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Delhi Wine Club
Bulgarian Wines and the Evening Impress Delhi

Posted: Friday, 15 February 2013 14:53

Bulgarian Wines and the Evening Impress Delhi

Feb 15: Bulgarian wines may not be in the Indian market yet but if the reaction of the Indian palates at the Bulgarian Wine Evening in New Delhi on Wednesday are an indication, they were quite impressed by the Evening and the host of wines that wowed them, writes Subhash Arora, President of Indian Wine Academy which helped the Embassy organise the event including a Seminar on Bulgarian wines he conducted for the first time ever in India.

Click For Large ViewTaste of wine may depend on the accompanying food and the company but also the ambience. If you consider the atmosphere of the majestic edifice that is the Bulgarian Embassy, opening into the equally enchanting, well-manicured lawns with mandarin plants and a few interspersed palm trees decorated with small yellow lights, the evening was primed to be successful. The round and tall tasting tables covered with black table cloths and 6 large tables laid to make a semi-circular boundary on the lawns was a beautiful sight as over 170 invitees walked in. Initially a trickle, it became a steady stream and less than 15 minutes past the scheduled time of 7 pm, a full house was present; the evening was planned for 150 people invited by the Embassy and the Indian Wine Academy.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewStefan Ionkov, the Commercial Counsellor who looked hassled during the earlier part of the evening, looked visibly pleased and relaxed as the invitees started walking in. This was the culmination of efforts for the last 3 months during which he did a lot more than roping in the Indian Wine Academy (IWA) for the maiden attempt by his department to promote Bulgarian wines at such a magnanimous scale, when a vast majority of wine drinkers in Delhi perhaps do not even know if Bulgaria makes wine. He had not only sealed the deal of getting IWA to collaborate with the Embassy on an honorary basis but also managed to tie up with 6 wineries with 25-30 labels air-shipped to reach in time- the last of the bottles had finally arrived earlier in the morning.

Click For Large ViewGuests were welcomed not with a sparkling wine or any wine (it was a conscious joint decision to hold the tasting till the Seminar was over, hopefully inspiring people to taste several wines) but were served the Bulgarian lassi-Iced cucumber soup, which was delicious. A few cold snacks with cheeses and marinated olives were adequate for the invitees to stand through the Seminar conducted by Subhash Arora who admitted that the seminar was based on 2-3 months of studying, research and some tasting as he had never been to Bulgaria. That he was showered with compliments after the Seminar even from the Bulgarians, was an indication of how much he had been inspired by this small nation of 7.4 million people with an annual tourist inflow of 7 million! Wine tourism alone was a part of the traffic which was 50% higher than that of India - a country over 16 times the size in terms of population.

The 6000-year history of ancient Bulgaria, is fascinating, especially for historians and the history-minded wine lovers. But it is the last 100 years that define the modern winemaking in Bulgaria, most of which has been based on co-operatives and later the communist regime which nationalized the wine and spirit industry, bringing it under one state-owned organisation called Vinprom in 1949.

Although individual red grapes like Gamza, Melnik, Mavrud, Rubin and white varietals like Dimiat, Rkatsiteli and Misket have been thriving for centuries, the emphasis placed on the international reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Malbec has been increasing since the 1960s. Similarly, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Misket Ottonel and Viognier have been increasingly popular; even the Austrian Grüner Veltliner has been introduced by a young winery, Alindra, in the Danube Valley making their mark in the international markets. The exports are primarily to UK, Germany and Russia.  In fact, 90% of wines are exported mainly to these countries. About 5.5 million 9-liter cases are exported yearly.

Bulgaria had suffered as did Russia with the anti-alcohol campaign by Mikhail Gorbachev resulting in uprooting a majority of wines in Bulgaria in the name of removing the inferior grape producing vine. The Bulgarian industry went through another crisis as the country became free and announced de-nationalisation of wines and spirits, and returning of the plots to the erstwhile owners from whom they were snatched decades ago.

Click For Large ViewHowever, with the process being complete by 1999-2000, fresh investments started pouring in from UK, France, Italy, Germany and such countries. Eduardo Miroglio of Italy has already invested € 22 million during the last ten years for its ultra modern winery!

