Bulgaria has all it takes to produce great wines: rare indigenous grapes, unique terroirs and a seriously long winemaking history. However, after decades of socialist regime the country became widely associated with cheap supermarket wines. The situation has been rapidly changing in the last years. Today Bulgarian wine offers not only great value, but also an exceptional quality.
Bulgarian winemaking history is older than the country itself. The first Bulgarian Empire was founded in 681 AD, whereas wine has been made here for more than 3 millennia. Once upon a time, wines from this land were praised by ancient poets and drunk in the city of Troy. However, in the 20th century, Bulgaria saw a massive fall from grace with indigenous grapes becoming almost extinct and cheap mass-market wine flourishing under the communist era. Fortunately, in the last two decades, the country has been reinventing itself as a winemaking nation. This process is exciting to watch and even more exciting to sip through. More and more wineries work with indigenous grapes and aim to express the unique local terroirs. As a result, the quality of wines has been booming while their value is still hard to beat. Discover fine Bulgarian wine in the UK.Browse Bulgarian wines
Thracians: Europe’s First Wine Growers?
Bulgaria’s history of winemaking dates back around 3,000 years, when this land was populated by the Thracians. The Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes who lived from around 1,000 BC – to 6th Century AD on a wide territory stretching from the Carpathian Mountains to the Aegean Sea. According to historical documents, the Thracians were great warriors, skilful craftsmen and passionate wine drinkers. In fact, Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar, even stated that the first European wine grower was a Thracian named Evmolp.
Some Greek writers claimed that the Thracians would share everything except for two things: their sword and their сup. Similarly, Homer depicted Thracians as brave and handsome mеn who fought оn chariots richly decorated with gold and silver, rode horses ‘as fleet as the blasts of the wind’, and who also made and drank fine wine in beautiful cups. In fact, Homer’s Iliad even mentions the ‘honey-sweet black wine. Moreover, this wine, according to Homer, the ships of the Achaeans brought daily from the Thracian city of Ismarus to their саmр outside Troy. Thus we know that Thracian wine was known and valued in the ancient world.
Panagyurishte Treasure: Bulgarian Wine Artefact
Indeed, Thracian artefacts related to wine, like amphorae, jugs and cups were discovered all over Bulgaria’s territory. For instance, the most famous of these discoveries is the Panagyurishte treasure – an astonishing set of dishes for drinking wine, made of solid gold. Three brothers, Pavel, Petko and Michail Deikov accidentally discovered the treasure on 8 December 1949. The brothers worked at a tile factory near the town of Panagyurishte, 90 km east of Sofia. They found the golden dishes while doing some digging.
Research showed that these gold vessels were part of a ceremonial drinking set which belonged to a Thracian king. The set dates back to the 4th – 3rd Century BC. Thus this amazing find once again confirmed the evidence left by the ancient Greek writers: Thracians loved their horses, their gold and their wine.
At present, there are three official replicas of the treasure. They are displayed at the National History Museum in Sofia, at the Archaeological Museum in Plovdiv and at the History Museum in Panagyurishte. The original set is normally kept in a bank vault, however you can still catch it in museums around the world.
Bulgarian Wine Under The Ottomans
Winemaking developed further when Thrace became a Roman province in the 1st Century AD. Later, as the country converted to Christianity in 864 AD, wine became an important part of religious traditions.
Even during the Ottoman rule in the 15-19th Centuries Bulgarian winemaking lived on. The Christian population was still allowed to produce and consume wine as this was seen as an essential part of the Christian traditions within the Empire.
Bulgarian Wine In The 20th Century
In the 20th Century, after the Second World War, the new communist government, established in 1947, nationalised wine production. Unfortunately, many plantings of the indigenous varieties were replaced by international grapes to increase yields and to satisfy growing demand for Bulgarian wine from abroad, particularly from the Soviet Union. On the other hand, heavy investment into new winery equipment was made. As a result, by the end of 1980 Bulgaria became the fourth biggest exporter of bottled wine worldwide.
It all changed with Michail Gorbachev’s arrival as Soviet premier. During 1985–87, Gorbachev carried out an anti-alcohol campaign in the Soviet Union. The campaign involved partial prohibition, known as the “dry law”. Thus, Bulgaria practically lost its major export market. Consequently, many vineyards were uprooted, abandoned or planted with other crops. That and the later fall of the USSR led to a dramatic reduction in Bulgaria’s vineyards area.
Bulgarian Wine In Modern Times
After the fall of the socialist regime in 1989, Bulgaria’s viticulture and wine production experienced great changes. On one hand, the industry was liberated from government monopoly which was a positive change. On the other hand, quite a few vineyards ended up in the hands of people who had no interest in winemaking. At the same time, many wine factories were privatised, causing dismissals of employees, as well as closures.
The rise from ashes started in the early 2000s when a few Bulgarian winemakers shifted their attention to indigenous varieties, as well as focusing more on quality of the wines. In the last decade, several foreign investors realised the potential of the local terroirs and managed to build modern wineries. Further on, small and medium well-equipped wineries appeared across the country. As a result, today Bulgaria is an exciting emerging wine destination. Our range of Bulgarian wine in the UK showcases rare local grape varieties and unique natural conditions of the country.
Bulgarian WINE REGIONS
Bulgaria lies in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. With the Black Sea at its eastern border and the Balkan mountains in the heart of the country, a number of sites here are perfect for grape growing. The summers are hot and sunny here. Therefore, Bulgaria has always been the land of red wines, big, powerful and plus. Nevertheless, some pleasant easy drinking whites also come from this part of the world.
Bulgaria is typically divided into five main wine regions with distinctive natural conditions and unique authentic styles of wines: Danube Plane, Thracian Lowlands, Black Sea Coast, Struma Valley and Rose Valley. We offer Bulgarian wine rom several key wine regions of the country.
There are around 200 different grape varieties cultivated in Bulgaria. International varieties, mass planted during the socialist regime, still make up about 70% of the vineyards. Fortunately, more and more passionate producers champion the country’s native grapes. We offer authentic Bulgarian wine in the UK with a strong focus on the indigenous grapes.
The pride of Bulgarian winemaking, Mavrud has been grown in Bulgaria since ancient times. It makes full-bodied powerful reds with an excellent ageing potential…read more
Melnik 55 (Early Melnik)
Signature grape of the Bulgarian Struma Valley, Melnik 55, also known as Early Melnik, makes juicy, medium-bodied reds with aromas of ripe berries, herbs and spices…read more
Gamza, also known as Kadarka, is an ancient grape variety and the main red grape of northern Bulgaria. It makes fresh juicy reds similar in style to New World Pinot Noir…read more
One of the most exciting Bulgarian grapes, Rubin makes refined reds with elegant aromas and a robust structure. For this reason, wine experts sometimes describe this grape as a man wearing a suit and cowboy boots…read more
Keratsuda is a white indigenous grape, originating from the banks of the Struma river, which runs through Bulgaria and Greece. This extremely rare grape makes light aromatic wines…read more