levent-hipNot many wineries can claim as their centre of production and administration a 200-year-old fortress. Yet Rousse Wine House benefits from just that. The winery complex, better known as Leventa, dates to the 1820s, when it was built by the Ottomans and named Levent Tabia – at that time, it was the largest and strongest Turkish military fortress in this region of Bulgaria.

In 2005, the brothers Plamen and Atanas Bobokov together with the œnologist Tsanko Stanchev founded the Leventa winery, which specialises in limited series of high quality red and white wines, mostly from international grape varieties like sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and syrah along with some local cépages like the aromatic white grape “vrachanska temenuga.” Its first wines were the product of the 2005 harvest.

The Ruse region has a long tradition of winemaking, as does the whole of Bulgaria. Here, in the north-central part of the country on the banks of the Danube River, the climate is cold and foggy in the winter, and hot and dry in the summer, allowing for good growing and ripening conditions of the grapes. The vineyards are cultivated with strict attention to vine and grape health and levels of grape maturity – as grape maturity varies from parcel to parcel, harvest takes place by hand, based on when the grapes are ripe. In total, Rousse Wine House has the capacity to process 150 000 kilograms of grapes a year, for a total annual production of about 110 000 bottles.

Once at the cellar, the grapes are sorted manually, thus continuing the standard of using only top-quality material for their wine. Wines are vinified in a style that highlights the fruity aromas and unique characteristics of the different grape varieties, using either oak barrel fermentation or modern stainless steel tanks, depending on what the winemakers deem best for the grapes and for their customers.

The 2.3-metre thick stone walls of the historic fortress assure a constant, ideal temperature for the aging of the wines. This aging takes place in French or American oak barriques, depending on the style of wine produced.

Also housed in the Leventa complex is a restaurant, where traditional Bulgarian cuisine and modern innovations are paired with the winery’s vintages. Serving its first guests in 1972, throughout the years it welcomed famous diners like Fidel Castro, Leonid Brezhnev and Nicolae Ceauşescu. After the end of communism, the restaurant went through a hard period, and was closed down in the mid-1990s. It opened again in late 2005, under the management of Leventa’s new owners.

In addition to hosting private festivities – the restaurant has seven rooms and a capacity for 150 people – also possible to organise here are wine tastings for any number of people, and customised dinners where a specially selected menu pairs different dishes with different wines. The result highlights the best qualities of both food and beverage, and provides excellent opportunities to share thoughts and opinions with friends.

The red wine Family Selection 2008 was specially recommended to Welcome to Bulgaria by Rosen Georgiev, the general manager of Rousse Wine House. This blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and syrah is a deep pomegranate-red colour. Its intense, spicy nose has aromas of red forest fruits, chocolate and black pepper. Perfect for cooler weather due to its full body and roundness, this wine is well balanced and rich in the mouth, with silky tannins and a warm character. A long finish is accompanied by notes of red fruits, spices and cacao. Drink now, or let it age for another five years.

By Magdalena Rahn

Rousse, Bulgaria

Reservations: +359 82 862880, +359 82 867115

Rousse Wine House

Manager: Rosen Georgiev
Tel. +359 82 862 884; +359 887 581 017
Fax: +359 82 862 898

Sales: Ivan Stanchev
Tel. +359 889 957 731