While Bulgaria has a long history of making bulk wine, recent investment and advances in the region have created an emerging region for quality wine.
Bulgarian wine in the 1950s was low-quality wine designed to provide the Soviet Union with everyday table wine. Gorbachev instituted an anti-alcohol initiative in the 1980s, which caused the wine industry in Bulgaria to be largely abandoned. After the fall of Soviet Union in the early 1990s, formerly state-owned wineries became privatized and a number were bought by investors from Western Europe. Investment brought modern equipment and modern winemaking techniques to produce better quality wine. The wine industry in Bulgaria now includes a large number of small, private producers who are growing their own grapes. While the vines are still relatively young, the wine shows promise.
Bulgaria has two primary wine regions: the Thracian Lowlands in the south, and the Danubian Plain, bordered by the Danube River, in the north. Many grapes are grown in the south, where the growing season is longer and warmer, so grapes can achieve a higher level of ripeness. Some cool-climate varieties, like Pinot Noir and some white varietals, are grown in the north, where they can ripen while maintaining a high level of acidity. The Valley of the Roses in the middle of the country is known for producing perfumed rosés.
Wines in Bulgaria are made from a combination of international varieties, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and indigenous varieties like Melnik and Mavrud. Both Melnik and Mavrud are bold, robust, tannic reds that are suitable for aging. Both can be found as single varietal wines and as part of blends with international varietals. As Bulgarian wines gain more international recognition, they will become increasingly available in retail stores and restaurants. Stop by the store this Saturday to try examples of wines from this exciting emerging region.