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Discovering Bulgaria’s Wine Regions

Bulgaria has a long history of grape growing and wine production, which dates back to the days of the Thracian's. Bulgaria is possibly the first geological region where vines were planted and wine produced. The first vine protection decree was issued here in 2nd century AD as well as the first prohibitionist laws instigated by Bulgarian ruler Khan Krum in the 7th century AD. Experts also attribute the invention of the wine cellar to Bulgarian monks who stored their wine in cool, deep vaults underground.

Wine making traditions continued throughout the Middle Ages and survived Ottoman rule. After the Russian liberation wine making prospered again laying the foundations for today’s viticulture. During Communist rule wine making was nationalized and Bulgarian wines were only available to the Eastern Bloc states.

Following the fall of Communism Bulgarian wines were introduced to western markets where they have grown in popularity yet still remain under priced in comparison to other western wines.
Since Bulgaria’s EU accession in 2007, there has been a flood of foreign investment into the wine industry and a number of top consultants have been involved in developing new projects. Wine is one of the country’s most popular alcoholic beverages and many households produce their own wine. Quest Bulgaria explores each of the country’s five official wine producing regions.

 

The Danube River Plains or Northern Region

This area encompasses the southern banks of the Danube River and the central and western portion of the Danube River Plains. The region has a temperate continental climate with hot summers and a high quota of sunny days throughout the year. Wines from this area include Merlot, Gamza, Pamid, Muscat Ottonel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

The Black Sea Coast or Eastern Region

In this region 30% of all of the country’s vines grow. The area characterized by long, mild autumns, which offer ideal conditions for the buildup of sugars necessary for the production of fine white wine. Indeed, 53% of all white wine produced in Bulgaria comes from the Black Sea Coast. Wine from this region includes Muscat Ottonal, Gewuerztraminer, Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Dimyat and Riesling.

The Valley of the Roses or the Sub-Balkan Region

The legendary Valley of the Roses is not only renowned for its contribution to the perfume industry. This region located south of the Stara Planina encompasses the notable Sungurlare Valley, notorious for its wine produced from local red Misket grapes. The area is is split into an eastern and western sub region, which together produce mainly dry and off-dry white wine. The area is known for its Riesling, Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rkatsiteli and Merlot.

The Thracian Valley or Southern Region

This region includes the Thracian Lowlands and parts of the Sakar Mountain. The area has a temperate Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. There is a favourable distribution of rainfall, which provides ideal conditions for red wine production. The Balkan Mountains aid the growth of vines here by preventing cold winds from the Russian plains, whilst the Maritsa River drains the valley. Mavrud, a celebrated local wine, as well as Muscatel, Merlot, Pamid and Cabernet Sauvignon are grown here.

The Struma River Valley or Southwestern Region

This area includes the southwestern parts of the country around the valley of the Struma River in what is often dubbed Bulgarian Macedonia. This is the country’s smallest vine growing region, but it is climatically distinct due to the strong Mediterranean influence from the south. Shiroka Melnishka Loza, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are all cultivated in this area.

Wineries Guide

Bulgaria is home to a vast array of both international and small domestic wineries producing everything from rich, fruity reds to pale, clear Chardonnay’s. What is amazing about Bulgarian wines is that they are so low in price in comparison to other international wines, with an award winning bottle costing in the region of 25 Leva, an impressive quality wine costing around 15 Leva and a respectable party wine costing as little as 4 Leva.