A beautiful landscape dominated by mountains and historical buildings, together with centuries old wine cellars and a famous brand of strong, red wine makes Melnik, one of Bulgaria’s smallest towns, a very special place to visit.
Located in the southwestern corner of Bulgaria, Melnik is officially the smallest town in the country, according to local officials. With a population of just 400 people, this small community retains its town status for historical rather than demographic reasons. And it’s this history which leads to thousands of tourists passing through every year.
Although the town’s surroundings are quite literally stunning, drawing many visitors who come to admire its unique pyramid-like rock formations, the biggest draw for tourists is undoubtedly the legendary Melnik wine, made from a locally grown variety of grapes that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
A rainy day is an ideal time to come and explore the vast wine cellars in Melnik, some of which are several hundred years old, dating back as long as the town’s wine tradition has existed.
The reason for its great wine history is as much to do with the town’s geographical setting as anything else; located just over the border from Greece, its plentiful Mediterranean sunshine ensures the grapes reach maturity literally bursting with a unique flavor.
It’s this that has led to more than 600 years of a wine producing heritage, beginning in the 14th century – so good is the little known Melnik wine that it was reputedly even one of Winston Churchill’s old favorites.
Sadly, the production of Melnik wine has decreased in recent years, mirroring the reduction of Melnik’s population – yet those who remain have secured the town’s future by establishing it as one of the country’s most popular wine tourism destinations.
As well as its wine cellars and its grand open air wine museum, Melnik also has several other architectural attractions, such as the Byzantine House, built in the 12th century as a fortress, the Historical Museum of Melnik, housed in the Pashov House, and the famous Pasha’s House, constructed by Ibrahim Bey, governor of the region during the time it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.