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Bulgarian wine regions

Bulgaria’s Wine Regions & Grapes

Let’s talk about a less known wine region in Eastern Europe (and a dang good one!), Bulgaria!

Unless you grew up Bulgaria or the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve never tried Bulgarian wine. Believe it or not though, it was during this time that Bulgaria (a country smaller than New York State) became the 4th largest wine producer in the world! Of course, westerners barely saw a drop as 90% went to the Soviet Union and the Bulgarian wine industry was a state-run, socialist, wine-growing monopoly.

Before and after that period, the Bulgarian wine industry is vastly different. Winemaking in Bulgaria dates back to 4000 B.C. when the Thracian empire ruled the land. Historical sources like Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey mention fine Thracian wine. By the time the Romans arrived, winemaking was in full swing, and the country’s wine industry continued to thrive throughout the Ottoman reign between the 14th and 19th centuries. Despite suffering significant damage to vines during the phylloxera epidemic, Bulgaria’s wine production flourished in the late 1970s, when it was considered one of the largest and best wine exporters in the world. As with the other Eastern European wine producing regions that we've discussed this month, the fall of the iron curtain has seen the return of vineyard land to private hands and new life to the industry.

5 main winegrowing regions:

Thracian Valley - Home to 35 percent of Bulgaria’s wine production, the Thracian Valley in the south, makes up the entire Thracian Lowlands PGI. The hot summers, dry, mild winters, and limestone soils make this region ideal for various grapes. Both indigenous and international varietals flourish here.

Danube River Plains - About 30 percent of all Bulgaria’s wine production occurs in the Danube River Plains across its Eastern, Central, and Western subregions. This large region stretches from the Serbian border to the Black Sea with widely varying climates, weather, and landscapes.

Black Sea Coast - On Bulgarian’s eastern wine region is the Black Sea Coast, which is broken up into two subregions: the Northern sea coast and the Internal subregion. This area is known for producing fresh and vibrant white wines from both international and regional varietals.

Struma Valley - This important region is close to North Macedonia and Greece lies the southern tip of Struma Valley. High mountains and close proximity to the Aegean Sea result in a diversity of microclimates throughout the area. Still, overall, Struma Valley is one of the warmest regions in the country. Nicknamed Melnik, after the famous local grape variety and the local town, several international grape varieties thrive here, too, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Traminer.

Rose Valley - Although the Rose Valley is predominantly known for its captivating rose fields, a small amount of wine production is done here too.

Bulgaria's Main Local Grapes:

Mavrud - Although the origin of Mavrud is unclear, the grape is believed to be the oldest in Bulgaria as well as the the most widely planted. A thick-skinned red grape, Mavrud produces deep ruby red wines full of black fruit notes, plenty of tannin, and acidity.

Rubin - Created in 1944, Rubin is a cross between Nebbiolo and Syrah. Like Mavrud with its thick-skinned complexity, Rubin makes red wines that can include herbal and plummy fruit characteristics, though it is known to have rigid tannins.

Shiroka Melnik - Also known as Shiroka Melnishka Loza and broad-leaved Melnik, this grape is also an ancient variety with unknown origins. Ask the people of Melnik, and they’ll say the grape has been there longer than the people. Shiroka Melnik is often used for sparkling wines and rosés.

Gamza - Believed to have originated in the Balkans, Gamza thrives throughout the northwest areas of Bulgaria. Producing light- to medium-bodied wines, the grape can be compared to Gamay and is increasingly attracting younger drinkers with its tart cherry and savory profile.

Dimiat - The most recognized white wine that’s also the most consumed white wine in Bulgaria is made with the Dimiat grape, also known as Dimyat. The grape is believed to have first appeared in Bulgaria during the Middle Ages. It produces rather easy-drinking and refreshing white wines with plenty of acidity.


photo credit: Wine Folly