Melnik – Bulgaria’s Ancient Wine Village

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I like wine … Maybe you do, too? So when I saw a pic of this lovely village amid escarpments – along with the fact that it’s a famous wine making place, I knew I had to get here.

Today many homes double as family-run taverns and shops for the local wine, and / or as restaurants and guesthouses. However, Menlik caters mostly for the domestic market; a perfect lovers retreat, on the weekend.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m no wine snob. Not an expert. Nor wealthy or foolish to pay the prices that impress. But here, and in the Balkans generally, 5+ euros buys something quite drinkable. And beyond my stable favorites  – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – I am happy to try it all.

Guestroom of the wonderful Kordopulov House – built in 1754, now a museum –  but once belonging to one of Melnik’s foremost wine merchants.

The grand red master here is Shiroka Mehichka Loza, a wine that was the toast of Europe – including royal patronage – for over 600 years.

However good this sounds or however pretty Melnik looks, it’s story hasn’t always been roses and wine.

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A hike around the hills surrounding Menlik revealed this panorama. Note: the church to the right, I sheltered there with a bottle of red and chunk of salami, as rain came down to reveal a rainbow across the mountains behind me (but not across the village, thou).

Melnik is not officially Bulgaria’s smallest village without good reason (at just 385 people).

You see, tragedy struck this booming town of 20,000 people during the Balkans Wars ( 1912-13: an extension – some say the start, of the First World War ) when it was burnt down … Melnik never recovered. Houses, and what were 70 churches, are now mostly ruins.

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The traditional house where I stayed a couple of days.


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The wine cellar tunnels of the Kordopulov House.


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Near Melnik, are the ruins – mostly just walls – of the Medieval Slavova Krepost Fortress.


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Kordopulov House facade.

To quote the info from the Kordopulov House Museum:

The home of the famous Melnik Kordopulov Family, who were trading wine across Europe including Venice. The murder of Manol Kordopulov, one of the family’s heirs, on 27 October 1912, during the Balkan War, was followed by the assassination of 30 more people from this area. Shortly after, Melnik was torched.

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Looking down on – part of – Melnik from the pyramid-shaped hills surrounding the village. (Note: the ruins of a church in center).

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