What to expect with the Wine in Bulgaria
Bulgaria Wine – information and advice on Bulgarian red and white wines, vintage, grapes and the producing regions, varietals and varieties and much more.
Bulgaria has been the most successful of all Eastern European countries. Hence, most travelers learn about the great potential for winemaking in this country and have the opportunity to taste the generous Bulgarian wines. What is the secret to the Bulgarian’s success with wine? Is it due to the new techniques introduced in the twentieth century? Is it the result of the processes invented by medial monks, who kept their vats in underground cellars? According to R. Joseph, the editor of Wine magazine, Bulgaria is gaining an excellent reputation in its own right as a producer of high-quality affordable wines, and the key mostly lies on the country’s climate conditions.
Bulgaria is the second-largest exporter of bottled wine in the world, only topped by France. Extended areas are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, from California, which helps keep the annual average production of wine by this newcomer to the world wine market. Bulgarian wine production ranges between 200-220 million liters depending on the crop. Traditional classic technologies are applied, as well as refined, and modern ones borrowed from the leading wine-producing countries like France or the USA.
The success of Bulgarian wines dates from the 1970s, thanks to the assistance of the famous wine department at the University of Davis California. They succeeded in their intentions of promoting Bulgarian wines as a “global” quality product.
In the 1980s Bulgarian experts imported some techniques from USA and Australia, which laid the foundations for the production in Bulgaria of wines that could meet the high-quality standards of the internationally well-known wines. These new techniques, combined with the great natural potential along with centuries of old tradition and experience led Bulgarian wines to world success. The company Vinprom operated the wine industry until 1990 when it was a state-owned industry, and its subsidiary, Vinimpex was in charge of wine exports. All this allowed for gaining popularity among consumers in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and even as far as China and Japan.
After the fall of the totalitarian regime in 1990, a process of privatization of companies started, as well as a plan of land restitution, which contributed to success little by little in the beginning, although the wine industry in Bulgaria is now gaining speed especially after the Union of Democratic Forces came into power in October 1996.
Varietals and Varieties
Most wine lovers could recognize the accent of the French and German grape varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnay), though well accompanied by the Bulgarian indigenous grapes (Gamza, Mavrud, and Melnik, and the white Misket and Dimiat), along with a white grape – originally from Rkatsiteli Georgia, in the Eastern area of Bulgaria, which is also a good common alternative. Their main characteristics of these grapes are:
- Gamza – Gamza is a wide variety that produces light-bodied reds with earthy tones. They are also known as Kadarka in Romania and Hungary.
- Mavrud -“ Mavrud produces a full-bodied red that needs to age for upwards of eight years.
- Melnik – Grown in the southern areas of Bulgaria, Melniks create strong red wines that age well.
- Pamid – Pamid grapes produce rustic wines that are suitable for everyday drinking.
Bulgarian wines are organized into three categories, as the result of the implementation of wine laws introduced in 1978:
- High-Quality Wines are not specific to any region. They are always sold under a specific brand name and are considered the most important wines in all of Bulgaria. High-Quality Wines are given their own classification system.
- Special Wines consist of sparkling wines and fruit-flavored wines.
- Standard Wines are generic light wines that are great for daily consumption.
High Quality Wine Classifications:
- Controliran is rated higher than DGO wines. They are comparative to French wines. On a bottled classified as Controliran, the bottle must be stamped with the grape variety and region and the word Controliran is also added. The wine must also pass approval by a strict panel of wine experts.
- Country Wines are any High-Quality Wines that contain a blend of grapes and are meant to be enjoyed while the wine is young
- DGO (Declared Geographical Origin) states the area from which wine has been produced. On the bottle’s label, a vineyard name or town name must be listed if the wine is classified as High-Quality DGO.
- Reserve wines are wines that have aged in oak barrels. Reserve wines can be either Controliran or DGO wines. They must have been aged for at least thirty-six months for red wines and twenty-four months for reds.
An Ideal Climate
In the northern area of Bulgaria, cooler winters and warmer summers prevail. However, the weather gets milder to the south thanks to the influence of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The local hilly lands have the ideal microclimate, and their good quality soils add what is necessary to produce highly suitable weather conditions for growing superior grapes.
Those conditions have been profited by the experts from the several Bulgarian well-developed winemaking institutes, most are found in Plovdiv the second largest city in Bulgaria. The best wines in Bulgaria are the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties. They can be very reminiscent of the greatest French wines. This is due to the fine quality of the grapes and then winemaking procedures handing down from generation to generation. Winemaking dates back to the Thracians.
There are vineyards in most areas in Bulgaria. The capital city of Sofia is the only exception. For administrative and geographical reasons, the vineyards are grouped into five regions. Each region has its own distinct features and peculiarities that make it somewhat different from the rest.
- Central: The mountainous areas of Bulgaria are fertile enough to grow grapes specific to red wines. Bulgaria’s Cabernets and Merlots are prominent in this area.
- Eastern: The Eastern region produces many of Bulgaria’s white wines. The temperate climate around the Black Sea allows for specific varieties of grapes to thrive. Wines like Khan Krum and Varna are specialties of the area.
- Northern: In the northern regions of Bulgaria, the grapes produce fantastic red wines like Russe, Suhindol, and Svishtov.
- Southern: The southernmost regions of Bulgaria produce grapes that are used in reds like Assenovgrad or Plodiv.
- Southwestern: Southwestern Bulgaria’s Mediterranean climate allows for some of the best reds. Melnik is the area’s most popular brand.