Ямантиеви от златоносната долина

This won't be a story about a cellar or barrels even wine. Itwill be more of a story about a place. A place that is especially dear andspecial to me. A place that is very personal.


Once, when the place was one of the most lively settlements interms of trade and craftings, the town was named Ortakyoy, or The city of friends. Itwas a part of the Vilayet of Adrianople, populated mainly by Greeks andBulgarians. Here, three nations, which resided Western Thrace – Bulgarians, Greeksand Turks, coexisted and helped each other out.

Whenever I leave for Ivaylovgrad, I am aware that I am going to adifferent Bulgaria, where the usual sight in people's gardens includes almond, fig,pomegranate, jujube (which, the locals call date as a force of habit), lemons,and other sorts of trees. The climate is quite close to the Mediterranean andit is at its best when the so called white wind starts blowing – awarm, humid wind from the White Sea. The locals have always grown grapevines,tobacco, peanuts, sesame, almonds. Also, silk farming used to be one of themost profitable businesses once. My family's house, for example, is over 120years old and it was built entirely according to the technology for cultivatingand harvesting silk. In ancient times, people mined talc – a rare mineral thatwas almost, if not more expensive than gold. And speaking of gold, along with  other very generous gifts from Mother Nature,it is said that somewhere between Momchilgrad and Ivaylovgrad, in the karstlabyrinths of the Eastern Rhodopes, lies a gold-bearing vein. There's a lot ofevidence for this, but I think the gold on this land should not be acquiredwith a sifter in the river...

Among the picturesque grapevine hills, almond and cherry grovesalternate, there are flocks of sheep and goats here and there, and the silenceis so piercing that you start to hear your own thoughts. However, one thingbothers me quite a lot: I come here at least once a year and I've neveractually been to a wine cellar, other than the one in my house. Yes, I know,it's shameful. I find the coordinates of the Yamantievs and on a coldmorning I head for the winery. I vaguely remember that somewhere out there thedivision of border troops was located at the time when the State Border hadfurther condemned this corner of paradise to forced isolation. And this went onfor 50 years. The Slaveevo Kyprinos border checkpoint has only been open sinceSeptember 2010 and the traffic in both directions is already significant. Infact, people these days prefer to pass through Greece if they go to the town,not to the dam. But let's get back on topic.

Ivana Yamantieva is already waiting for me so we can drinkcoffee and while we are chatting, Yuliyan – her husband and partner in thiswine adventure, joins us. If you do not know Yuliyan Yamantiev, it is good tobe prepared in advance for an extremely interesting and lively company. Evenbefore Ivana asks me what to start the tasting with, we are already discussingthe archaeological excavations in the village of Huhla – one of the placesbelieved to be the sanctuary of Dionysus, a place that has been sought afterfor a millennia, as well as the Thracian mound near Svirachi. Yuliyan's theory,supported by facts, which he believes are true, is that we are dealing with acivilization much older than the Thracians. See, I got carried away again, butit's because Ivaylovgrad's ancient history and wine engulf you completelyand that's what's unique about it. Terroir, what can you do...

We begin the tasting with unfiltered Viognierand Muscat. Both wines have a very delicate, colourfulnose. The Muscat shows a discreet variety and a pleasant, fine structure withsoft acidity, while the Viognier settles in the mouth with its round, “thicker”body. In my opinion, both will be wonderful wines.

The Yamantievs planted 70 hectares in Ivaylovgrad and thesurrounding area, with traditional varieties such as Viognier,Chardonnay, Traminer, Muscat, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignonand Alicante Bouchet. However, I don't understandwhere the Ruby is in the whole picture. Everyone wants Ivaylograd'sRuby because of its limestone base – an important condition forthe complex qualities of this particular variety.

“The Ruby is a very nice variety...,” the Yamantievs tell me, “... but it has a lot of tannins”“TheSyrah, in our opinion, has much greater potential. The external market'sreception is good and for that it's a stronger market for us. At this point weare convinced that Ruby does not work as well if it is pure, because the localvariety burns the tastebuds a little and it, accumulates a lot of sugars, butloses acidity.”

That brings me to my other question, which I've been curiousabout for a long time, but somehow, I've never asked it directly before: howdid they even think of planting Burgundian Pinot Noir in the warm,Mediterranean climate? Given that Burgundy is an area known for its cool, rainyand windy climate, and Western Thrace is warm, with a Mediterranean influenceand with the "white wind"?

“The secret is in the altitude, not so much in the climate zone,” Yuliyan Yamantiev tells me. OurPinot is at 360 m above sea level and it is located on a very airy place. Youjust have to see it for yourself. We've talked with a lot of people, but anyforeigner who comes here can't believe their eyes. Let's not forget anothervery important thing for the Ivaylovgrad's terroir – its fossils. The area wasonce a seabed and the beautiful, white limestone stones clearly show imprintsof mussel shells. And if that’s not interesting...” IvanaYamantieva adds that to her their Pinot has a southern character andit is far from Burgundy's style, but it bears the imprint of that unique land.

It is time for the Merlot, which holds a special status inIvaylovgrad. My recollection is that in every vineyard there was Merlot– the winemakers' greatest pride.

"Yes, here it is said that every good wine is made with theinclusion of this variety, but the truth is that the Merlot's branches areeither very old or are mixed with all sorts of other varieties.", shares the family. “The resulting bouquet is far from theFrench Merlot you probably know. But the new plantations are completelydifferent. Now we're talking about Merlot by the book. Merlot is an importantvariety for our cellar and we believe people like it. People drink it withpleasure, which means they like it," the two owners said.

Ivana Yamantieva has already prepared the other two wines fortasting – the Syrah and Alicante Bouschet from the last vintage 2010.

Syrah 2010 isvarietal and intense on the nose, with many violets and blackberries, as wellas meat accent. With fine tannins, freshness and a medium body, it will be oneof the elegant Syrah wines. Alicante Bouchet 2010 hadits nose still closed, but gradually revealed the powerful aromas of crushed,ripe black fruit and a lot of meat. The freshness and the well-ripened tanninsput it among my favourites of the wines expected next year. I also tasted someoutstanding, very concentrated  Cabernet and Merlot from various barrels,perhaps from 2009 vintage. However, judging by the tannins, they need anotheryear if our friends decide to leave them in the barrels.

“I know that you will share about me, Ivana and our wine,” Yuliyan Yamantiev tells me as he sends me off. “Andthat is amazing. However, for me what's more important in your words is thatnone of this would have been possible without our employees. They are the trulythe truly important thing.” I think and I'm sure that thisstory will continue...

Тelephone number
00359 65 20 28
4000 4000 Plovdiv
72 Rayko Daskalov str