. And with door-to-door transportation service included, all you have to do is relax and enjoy the day.
One Day Wine Tour Itinerary
We did a one day wine tour, which includes tours and tastings at two wineries, plus lunch in between. The day starts at 10:00 AM, when Zina and Vasil arrived at our Airbnb in the Plovdiv City Center to pick us up for the day.
The first winery that we went to was Zagreus Winery. It’s about a 30 minute drive from downtown Plovdiv, located in the beautiful Bulgarian countryside. As our hosts described it, Zagreus is a medium-sized winery in Bulgaria.
The winery is beautiful, situated in a modern building with sweeping views of the vineyard. The tasting room has floor to ceiling windows, giving it a light and airy feel.
Zagreus is also one of the few wineries in Bulgaria that is entirely organic. No pesticides are used on the grapes at all. It was amazing hearing about how this winery is doing their part to create a more eco-friendly wine experience. Bravo!
We started our tour of the winery in the pavilion built at the top of the hill. It’s a recent addition to Zagreus Winery, and gives visitors a little protection from the sun without obscuring the great views.
There are tables and chairs in the pavilion, perfect for a party. In fact, the winery had just hosted a party there the previous day. Bags of charcoal left out indicated a barbecue–we’re jealous that we weren’t invited!
From the pavilion, you can see a few small nearby villages. Every autumn when the grapes are ripe, Zagreus hires people from the local villages to come and hand-pick the grapes. It’s a very time consuming process, with about 100 people picking the grapes for hours each day for about six weeks.
After that, we got to tour inside the winery where the wine is actually made. The chief winemaker at Zagreus, Tanya, explained how everything works from start to finish. She did an amazing job explaining to use how the whole process works.
This was probably our favorite part of the tour (other than the actual wine-tasting!). We had never actually seen where wine was made before. Understanding the amount of time and labor that goes into making wine gave us a newfound appreciation for winemaking!
Next up, we toured the room where the wine sits in barrels. They use a variety of different oak barrels, depending on which flavor and/or color they want the wine to have. The room has about 500 wine barrels in it at any given time.
When the wine is almost ready to be bottled, Tanya, the chief winemaker, is responsible for trying each and every barrel to make sure it meets the right standards. Sounds like a pretty awesome job, right?
Finally, the part we were waiting for…the wine tasting! We sat down at a table in the wine tasting room anxious to begin. A tasty platter of bread, cheese and pepperoni was set out, and our wine glasses were all ready to be filled.
First, a little background. The wine region of Bulgaria that we were in is called Western Thrace Wine Region. In this region of the country, the local wine specialty is called Mavrud. Made from the red Mavrud grapes grown in the region, Mavrud wine is definitely the variety to try when you’re in Western Thrace. When in Rome…
We tried a variety of whites, reds, and rosé, but we have to say that the Mavrud wine was extra delicious. Maybe it’s just because we were excited to try the wine that this region of Bulgaria was known for, but that wine was probably our favorite.
Since the second winery we were visiting was on the other side of Plovdiv, we decided to have lunch in the Plovdiv city center. Our hosts wanted us to try authentic Bulgarian food, which we were really excited about.
They took us to a restaurant called XIX Century. Since they are the ones who know Bulgarian food best, we told them to order for us. We’re not picky and we love trying new things.
The food blew us away. Shopska salad (a Bulgarian specialty!), stuffed peppers and warm bread for an appetizer. Then, a delicious shared skillet of chicken, pork, potatoes and veggies for the main course. Yum!
It was wonderful having a long lunch and discussing Bulgarian customs and traditions. After a cup of coffee to wake us back up, we were ready to hit the road and head to our second winery.
Next up, it was time to head to our second and final winery of the day: Villa Yustina. This winery is about a 40 minute drive from Plovdiv, and it had a special meaning to our hosts Zina and Vasil. It’s the very winery that they were married at!
Since it is obviously one of our hosts’ favorite wineries, we were excited to see Villa Yustina for ourselves. The first thing that we noticed was how beautiful the location of the winery is. It is right on the outskirts of the Rhodopi Mountains in the small Ustina Village, so the views are gorgeous.
Villa Yustina is a growing winery. They are opening another winemaking facility in a few short months. They also have a hotel that was set to open a few weeks after our visit! It was great seeing a local winery doing so well.
The vineyards where Villa Yustina grows their grapes are a few kilometers from the tasting room. We were told it was extremely beautiful, so we hopped in the car to see the beautiful vineyard for ourselves.
The views didn’t disappoint. The Rhodopi Mountains frame the vineyard, and you can even see the small villages off in the distance. We spent a few minutes here just enjoying the view and taking pictures. Then, it was time to head back to the winery.
We arrived back at Villa Yustina’s tasting room, and both head wine makers were outside. It was great getting to meet them before we headed inside to tour the facilities.
The founder of Villa Yustina has an interesting story. He was working with steel long before he founded the winery. After years in the industry, he discovered he was pretty good at making winemaking machinery. That’s why, as our tour guide Maria rightly pointed out, the glimmering steel machinery in the winemaking facilities at Villa Yustina look more like a showroom than an actual winemaking room.
At Villa Yustina, we also got to see their bottling plant. Once the wine is ready to be bottled, they bring it into this room. Here, the wine is bottled, labeled and sealed. Sometimes, it is capped with a cork and sometimes with a twist off top. This depends on if the wine can continue improving or not.
We were surprised how the entire winemaking process all happens here. In the U.S., oftentimes winemakers might outsource the bottling, or buy their grapes from other locations. Both wineries we visited owned the process from start to finish, which is very impressive.
Next up, the wine tasting! After seeing the immaculate facilities where Villa Yustina makes their wine, we were very excited to try the wine for ourselves. We started with a glass of bubbling rosé that was so delicious, we had to take a bottle home with us.
We tried a number of delicious wines, many of which with interesting flavors that we had never tried before. The chardonnay we tried was particularly interesting, because it was so different from the California chardonnays that we had tried. It tasted more like vanilla and honey than the Oaky flavor of a California chardonnay.
Throughout the tasting, Maria explained to us which flavors we might be smelling for each wine. She also listed some foods that would go well with each wine. We learned a lot about food and wine pairings, and can’t thank the amazing team at Villa Yustina enough.
Wine tasting in Bulgaria is an experience we’ll never forget. The passion that Zina and Vasil have for wine made it such a pleasure to spend the day at wineries. We learned a ton over the course of the day.
Overall, we would recommend this tour for anyone visiting Plovdiv. The wine is delicious and the insights that you get into the wine making process is truly unique. It’s also a great way to see the more rural areas of Bulgaria surrounding Plovdiv.
Don’t forget to check out our other posts on Bulgaria:
- 21 Amazing Things To Do in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- 17 Things To Do in the Sofia, Bulgaria City Centre
- Sofia Nightlife Guide: Pub Crawl to Best Bars & Clubs
- How To Take The Train From Sofia to Plovdiv: Train Schedule, Cost & Everything You Need To Know
- 11 Best Restaurants in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- Guide to Plovdiv’s Flourishing Kapana District: What To See & Do
- The Ultimate Guide to Old Town in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
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