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Look Out for Bulgarian Wines

Posted: Monday, 04 February 2013 15:15

Feature: Look Out for Bulgarian Wines

Feb 04: Bulgarian wines may not be well known in India so far but a valiant attempt by their embassy to organise an evening in collaboration with the Indian Wine Academy with a seminar by President Subhash Arora, followed tasting of around 25 wines from 6 wineries-Edoardo Miroglio, Bessa Valley, Katarzyna, Peshtera, Vinolla and Two Friends, writes Subhash Arora

Click For Large ViewBulgaria is situated on the Black Sea and boasts some of the most beautiful shorelines that you will find anywhere. If Kerala is God’s country in India, Bulgarians too believe that God made the country in his spare time when unfortunately very limited land was left but he compensated by making it the most beautiful country in the whole of Europe. Surrounded by Romania in the North, Serbia and Macedonia in the East, Greece and Turkey in the South and the beautiful Black Sea on the east coast, this beautiful country is known as the Land of Roses but vineyards dote all directions of the country though the eastern half is planted much more densely. It makes a beautiful destination to visit; flights to the capital Sofia are convenient by Austrian Airways as well as Turkish Airlines and the prices of hotel stays etc are extremely reasonable, making it an attractive wine tourism destination as well.

Several years ago when I was in Bordeaux at an En Primeur event, I had the opportunity to visit Count Stephan von Neipperg, owner of several estates including the famous St. Emilion Gran Cru Classé Ch. Canon la Gaffelière. He was also tasting some very interesting international styled wines made in his new winery in Bulgaria. I didn’t remember the name but I enjoyed the wines made in Bordeaux style.

It was only recently, with my renewed interest in Bulgarian wines, that I discovered that the wines I had tasted were once of the early versions of wines from a winery known as Bessa Valley. It was also recently that I realised that Winston Churchill was very fond of Bulgarian wines and he used to order 300 cases of Bulgarian Wine annually for his own personal cellar.

After the war, Bulgaria became the eastern bloc ruled by the communist government which introduced a system of collective farming. New specialists were brought in from winemaking schools and international grape varieties were planted including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Riesling in addition to the native varietals like Gamza and Mavrud, sometimes compared with Mourvedre.

Russia was a huge market for Bulgarian wines. However, in the eighties when Gorbachev was the Head of State of Russia, he had launched an anti-alcohol crusade which resulted in thousands of acres of vineyards being uprooted not only in Russia but also in Bulgaria where the motivation was also to get rid of wines that were of cheap quality.

Wine Producing Regions
Bulgaria is geographically divided into 5 wine producing areas-each one with distinct features-Northern, Eastern, South, South-Western, and Sub-Balkan in the central part of the country.

Northern Region (Danubian Plain) spans between the Danube river on the northern border, criss-crossing from west to east and the Balkan mountain range. High quality wines are produced from a number of different grapes, red as well as white. The reds are made from the local Gamza as well as from the international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc are the most prominent whites.

Eastern Region (Black Sea) covers the territory along the Black Sea coast between the Northern border with Romania and the Southernmost point on the sea coast where Bulgaria shoulders Turkey. White wines which are slightly spicy in character are predominant in this region, including the indigenous Misket and Dimyat.

Sub Balkan Region (Rose Valley) contains the territories south of the Balkan range of mountains where nothing grows. These deep valleys produce unique micro climates with the mountains creating a barrier against the cold winds of the North, thus creating favourable conditions for several vines. The region is known for excellent dry white wines from different grapes, though it is known less for the red varietals.

Southern Region (Thracian Valley) includes the Tracian Valley from the Balkan Range to the Greek border and boasts almost Mediterranean climatic conditions particularly good for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Balkan mountains provide protection against the extreme cold and high winds from the North. The best Bulgarian variety grape, Mavrud, grows in the Tracian Valley. Reds coming from this region are superb.

South Western Region (Struma Valley) is relatively small and covers what is popularly known as Pirin Macedonia. The Struma Valley runs along it and brings strong Mediterranean influence in terms of climate. Fine Cabernets are produced there though it is known for an aromatic and powerful wine made from Shiroka Melnishka grapes, which ages very well.


Although the new investors from Europe and America have realised he potential of growing good quality of international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir in the red grapes and Chardonnay, Riesling and Muscat for white grapes, several interesting native varieties are also grown and used either in blends or sometime also as varietals.

Gamza is a late ripening variety and is used for making dessert wines and table wines. It makes light-bodied fresh and young wines, not amenable to oak.

Mavrud is a very old native variety that makes ruby purple colour wines with rich texture and excellent flavours with shades of ripe berries and spices with luscious aromas. It ages well when in contact with oak.

Rubin is a red variety made as a cross between Nebbiolo and another local grape, Sora. Deep colour wines are full-bodied with a soft and pleasant after-taste. Fruity aromas of blackberry are intense with jammy overtones in the flavour when in contact with wood.

Shiroka Melnishka is named after the town of Melnik and grows only in the Southwestern Region. Medium deep in colour, wines have ripe cherry and herbal aromas and the wine develops leather and tobacco character in touch with oak. Young wines can be tough and tannic but become softer on maturity and retain the spicy finish.

Pamid is one of the oldest varieties of Bulgaria, which makes fresh and young wines of light red colour and soft tannins with elegant body and soft finish. Like Gamza, it does not like oak very well and is often used as a blend.

Dimyat is a typical Bulgarian grape used for making dry white wines which are also quite aromatic. It develops fruity aromas reminiscent of white peach. It has mild and pleasant flavours.

Misket is an old Bulgarian local white variety highly resistant to cold. The colour of the grape is like Pinot Gris with a shade of pink that reflects in the Notes of the wine as well. It is a hybrid created with Riesling and Dimyat. The aromas are herbal with shades of honey and quince.   


Wine regulations were introduced in Bulgaria in 1972 to classify wines. The standard quality wines are termed as Vins de table and vins de pays. Wines with a geographical designation of origin DGO (Declared Geographic Origin) carry the name of the appellations, region, district and the town or village of production. The top-quality wines are marketed under controliran which is similar to the French AOC designation. Fortified wines are a separate category. The kolektzione quality designation refers to the presence of aging using wooden barrels.


Out of all the Eastern European countries, Bulgaria is known to be concentrating most on standardizing the quality of Bulgarian wines for the export market. Wineries are consistently re-investing the profits into modernisation. In-flight of capital from the foreign investors is also helping significantly in taking the Bulgarian industry forwards. There are continuous efforts to promote Bulgarian wines which have been winning numerous awards in reputable competitions like MundusVini; Germany is one of the lucrative markets for Bulgarian wines. It should be no surprise that some of these wines are carried by Lufthansa for the Business class travellers.

Click For Large ViewThe Commercial Section  of the Bulgarian Embassy is organising a Bulgarian evening on February 13 from 7-9 pm, in collaboration with the Indian Wine Academy committed to wine promotion for all types of wines. Besides a presentation by the Ambassador and a brief seminar by Subhash Arora, President of the Indian Wine Academy, around 25 labels will be available for tasting. Following wineries are participating:

Edoardo Miroglio

Bessa Valley

Vinprom Peshtera

Two Friends


Vinolla Wines

The seminar is expected to bring out the wine, gastronomical and travel excellence of Bulgaria and one hopes some of these reasonably priced good quality wines will be available soon in the country.

For earlier article visit Bulgarian Wines at a glance

Subhash Arora

Tags: En Primeur, Count Stephan von Neipperg, Bulgarian Wine, Gamza, Mavrud, Misket, Dimyat, Shiroka Melnishka, Sora, Pamid, controliran, kolektzione, MundusVini


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