Bulgarian Wines: The Abridged Version

While we were in Bulgaria, we didn’t have sufficient time to schedule tastings for Bulgarian wine in multiple vineyards, so we did the next best thing. We stopped for a tasting at Coupage, a gourmet shop in Sofia that specializes in Bulgarian wines and specialty foods (especially cheese and charcuterie, but also nuts, jams, honeys, syrups and so forth).

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Alex, the proprietor, traced out and explained the country’s wine regions and provided tastings of what he and independent rating services considered to be among the best of Bulgarian wines. He began by explaining the history of Bulgarian wines, from what he felt were some decent wines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, through the disaster of the Soviet years, when producers were rewarded for producing high volumes of cheap wines and most competent winemakers made wine only for their own family and friends. As the Soviet era drew to an end, more winemakers began to reestablish small brands and after Bulgaria joined the European Union, foreign winemakers (from France, Germany, Italy nd Switzerland) began to enter Bulgaria and young, aspiring winemakers began studying and apprenticing abroad.

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He then guided us through a map of the country, pointing out the different wine regions in each areas of the country, the type of grapes on which they focused and from which each produced the best wines.

  • The northern part of the country is producing wines in both the northeast (especially whites from chardonnay, traminer, muscat and dimiat) and in the northwest (primarily reds from the gamza grape). The country’s Black Sea (southeast) coast is producing a number of different whites and the Sakar Valley, further inland in the southeast, is turning out some nice reds, especially from magrut and syrah).
  • The southwestern part of the country, such as in the Melnik region’s Struma Valley, produces whites from a muscat clone and a number of local reds.
  • Overall, he is most impressed with some of the wines from the Thracian Valley, in the south-central part of the country. We tasted a few wines from this region from red grapes including cab, merlot, Malbec and magrut, and whites from chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.

We began out tasting three whites:

  • 2017 muscat-based Melvino from Struma (light, aromatic and refreshing) two,
  • 2016 Sakar Valley, oaked chardonnays from Marble Land; and
  • 2016 Saker Valley from Villa Ystina’s Monogram which we found more interesting.

From there it was on to four quite credible reds: the least interesting (to our tastes) were a deeply-colored by harsh 2014 Marvud from Merol Vineyard and the 2013 Grande Cuvee (a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petite verdot) from Domaine Bessa Valley. The two reds that we found most interesting were both from the Thracian Valley:

  • 2011 Dragomir Pitos, a blend of rubin (which is a local hybrid of syrah and nebbiolo), merlot and cab sauv; and
  • 2013 blend of magrud and rubin from the same Villa Ystina winery, and the same Monogram label as the chardonnay that we enjoyed early in the tasting.

A very high-level introduction to Bulgarian wines; a discovery of a couple of young, but very promising vintners; and an appreciation for two Bulgarian varietals (rubin and magrud), all courtesy of Alex from Coupage.

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