Bulgaria was the world’s fourth-largest wine exporter in the 1980s, and most of the production was in bulk and destinated to the USSR, but the industry starts to decline when During 1985–87, Mikhail Gorbachev carried out an anti-alcohol campaign with partial prohibition, colloquially known as the “dry law”. Prices of vodka, wine, and beer were raised, and their sales were restricted in amount and time of day.
That and the later fall of the USSR made that in Bulgaria the land planted with grape was reduced dramatically, but during the last years, wine production is growing again with new grapes been planted and increase in the quality standards.
Dionysus is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, and wine, of fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre.
The Thracian god of wine, Zagreus, who is the prototype of the worshiped by the ancient Greeks Dionysus, as well as the Roman Bacchus.
It is thought that a famous Temple of Dionysius was located at Perperikon.
The ancient Thracian city of Perperikon is located in the Eastern Rhodopes, 15 km northeast of the present-day town of Kardzhali, Bulgaria, on a 470 m high rocky hill, which is thought to have been a sacred place.
Bulgarian Wines in History
In its 25-century history, the town of Pomorie (which until 1934 was named Anhialo) has a tradition in wine-making since the first millennium BC, with Anhialo included in the so-called. Pontic wine-growing region.
Legends say that wines from Pomorie were served at the royal tables of ancient Troy, and in the Middle Ages enjoyed the connoisseurs of wine from Genoa and Venice. It is believed that the varieties grown here from time immemorial Dimyat and Red Misket are of local origin.
Modern Winery in Bulgaria
After the liberation of Bulgaria, Pleven was the first center of the wine industry. In 1890. the first and only professional vineyard school was opened here. In 1903, the first modern cellar was established here, and a year earlier the fifth national institute of viticulture and winemaking was established.
As you can see the wine tradition in Bulgaria is very strong, even there is a day to celebrate wine and winemakers, before was celebrated on February 14th, but now is celebrated on the 1st of February (in the new calendar as Bulgarians say), this doesn’t mean that some people do celebrate twice!
St. Trifon’s day celebrations
Traditionally, is a day dedicated to the first labor of the year needed when taking care of the vineyards – the cutting of the unnecessary branches at the beginning of February. The ritual often includes a Christian priest who blesses the vineyards, as Saint Trifon is considered a guardian of the vineyards and of wine-makers. A great feast is held after the end of the ritual.
Bulgaria cultivates many different varieties of grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and many other traditional grapes, but today we will focus on the ones that are considered exclusive Bulgarians.
Red wines dominate Bulgaria. What will surprise you is the high number of recognizable wine varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.
These international varieties were actually mass planted during the socialist regime and now makeup about 70% of the plantings.
Fortunately, several local varieties are being reintroduced by passionate producers who recall a historic period after World War I when independent wineries championed the country’s native grapes.
It is grown mainly in southern Bulgaria, in the region of Pazardzhik, Asenovgrad, Plovdiv, in the hills of the Rhodopes. Wines of this variety allow and develop perfectly when aged in oak barrels. They have a deep, thick, dark color, juicy aroma with the presence of black wild fruits – mainly blackberries and blackberries.
The word “Mavrud” comes from the Greek word for “black” which symbolizes the wine’s deep, dark color. The wine produced from it has saturated ruby-purple color with an excellent taste and pronounced density. Mavrud grapes are typically small in size, low in yield and ripen late – the harvest is in late October.
The legend says
At the time when Khan Krum was uprooting all the vineyards in the Bulgarian lands, a poor widow secretly kept a grape plant in her yard, with the fruits of which their fermented juice fed her infant son Mavrud.
He grew so brave and strong that no one could compete with him. He soon joined the Khan’s army and, thanks to his courage, became one of the first Krumov commanders.
In one of the battles against the Byzantines, the boy turned the Byzantine emperor entire army on the run and almost captured even the emperor himself.
Then the khan called him and asked what magic drink he had, that there was no fear. The boy pulled out his fermented grape juice, which he never parted with. The khan was so amazed that he ordered the vineyards of Mavrud’s mother to be replanted immediately, and from that day the grape bears the name of the hero.
is a local red variety that grows in the southwestern and warmest corner of Bulgaria, near the Struma River. The wines from this variety are excellent, with the aroma of ripe cherry and herbs and when poured in oak containers it develops nuances of tobacco and leather. The taste of the new wine is crisp, with pronounced tannins. With maturation, the taste softens but remains spicy traces in the end.
The production of wine from this typical local Melnik variety was considered a privilege for the aristocrats’ meals as early as the early Middle Ages
The first Dubrovnik merchants to deliver the Melnik wine to the European aristocracy. In return, their caravans carry a variety of European goods in Melnik – fabrics, jewelry, home furnishings.
