By Magdalena Rahn
Founded in 2005 by two Bulgarian gentlemen who knew that what is in a name is often tantamount to what is in the bottle, Malkata Zvezda produces small quantities of good wine that bring together tradition and innovation in the south-eastern corner of Bulgaria.
Doctor Stefan Angelov and a friend, Dulev, established Malkata Zvezda, then known as Dulev and Angelov Winery, in the deserted building of a former creamery. In early 2008, the venture was rechristened, to honour the age-old place name of a crossing of Roman trade routes. “Malkata zvezda” means “the little star”.
Malkata Zvezda’s first wines made for the public are from the 2007 harvest, the result of the diligence of winemakers Kamen Koev and his wife, Iliana. Additionally, one of the now four partners in the business, Georgi Georgiev, is an agronomist.
But it is due Doctor Angelov that the winery was born. A practicing dentist who started to realize his self-educated passion for wine a bit more than 10 years ago, he is the face of the winery. Story has it that, in the year 2000, Angelov was on a visit to the Sveti Georgi Zograf monastery on Mount Athos (Mount Athos is called “Sveta Gora” in Bulgarian.) Already dabbling in home wine production, to the joy of fellow dentists around the country, and knowledgeable about what is good to drink and what is bad, Angelov was underwhelmed by what the monastery had to offer its guests. Additionally, he saw that the monks could benefit from better dental care.
The result? He set up a dentist’s cabinet there together with a Bulgarian colleague, holding hours two to three times a year, and started providing the wine that the monks drink and serve to visitors.
The area around Malkata Zvezda, about 10 kilometres east of Harmanli, is warm, dry and sunny most of the year, making it a good location for growing red grapes. The winery’s 160 decares of own vineyards, where they grow merlot, cabernet sauvignon and the local variety pamid, are on the south-western slopes of Sakar Mountain, part of the 8000-decare Kolarovo vineyards, planted in the 1970s.
The red soils of the Kolarovo vineyards were, in communist times past, prized for the growing of top-quality grapes. After the restitution processes and property re-distribution in the early 1990s, this huge plot of land was divided into numerous smaller parcels, some going to nearby wineries, others put up for lease. It is into this latter category which fall the vineyards of Malkata Zvezda.
Angelov and company’s cellar also has vineyards that it has purchased elsewhere in the region, and planted with different varieties.
In creating the winery, the owners took a philosophy of respect for the natural environment, both in growing the grapes and in making the wines. While the word “organic” has not yet been uttered, they do
strive to make wines in the most natural way possible. Under the hands of the Koevi, Malkata Zvezda’s wines are elegant, rich and round, but not overpowering, with fruit favoured over heaviness, tannins and oak. The goal is to have a high-quality wine that encourages a second glass.
Given the hot climate, it can be a challenge to assure that the grapes are ripe enough to have mature tannins and the highest possible level of flavour development without stepping past the threshold into too-high sugar content (which would lead to too high of alcohol levels) or the fruit taking on a baked / jammy taste, particularly for reds.
For whites, it is difficult to assure ripeness without losing the all-important acidity in the grape, without which a white wine would taste flat and heavy. At Malkata Zvezda, chardonnay, ugni blanc and the local dimyat are vinified, though the winery prefers to focus on its red cuvées.
Malkata Zvezda has an annual production of about 130 000 bottles, with its wines being aged in small stainless steel fermentation tanks and / or in barriques of French or Bulgarian oak, 90 per cent of which are new. By keeping production small-scale, Angelov and partners and the Koevi assure a personal touch, and high-quality wine for the modern palate. The winery has two lines – Enigma, which is the more exclusive series, and Sveta Gora – with single-varietals and blends made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, cabernet franc and the local grape mavrud, along with the three whites – chardonnay, dimyat and ugni blanc.
The Malkata Zvezda Enigma mavrud 2007, which was aged in new oak barrels for seven months, is a medium ruby colour, with aromas of dried herbs, forest leaves, caramel, red fruits, leather and tobacco. Medium-bodied and elegant in the mouth, it a medium-long, spicy finish. This wine is unfiltered, so there might be some (not harmful) sediment at the bottom of the bottle. It sells for about 10 leva in Bulgaria.
Best when served at 18 to 19 degrees Celsius, this mavrud goes well with game, red meats, roasted pork (try it with an apricot glaze), pizza, mild yellow cheeses and dishes seasoned with basil, thyme and oregano. For traditional Bulgarian food-wine combinations, it would complement grilled kyufte or kebabche, pork liver, lamb drob-sarma or grilled pork kebabs.
Winery Malkata Zvezda
62 Neofit Rilski str.
tel/fax: +359 373 4118
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