Wine is one of Bulgaria's biggest assets. And has been for millennia. After all, we are talking about the land that gave birth to Dionysus, the ancient god of wine and the ecstasy it brings. We are talking about the nation who has a special saint, Trifon Zarezan, who is the protector of vineyards and wine-makers. About the people whose folklore songs are flecked with expressions like "sparkling wine" (not like modern sparkling wines, but likе a river), and whose villagers are not considered worthy if they don't make their own home wine. Bulgaria is also the country were, according to the list of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, there are 120 local wine varieties – although most of the people have heard only about the Wide Melnik Vine, Misket, Mavrud, Gamza and Rubin.
Sadly, until recently this rich tradition was more of an obstacle before the development of modern wine culture in Bulgaria. For historical reasons, the country remained for long isolated from the world trends in the field, which in the past few decades turned wine into something more than a drink – into an experience, a way of life, a passion. The inertia of the big wineries from the Communism lasted for too long.
At last, change is underway. An increasing number of people in Bulgaria become earnestly interested in wine. Degustations and presentations are organised, as well as national and international competitions. The specialised literature is on the rise, and so are the shops and restaurants that are very serious about their wine lists. No-one asks no more what does "enologist" mean. Wines from all over the world are imported – and their presence stimulates the local wineries that constantly improve themselves in the production and supply of excellent vintages. Even the traditional Bulgarian distrust in white wine is slowly starting to disappear, and the consumption of white wines is on the rise now reaching almost 50 percent of the market.
The main merit for this quick, happy and deep change in the attitudes belongs to the producers. Each year, on the market appear new and ambitious wineries – recently mainly boutique ones. The old and established names on the market don't save efforts and resources to preserve their reputation and to be adequate to the new trends on the wine scene. Some wineries are on the search of a specific personality, based on the local varieties. Others bravely enter the produce of organic certified wines.
The present of the wine in Bulgaria is bright and the future looks even more optimistic. Is there a better reason to meet the winter and the holidays with a glass of good wine, filled with the summer sun, and with the skill, knowledge and love of those who have made it?
Home of Wine: The pleasure of discovery
When you want to learn more on the history of wine, to enlist in a tasting course or to organise a memorable event, Home of Wine (Sofia, 134 Tsar Boris III Blvd, phone: 02 8184950, www.wineinbg.org) is for you. The oldest and only winery in the capital was built 6 m underground, in 1882. Today, this place filled with the spirit of wine is an intriguing museum of local wine-production. During the special tastings here enologists reveal the secrets and tastes of more than 150 selected wine labels, and the inimitable atmosphere of the cellar with its walls covered with noble rot makes it an excellent choice for stylish events.
Winery AD Asenovgrad: The spirit of Bulgarian wine
Mavrud is one of Bulgaria's most intriguing local grape varieties and there is hardly wines made from it which are better than the ones of Winery AD Asenovgrad (www.mavrud.com). The winery has long traditions in wine production and in 2000 it created an experimental cellar for production of high-quality red wines from local varieties Mavrud and Rubin from locally grown vines. The result is stunning. Winery AD Asenovgrad brought new life in the traditional Mavrud and made it one of the stars in its special Series A wines. Along with Mavrud, these selected wines are made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and there is a rosé as well. Series A has already won some prestigious awards, like two golden medals from the 2014 Salon Du Vin. For even more intriguing labels, try the collection wines of Winery AD Asenovgrad.
Sangiovese Cortona: A gulp of Toscanian sun
The easiest way to revive the warmth of the summer past in the long winter nights is a bottle of fascinating and tempting wine Sangiovese Cortona, imported in Bulgaria by the exclusive distributor Dionigi Wine (www.dionigiwine.com). This Toscanian wine has matured in French oak barrels and is distinguished by its intense ruby colour with elegant granite shades. Its aroma is dominated by blackberries and cherries, and the feel on the palate is one of warmth and surrounding. The aftertaste of Sangiovese Cortona is long, and unforgettable, just as is memorable Italy, the motherland of this wine.
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 (www.casavino.bg). 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.
Spiritus Sanctus: Tradition and innovation
The marriage of Bulgaria's millennia-old history in winemaking and the modern tastes and technologies in production is not easy – but Spiritus Sanctus wines (phone: 0888 003 018, www.spiritussanctus.bg) do it brilliantly. Their vineyards of a wide range of varieties are located in the Thracian Plain, in Susam Village by the Mineral Baths of Haskovo. Of them are produced charming and memorable wines with intensive aromas and wonderful tastes. The Spiritus Sanctus label is the winner of dozens of Bulgarian awards, and of golden and silver medals from prestigious international competitions like Mundus Vini and Balkans International Wine Competition. Some of the most distinctive wines from the rich range of vintages are the Muscat Giallo, Viognier, Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and the blended Sensus and Sensus 2. The easier way to discover their magical taste in its complete variety is to visit the brand's shop in Plovdiv, 22 Sveta Petka St.