Even during the Ottoman Empire, although the Koran forbade Muslims from drinking, Melnik wine continued to be in high demand, both among Christian subjects and outside the empire.
Attempts have been made to relocate the local vine elsewhere, but have failed. One of the secrets of the much sought after the wine is the extremely favorable climatic conditions of the region. It is enclosed by high mountains everywhere, with many sunny days and sandy soils that do not retain moisture.
The masters also kept the secret of the wine. The grapes were harvested early in the morning and even at night until it was overheated and were quickly transported by special baskets to the cellars carved in the local rocky cliff. Each house had cellar tunnels, in them, the wine matured sometimes for decades, with each subsequent harvest added to the previous one, thus creating unique blends.
According to a very popular story, Melnik wine was Winston Churchill’s favorite and the story claims that he ordered 500 liters (132 gallons) of this wine delivered to him annually.
It is an indigenous Bulgarian red grape variety. It was created in the 1940’s in the Institute of Wine and Vine in the city of Pleven, Bulgaria by crossing the French clone Syrah and the indigenous Italian Nebbiolo. These wines are deep in color and the taste is full-bodied, with a soft finish. The aroma is intense, fruity, with a predominance of ripe blackberries and in contact with oak, it develops sweet shades. It ripens in mid-September
is a red grape variety that is characteristic for Bulgarian territories in close proximity to the Danube River. This variety ripens later and is used for the production of red dessert and table wines with bright raspberry transparent color and fruity aroma of raspberry. The taste is fresh, with a light structure. Gamza is usually consumed in the first growth. The main features of Gamza are a large yet compact cluster of small, almost spherical grapes, dark blue to black in color.
It has been cultivated since ancient times in the northwestern part of the country – Suhindol, Pleven, Vidin. Evidence of this is the remains of ancient wine vessels, stone presses for grape picking, and votive tiles depicting Dionysius.
It is advisable to drink young because they can not age in barrels. In Hungary and Romania, this variety is grown under the name Kadarka.
In Bulgaria, the variety is considered to be named after the youngest sister of The legend of Vida, Kula, and Gamza.
According to legend, there once lived a strong Bulgarian boyar who owned all the land from the Carpathians to the Balkan Mountains. He had everything – numerous flocks filled with wheat barns overflowing with honey hives, but his greatest pride was the ruinous red wine made from his own vineyards. It carried its glory even beyond the limits of boyar’s possessions.
The secrecy of his production was strictly guarded, and anyone who dared to even carry a vine out of the boyars’ property was punished with death.
When his hour came, he gathered his three daughters, Vida, Kula, and Gamza, and swore to them to be together always and to preserve his lands and his wine-making traditions.
However, his daughters did not keep the covenant and parted ways, gradually losing their lands in the battle with the Ottomans. Only the names of the capitals of the divided boyar territories remained – Vidin, Kula, and Gamzigrad (in neighboring Serbia).
The local variety, the Gamza variety, has been preserved from generation to generation.
Is one of the oldest varieties that grow on Bulgarian land making it an antique Bulgarian red wine classic. The wine has a bright red color. The taste is fresh with fruity notes, elegant density, and a soft finish. Pamid wines are usually consumed young due to their low content of phenolic substances. The bunch is medium-sized and the grape is small and juicy. It has excellent fertility, and its vintage is around the middle of September.
The Black Sea region is where 30% of all vines are located. The region is characterized by long and mild autumns that are a favorable condition for the accumulation of sugars to make fine white wine (53% of all white wine varietals are concentrated in the region). Wine styles include Dimyat, Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Ugni blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Traminer, and Gewürztraminer.
It is an old Bulgarian variety, widespread in the sub-Balkan region, is grown mainly on hilly terrain in the Rose Valley. It is believed that the variety was created by crossing Riesling and Dimyat. The aroma of the wines produced is pleasant, with fresh herbal nuances, quince and honey. Its grapes are great for consumption and fresh.
This vine is considered white but has an interesting color with pink shades. The grapes are small and have pinkish-red to violet color. The wine made from Red Misket is typically dry. It is straw-yellow in color and often has some green nuance.
Dimyat is an old local Bulgarian wine variety, which is also grown in Serbia, Macedonia, Romania, Greece, Turkey, and Russia. In Bulgaria, it is spread along the Black Sea coast, as well as in the regions of Shoumen, Stara Zagora, and Euxinograd.
Is a white grape used to make aromatic dry white wines and brandy. It develops a fruity aroma with accents of ripe peach. The taste is mild, with a pleasant freshness. Dimyat has been grown for centuries in the east of the country near the Black Sea but is also grown in other parts of the country. Dimyat wines are usually not aged. They taste sweet, with a strong aroma and a light body and are suitable as everyday dessert wines.
We hope you enjoy this article, learned something new about the Bulgarian wines, and that at your next cheers you will do it with one of the traditional Bulgarian wine varieties!