The connection between wine and the Bulgarian lands is older than is Bulgaria itself. For the ancient Thracians, wine was a divine beverage which they not only drank during their feasts, but also used in rituals dedicated to a deity which later the Greeks called Dionysus. The tradition is still alive, in the Trifon Zarezan feast of vineyards and winemakers which is celebrated on 1 February. Today, Bulgaria is a wine country and there is hardly a new-coming foreigner who haven't asked to try some of the local wines. And rightly so. Churchill himself used to stock each year 500 bottles of the heavy red Melnik wine.
Bulgaria is also the country of several vine varieties. Some of them are so old that their origins are lost in the mist of history: Gamza, Siroka Melniska, Pamid, Mavrud, Dimyat.
The choice of local and imported wines in modern Bulgaria is overwhelming and the wine consumption in the country is on the grow.
However, while hitting the wine road, Bulgaria has experienced some difficulties. The local wine industry – with vast vineyards and wineries producing for the market, – began developing in the beginning of the 20th Century. During Socialism, the industry grew and new varieties were introduced on Bulgarian soil, like Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and others. Sadly, in those times winemakers paid more attention to quantity, not quality. By the 1990s, the Bulgarian wines were known abroad as cheap and unpretentious. The privatisation of wine industry in the 1990s blew yet one more strike – many vineyards were abandoned and wineries were closed.
At the beginning of the 2000s, however, a bunch of ambitious winemakers started a trend which led to the diverse and developing wine market in Bulgaria of the 2010s. Today, the consumers enjoy the results of these changes.
The news for Bulgarian wines which have won medals on international competitions are not a rarity anymore. The most ambitious wineries work with the best winemakers in the world, who have created for them unique wines. The number of small, mid-range and big wineries developing wine tourism is growing.
As a result, more Bulgarians enjoy wine and are interested in its taste, terroir, varieties. In 2014, Bulgaria ranked 21st in the world in annual wine consumption, with 20.2 litres per capita. The trend is amazing, especially if you take in notice that the French, who are at the top, have decreased wine consumption from 100 litres per capita in 1975 to 44 litres in 2014.
Wine tourism in Bulgaria is still far from what you enjoy in France, California or South Africa. Yet, while you travel the country, you can taste the different characters of its regions in the wines produced there. The Thracian Valley is the home of almost 70 percent of the red vines in Bulgaria, like Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Mavrud, Pamid, Misket. The specific climate of the Black Sea coast and the Northeast make these regions the territory of the white wines like Chardonnay, Aligoté, Dimyat, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Tamyanka. The Danubian Plain and the Northwest are the place to drink Gamza or Vrachanski Misket. The Southwest is the territory of not only Siroka Melniska, which is the source of heavy, almost purple wine, but also of Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Pamid. In the Podbalkan, the area between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora mountains, are grown Red misket, Chardonnay, Muskat, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot.
Unfortunately, 2014 is not among the best years experienced by the industry. The rainy summer resulted in a serious decrease in wine production throughout Europe. In Bulgaria, which ranks 18th among the world wine producers, the decrease is of up to 30 percent. This, however cannot lead the country's wine industry away from the right path it has chosen in the past decade.
Telish Winery: The face of Bulgarian wine
Established in 1999, Telish Winery makes quality wines in their price range and has proven itself as a leader in innovation on the Bulgarian wine market. TheTelish wines are "honest" and have been keeping up with their quality and have kept their qualities throughout the years. Telish Merlot and Telish Cabernet Sauvignon are the first vintages of the winery, followed by the Tt and Tt Lux series. By now, the winery has been offering a wider range of wines, among which are the new and rare for Bulgaria blends like Sangiovese and Merlot, or of Alicante bouschet and Merlot. The wines of Telish are well known on the international market and are present in 15 countries on three continents.Telish are also proud with their Castra Rubra winery, whose wines created with the help of Michel Rolland have been among the best on the Bulgarian market since 2007.
Eduardo Miroglio: Inspiration called wine
Inspired by the rich history of Elenovo village, in Bulgaria's south, in 2002 the Italian producer Edoardo Miroglio decided to create a winery in the region. The result is impressive. The annual capacity of Edoardo Miroglio winery is one million litres. The winery produces Merlot and Cabernet sauvignon wines and also sparkling wines. Edoardo Miroglio's best wine is Soli Invicto, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Syrah with dense ruby colour with purple glimmer, complex nose, aroma of fresh and dried fruit, truffle, vanilla and spices. The taste is juicy and rich, with compact and rounded body, velvet and sweet tannins and a long finale.Edoardo Miroglio has also a boutique hotel with everything needed for a wine tasting and a holiday in an exquisite luxury.
Villa Melnik: Wines to remember
Situated in the most developed winery region of Bulgaria, Melnik and its environs, Villa Melnik is a family-owned boutique winery with 30 hectares of its own vineyards. The winery produces limited series of wines under the labels AplauZ, Bergule and Family Tradition from local varieties like Melnik, Ruen and Mavrud, and rare for Bulgaria varieties like Pinot noir, Sangiovese, Viognier. This gives an individuality to the winery's production, and the awards and the warm welcome of wine lovers from Bulgaria and abroad are evidence for the wine's high quality.Villa Melnik is open for visits every day. There, wine lovers can observe each stage of the wine production and immerse in its magic.
The increased popularity of wine in Bulgaria has logically led to an increasing curiosity, and even thirst, for foreign wines. The times when only connoisseurs and well-to-do people drank French, Chilean or Californian wine are long gone. Today, Bulgarian and imported wines are competing with their qualities and their price for the palate of the local customer. As a result, more and more Bulgarians are aware of what Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! means, can easily tell the difference between South African and Australian Chardonnay, and theorise on the fruit tones of Californian Zinfandel. The restaurants also joined the trend and today the wine lists of mid-range and exclusive establishments have wines from the Old and the New World on a par with Bulgarian vintages.
Kavaklıdere Anatolian Wines: Wine from the heart of Asia Minor
Turkish wines are still making a name on the international market, but thanks to Geslin, the importer for Bulgaria, you can discover the taste and qualities of the wines of Kavaklıdere Winery. The oldest winery in Turkey has been existing for 85 years and through three generations of owners, and has 635 hectares of vineyards in different regions of Turkey.Kavaklıdere produces 53 different wines in 23 brands, who have collectively won 700 medals. Among their most interesting new offers are the elegant and rich Côtes d’Avanos Narince-Chardonnay 2012, made of grapes of typical varieties and grown on the fertile volcanic soils of Cappadocia, and Pendore Sirah 2011 from the winery's vineyards in the Aegean region.
Today, when even your local supermarket offers a selection of wines, the trust in the people who connect the producers and importers, on the one hand, and customers on the other, is important more than ever. That is why, when you are in the big city and are searching for a bottle of good wine, it is best to buy from a distributor who knows the market and the wines he sells.
CASAVINO: The best on one place
Regardless of whether they are Bulgarian or come from the wide wine world, wines in Bulgaria feel at their best on the territory of CASAVINO, the wine warehouse.CASAVINO is more than a chain of wine warehouses situated at key points in Sofia and Varna. It is an experience and a space where you discover the best vintages and the most interesting producers. If you have any questions or are wandering what to buy, CASAVINO's qualified consultants will help with advice or opinion. If you want to learn more about the endless world of wine, you can attend CASAVINO's wine school. The wine warehouses often have promotions and tastings, and this makes them the ideal place to discover new tastes and make new friends, who are as infatuated in wine as you are.