The country may boast really long traditions in wine production, which is, perhaps, too easily forgotten by those who associate Bulgaria with the cheap wines that were flooding our market in 1970s and 1980s. However, the new times changed a lot – the number of modern investments increased, the wine market was perceived in a different manner. One could afford acting on a grand scale since Bulgaria has got great climatic conditions allowing for production of any kind of wine. Afterall, in Bulgaria wine is produced almost in every part of the country.
.In the ancient times – ancestors of Bulgarians – Thracians were successfully producing and selling wine. When Bulgaria came into being as a country in 681, as one may easily figure out, wine production was already well established on this land. In the 9th century Bulgaria adopted Christianity – the sacral context of wine also influenced its popularization in this country. Everything was going well until the 14th century when the Ottoman Empire took over the power for 500 years (from 1396 to 1878) and the situation about wine was rather poor. However, the empire turned a blind eye for production of abbey wines – this way monks again had their contribution in maintaining the wine culture in Europe. Regaining independence by Bulgaria coincided with a disastrous moment in wine industry – a tremendous plague of philoxera in the European vineyards.
The period after the World War II is the time of market monopolization, huge conglomerates and mass production of wine. This was the moment when the Bulgarian wines seriously damaged their reputation. However, the new times changed a lot – the number of modern investments increased, the wine market was perceived in a different manner. One could afford acting on a grand scale since Bulgaria has got great climatic conditions allowing for production of any kind of wine. Afterall, in Bulgaria wine is produced almost in every part of the country. We can distinguish five large wine regions: Danubian Plain (in the north), the area along Danube and the border with Romania. Thracian Valley (in the south) which is divided into eastern and western part, also central strip is distinguished, this is so-called Rose Valley. Moreover, the eastern region, the Black Sea Region and Damianitza Region (Struma River Valley) – that’s the area in the south-western part of the country.
Today, there are about 135 thousand hectares and several dozens of grapevine varieties in Bulgaria. Production of red wines prevails (over 60%). In the 1960s, many French popular varieties were brought to Bulgaria. Thus, cabernet sauvignon , merlot, syrah, chardonnay, riesling, aligoté, muscat are cultivated. Also, gamza (that is Hungarian kadarka) is grown, a sophisticated variety, but requiring control and crop reduction – only then it gives high quality wines. The local varieties are red pamid, considered one of the oldest Bulgarian varieties, giving quite light wines of low acidity, rather not complicated, for every day. Apart from that, there is: melnik, rubin, dimiat, misket. We can also find various hybrids, quite appreciated by Bulgarians, such as ruen (cabernet sauvignon × melnik), storgozia (local buket x villard blanc), bouquet (pinot noir x mavrud).
A sophisticated variety is the red mavrud. This is an old, local variety, probably originating in Thrace. It gives spirited wines, saturated with colour, aromas, tannins, full of spice tastes and appropriate acidity. Today, most of its crops grow around the city of Plovdiv.
There is no doubt that Bulgaria has begun a new chapter of its enological life. Surely, this is the time when the wine identity of this country is being shaped. Wine remains a strong economic and cultural element of this country. Thus, Bulgarian wines are worth observing and drinking. They may really surprise you.