You can read about the history of Bulgarian wine in "Part 1: Three-Thousand Years of Wine History" and read about what's going on with it today in "Part 2: The Current State of Bulgarian Wine".
I'm keeping this month's reviews quick and simple because I've got A LOT of them to review and plenty of other things going on! Usually you'll see stupid stuff like a monkey flipping you off with his arm around a woman in a bikini, but the chances of that are slim this month. Sorry. Getting right to the point. Alright, maybe a little bit of messing around.
Villa Yambol (AKA Vinprom Yambol) was founded in 1924 and is the oldest winery still standing in southern Bulgaria. Here I have the two varieties that made Bulgaria such a great buy for wine in the 70's and 80's: Merlot and Cabernet. They're both from Thracian Valley and have strange, indented, wavy loops on the shoulders which make it look like cheap swill. We'll see if it's of swill quality.
VILLA YAMBOL MERLOT 2013
The grapes for this wine were grown in the Valley of Tundzha River, where there's moderate maroon-forest soil. More than 102 sunny days a year is seen here and the autumns are mildly warm. The final wine has a 13.35% ABV.
It's 100% Merlot and sees no oak. Let's dig in! The color is a purple-tinted garnet. And clarity? What clarity? It's dark as the darkest pit of hell. I can't even see light come through from the other side!
people still cling to their refusal to drink Merlot. The first thing to hit your mouth is bright acidity and freshly picked blueberries. The mid-palate has juicy plums and blackberry. It has a medium body and smooth tannin. Soooooo smooth. As soon as you swallow the flavors pick up with intensity, and once it's settled down the finish goes back to the blueberries it started with.
As I said in my review of VINI's 2013 Merlot, the varietal is the clear king of quality in the $8-12 price range. VINI's Merlot was really good but it blended into the crowd of other Merlot's in $9 price so I gave it a 3 out of 5.
Villa Yambol's Merlot, however, is exceptional. Seriously exceptional. For $11 it's an outstanding deal. Earlier this month I sang the praise of VINI's 2013 Rosé and last week drooled over Domaine Boyar's 2012 Merlot, but this is the one that makes me want Vance from BulgarianWine.com to find a distributor in Massachusetts. Because I would be ordering this in a heart-beat. In a friggin heart-beat. No lie.
THIS is what Merlot is all about and it makes it clear why Merlot from Bulgaria was so successful 30 years ago. If you're a Merlot hater and I sat you down and put this in front of you and you didn't like it then you're full of shit. You gotta be.
Rating: 5/5 = Highly Recommended. (what does that mean?)
VILLA YAMBOL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013
These grapes were grown in Topolitsa Village at the foothills of Stara Planina Mountain, and its vines were planted in 2007. The soil is fertile sand and loam, and sees over 102 days of sun with warm autumns (just like where the Merlot is from). There's a 13.84% ABV.
This is 100% Cabernet and sees no oak. It's cold macerated with its skins for three days and it shows because when I took the cork out my very first thought was "WHAT THE???" Just take a look at how black the wet end of the cork is. The wine really is that dark and inky of a ruby red.
It smells of cigar box and wild red berries. I even got a little bit of watermelon on the nose. On the palate there's tart cherries and red cassis. It finishes with super spicy black pepper.
The acidity and structure is a little off-balance and needs a few years to mellow out and fall into place, but once it does this'll be a beauty of a Cabernet. But for right now I've got to give it a 3.5 out of 5, between "Satisfying" and "Recommended".