In the 80’s Bulgaria was one of the top 5 producers of bottled wine in the world. Unfortunately, at that time quantity was higher than quality which formed a bad reputation for our country as producer of low quality table wines. Throughout those years Bulgaria produced and exported international varieties familiar to the worldwide consumer and planted for this in particular. Those are the reasons – mass production, low quality and international varieties, for new Bulgarian wine producers to face difficulties in coping with the reputation from the past.
However, in the last 15 years there are a lot of new wineries that manage to heal the wounds of the past. Local varieties are planted and small boutique wineries are created, relying mostly on the terroir and the quality of their wines.
Although Bulgarian climate is proven to be appropriate for international cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, also for white chardonnay and viognier, continuously planted with great success, producers revive traditions and are trying to maintain local varieties. International recognition for homegrown grapes is a sign that Bulgarian wine is on its right way. Some of the wineries produce only local wines, other – only international and there are some relying on best from both.
According to the official International vineyard and wine organization in Bulgaria there are 120 local wine varieties, but even enologists are aware of not more than 30. Which are they? The most popular of the traditional red Bulgarian wines are mavrud, rubin, Melnik vine and gamza and from white: dimyat, misket and kerzuca. There are a lot of hybrids with notable names like Orpheus, Aheloy, Thracian glory and Coccara that were very popular before, but nowadays are not produced commercially.
Mavrud may be the most recognizable Bulgarian assortment worldwide. Its name comes from Greek mávro (red) which is related to its saturate color and thick body. When grown in the proper conditions (regions around Plovdiv, Pazardjik, Asenovgrad) and picked when has reached full physiological maturity (which is sometimes in November), mavrud is aromatic and fruity with scents of wild raspberries and hip marmalade with high concentration of tannins. It is suitable for production of young wines as well as for long maturity.
Rubin is a local sort, mixture of two of the most interesting red wine varieties worldwide: syrah and nonobio. Created in the 40’s in a laboratory in Pleven, this is one of the most successful hybrid wines in Bulgaria and because of its elegant and complex style gains a lot of supporters. Its aroma is intense with main scents of ripe blueberries, blackberries and violets. Its peak is achieved after approximately 5 years of maturity.
Misket, also known as red misket because of its rose grapes, is an old local wine sort, spread in the country with different regional variations regarding its aromatic profile: misket from Varna, Vratsa, Sungurlare, Thracian region, Kaylaka, Karlovo. It is also known as Rommatia (Tarnovo), Turnova (Shumen), Blue violet (Vratsa). Wines of this type have straw-yellow color, harmonious taste and delicate musky aroma. Fragrances vary: from yellow apples through vanilla and rose, herbs and spices to citruses and tropical fruits. Blend of misket and dimyat or riesling is popular as euxinograd coupage or royal wine.
Dimyat is rather a sort of the Balkans, because it is also grown in Serbia (known as Smederevka), Macedonia, Greece and Romania. Widely spread on the Black sea coast, in the regions of Shumen and Stara Zagora. Aromatic, colorful and fairy, dimyat is one of the most common white local wines. It develops fruity aroma with hints of ripe peaches. Its taste is mild with pleasant freshness and because of that it is also often used for the production of the most interesting Bulgarian local drink - rakiya.