With a scent of aged wine

The Kordopulov house in Melnik is among the biggest on the Balkan peninsula

The Kordopulov house is a real masterpiece of Balkan architecture of the National Revival period in Bulgaria, but it also has some elements typical of the European style, blended in.

Tucked amid the sandstone pyramids rock formations that surround Bulgaria's smallest town of Melnik, there stands the biggest still preserved private building on the Balkans dated back to the time of Bulgaria's National Revival - the Kordopulov house. It was built by a wealthy Greek merchant by the name of Kordopulos at the beginning of the 18th century.

Named after him, the house bears this name to the present day. The building was designed specifically for wine production and storing, as wine was the staple merchandise that the family traded in. It is located in the elevated eastern part of town and a beautiful vista to Melnik opens from it.

The house has as many as four floors, which is very rare for the architecture of that period. Two of them are built of stone, while the other two are made of wood. Seven interior staircases connect each floor with the attic. The bay floor has a large guestroom sunlit through 24 windows arranged in two rows. The upper row is made of Venetian stained glass which lets in subdued light falling on painted walls, wood carvings and cabinets.

The entire ceiling is made of hand-carved wood. It features the Sun surrounded by 12 diamond-shaped rectangles symbolising the months in a year. What's remarkable about this room as well is that it keeps fancy wine vessels in which wine was served to the family guests. Along the three of the room's walls, under the bay windows, there are cushioned sitting benches.

The Kordopulov house, though, takes the greatest pride in its wine cellar, which can store up to 300 tons of the famous Melnik red wine. It was kept in wooden barrels, and the largest one of them can hold up to 12.5 tons. The wine cellar is housed in tunnels dug into the soft rocks under the building especially for this purpose. This allows to maintain a constant temperature and thus helps preserve the wine all year round. The cellar also has special ventilation shafts.

The Kordopulos family lived in the house till the beginning of the Balkan War in 1912. Until then Melnik fell within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire and later became part of Bulgaria. The last of the Kordopulos family, Manolis Kordopulos, studied viticulture in France and upon return to Bulgaria modernised both his own wine cellar and the entire winemaking business in Melnik. Unfortunately, he was killed by the Ottomans when they were leaving the town.

After his death the house passed into the possession of his maid Agnessa, who later married Georgi Tsintsara. The couple did not have children, so the house was inherited by their nephew. After 9 September 1944, the house was nationalised and converted into a museum. Currently it is a functioning private museum.

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