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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.


The leading wineries in the country are French owned Belvedere Group, which owns amongst other the renowned Domaine Menada winery in the Thracian Valley.

Bulgarian owned Damianitza Winery is another leader both domestically and internationally and has achieved remarkable success with its Noman’s Land brands. This winery combines traditional wine making methods with a strong sense of conservation. Boyar Estates is one of Bulgaria’s newest wineries, which has taken a leading role in the European market with its Rousse, Blueridge and Domaine Boyar brands.

Smaller wineries, which produce some superb wines including some award winners, are Targovishte, which produces some excellent white wine, Lovico Suhindol, which is an offspring from Bulgaria’s oldest winery, Todoroff , one of the country’s boutique cellars, which produces some terrific reds from Merlot, Mavrud and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and finally Terra Tangra another newcomer to the Bulgarian wine scene located in the Thracian lowlands, which is one of the country’s most successful wine producing regions.

Award Winners

Bulgarian wine has come to fore in many prestigious international wine tasting competitions including Bulgaria’s own annual tasting Vinaria, which is held each Autumn in Plovdiv.

If you see any of the following brands lining your supermarket shelves then grab yourself a medal winner. Todoroff Teres produce some excellent wines particularly their red varieties. Their Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 a wine with a flavour of cherries and black currant and soft, silky taste is a silver medal winner at Paris’ Vinalies Internationales. Todoroff’s Merlot 2005 a rich red, which tastes of well ripened grapes, also won a silver medal winner at Vinalies Internationales.

Some boutique wineries have also done extremely well in some of the wine tastings; Terra Tangra Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, a wine with a coffee aroma and a tart, spicy taste was a gold medal at winner at Vinaria in 2006. Edoardo Migolio’s Traminer 2006, a wine with a pineapple taste and fruity aroma won a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge in London, whilst Vertikal JSC Chardonnay 2006, a palatable smooth white with a buttery bouquet won a silver medal winner in the Decanter World Wine Awards 2007.

Bulgarian Wine a Hidden Treasure

Next time you browse the shelves at your local off licence or supermarket, try a bottle of Bulgarian wine, most of the bottles sold internationally have been handpicked by renowned connoisseurs and represent excellent value compared to wine from more popular vine growing countries like the America and Australia. Bulgarian wine has stepped into the spotlight and it won’t be long before it is the wine to impress your guests with.