History and structure
Bulgarian wine today
Vines and vineyards
Wine Regions
Quality Levels

Whatever the uncertainty of the early after Communism, the basics are unlikely to change. Roughly half of Bulgaria's wine is red and half white, and it is made is made in over 130 "agro-industrial complexes" that grow a large number of other crops besides grapes.

Vines cover about 4% of the country. Three-quarters of vine-yards are planted with non-native varieties; and of red grapes, a massive 75% are either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. The Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. The Cabernet Sauvignon in fact is king, followed by Merlot and Pamid, and then Gamza, Mavrud, Melnik, Pinot Noir and Gamay, among the red grapes; of the whites, the most planted variety is the Rkatsiteli.

Each winery uses a wide variety of grapes, and while there are regional leanings - to red wines in the south, and whites in the east - nowhere is there the sort of specialization found in western European countries, with grapes varities selected to match local conditions. Greater specialization would be to the advantage of quality. It would have to be instigated by the wineries themselves, which are the driving force of the industry in the aftermath of Communism.

It would be a shame, however, if market forces were to dictate that every winery should concentrate on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to the exclusion of native varieties. Mavrud, for example, has great quality potential. It is grown in the central southern region, with 100 ha (247 acres) around Assenovgrad, where most of it is found. It has small berries and low yields and is difficult to cultivate, but when it ripens properly (which is late in the year) it gives dense, tannic and long-lasting wine that can be compared to that from the Mourvedre of southern France.

Melnik is another indigenous red variety. It comes from around the town of the same name in the south western region, near the border with Greece. The local wineries don't do as much with it as they could, and both vineyard care and vinification could be better.

Gamza is widely grown - possibly because it has large berries and will suck up water to give large yields, if it is allowed to. In these instances it makes pallid, thin wine that oxidizes quickly; it needs lower yields to produce its best wines with depth and the ability to age.

Of the native white varieties, neither Dimiat nor Misket (a crossing of Dimiat and Riesling) offer great quality, though they can be attractive when properly made. Rkatsiteli is not strictly speaking a native grape, since it is found in other countries bordering the Black Sea, and may have been imported from Georgia. It is rather neutral in flavour, though could have potential if it is well made.

Not all Bulgarian wineries are equipped to get the best out of any grape, native or imported. The top ones have rank upon rank of stainless steel fermentation tanks, perhaps with barriques for ageing some of the reds and the best Chardonnay; others may lack the basic equipment to control fermentation temperatures and the malolactic fermentation. Where the latter is the case, red wines are more likely to survive in drinkable shape than whites. It is therefore increasingly important for wine drinkers to differentiate between one winery and another, just as one would in any other serious wine region.

Labels will need to be studied with more care: it is no longer enough to ask for just "Bulgarian
Cabernet". Some of the best wineries are listed over the page.

Wine regions of the world.

History of wine
Choosing Wine
Keeping Wine
Serving Wine
Tasting Wine
Wine and Food
Making of Wine
Maturing Wine
Wine Terminology
Creating A Cellar
Facts And Fallacies
Wine Glossary
Reading Wine Label
Wine sellers register now
Log in to your inventory
Search Wine
Our Services