The investment in modern technology and equipment resulted in the overhaul  of the industry with various new wineries added during the last decade. Vinprom was divested by the government and became a private entity in the early 1990s. Some of the wines from its 1500 hA estate, Vinprom Peshtera, were uncorked after the seminar when the hot snacks were also brought out.

Grapes are grown almost in the whole of Bulgaria - about two thirds of them being red. With a continental climate, despite the beautiful 394 km long Black Sea beach on the East, temperatures run as high as 40°C in summer and as low as -20°C in the winter, and the quality of the fruit can be quite flavourful. Five wine making regions have been demarcated with areas around Sofia, near the Sub Balkan mountains and a small part in the south west where no grapes are grown.

Click For Large ViewThe rest of the country is broken up into 5 distinctive regions - North (Danube Plains), South (Tracian lowlands), East (Black Sea), Southwest (Strouma Valley) and Sub Balkan Ranges (Rose Valley) in the central part. Incidentally, Rose is one of the special crops of Bulgaria, which helps make a very expensive perfume concentrate. A small vial of this ‘Bulgarian Gold’ was gifted to the guests as they registered.

Walk-around Tasting

Walk-around tasting began in a relatively hassle-free atmosphere as the seminar ended. Sometimes there were too many labels to negotiate through on the same table so a bit of strategy had to be formulated before the attack, while other times one had to cut through what looked like multi-layered lines to collect some wine or food. But the discipline among the guests to maintain the queue was commendable.

There were seemingly uncountable labels of wines from the 6 wineries - Katarzyna, Bessa Valley, Vinolla, Vinprom Peshtera, Alindra and Eduardo Miroglio. Besides the white, Rose and reds there were also a few bottles of sparkling wine, each impressing the guests in their own style. Most of the guests were seen animatedly arguing for or against their favorite wines - a very healthy sign. Whereas a medal should have been awarded to those who could finish tasting all the labels, there were divided opinions on the impressions various wines left - a few labels didn’t  drink well while a few were striking and outstanding - capable of winning against the current established brands, provided the prices are reasonable; it did appear that some of them are priced very reasonably.

To keep the evening fun, IWA had recommended a lucky draw which was like icing on the cake, with 5-6 guests walking out with wine bottles as well as other gifts selected by the Embassy.

Click For Large ViewThe event has proved to be a good start for the Bulgarians to make an entry into the tough Indian market, once proper importers come forward as partners. The groundwork has been laid, the response has been very good for the wines. If they keep on pushing with the same zeal, and also continue with similar events, the time is not far when they will find a niche market in India.

As of today, the hardworking and dynamic Commercial Counsellor Stefan Ionkov is already planning the next soiree. Let us hope there will be a similar event coming soon, to give another opportunity to those producers, importers and other professionals who could not participate in the first-ever Bulgarian wine evening. With the active support of his Ambassador, H.E. Borislav Kostov who was quite optimistic in his inaugurating speech about the scope of import for Bulgarian wines and tourism, his job has become easier.

They will also need help and co-ordination with airlines like Austrian, which flies from Vienna directly to the capital city Sofia and the Black Sea Beach city, Varna, for more wine tourism from India and to help the wine sales more in India.

For the video presentation of the evening, please watch the 6-part video on Youtube:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:

Subhash Arora

Menu            Wines            Media

Tags: Gamza, Melnik, Mavrud, Rubin, Dimiat, Rkatsiteli, Misket, Eduardo Miroglio, Vinprom, Katarzyna, Bessa Valley, Vinolla, Alindra



Rifaquat Ali Khan Mirza Says:

Fab evening...interesting format too..and like a lot of us that evening now we know that there's more to Bulgaria than just sking and gorgeous women.

Posted @ February 19, 2013 10:35


Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks, Santosh. Glad you liked the wines. I agree with you-some were excellent. I think they are priced well too!

Posted @ February 15, 2013 17:40


Santosh Jindal Says:

Subhashji well organised and well coordinated event. Some of the wines were really great.

Posted @ February 15, 2013 16:35


Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks Sourish. I loved preparing for the seminar and delivering the talk.

Posted @ February 15, 2013 16:10


Sourish Bhattacharyya Says:

Subhashji opened up a new world for wine lovers in Delhi. His talk on Bulgarian wines most informative.

Posted @ February 15, 2013 15:20


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