Scanning the offerings at your local liquor store, you keep searching for something different from your usual tried and true wines. Part of the fun is in trying something outside of the familiar wine regions. Bulgaria, once a member of the old Soviet Bloc, is becoming one of Eastern Europe’s fastest growing wine regions since the fall of communism in 1989. While virtually unheard of in North America, the Bulgarian wine industry’s seventy wineries process approximately 700,000 tons of grapes annually into wines that are quickly gaining international recognition.
The debate rages about the origin and longevity of Bulgaria’s wine producing origins. Some maintain the Romans introduced wine making to the region as far back as 681 A.D. Others point to the middle Ages when monks started crafting wine-making techniques. Either way, Bulgaria developed a lucrative wine industry. But by the end of World War Two, Bulgaria fell under the Soviet sphere. Collectivized farming policies ensured that the once thriving wine industry was pushed in favor of food crops to supply to the Soviet Union. After the fall of communism, wine producers benefited from increased privatization and improved technology; both of which were listed as part of the criteria for Bulgaria’s later ascension into the European Union. Today Bulgaria boasts five wine regions including the Danube River Plains and Black Sea Coastal which combined account for sixty percent of Bulgaria vineyards.
Enjoying Bulgarian wines in their local sub-Mediterranean growing climate is not how many will discover new favorites. Search out the shelves at your larger liquor stores for these treasures, sometimes included in Southern European sections offering Greek wines. Do not be put off by the relatively lower prices that are generally under the ten dollar range. These wines offer excellent value and hold their own nicely against their more expensive counterparts.
The Domain Boyar winery has been producing award winning wines since 1991. Their 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, noted for its ripe berry-fruit aromas and bold flavour with a hint of vanilla, and rated a very respectable 85 points out of 100 in 2005 by Wine and Sprits Magazine. Another great wine is the 2003 Reserve Merlot that starts with a slight smoky nose and follows with robust fruits layered with spicy tasting notes. Domain Boyar’s subsidiary, Blue Ridge Wines, offers excellent chardonnays including the 2005 varietal renowned for its crisp citrus flavours.
The Targovishte Winery is gaining a solid reputation for outstanding white wines. Judged by Northside San Francisco Magazine as a Best Buy, the 2007 Musket has a delicate floral nose with hints of minerals and soft pear flavours. Another great addition to your collection is the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc. Wonderfully reminding you of gooseberries, this pleasant dry wine is also a Wine Enthusiast Best Buy.
Head off the beaten path and enjoy a glass of one of the most exciting wine regions and get to know Bulgarian wines. Enjoy old wine-making traditions with the technologies of the modern era. Nazdrave! (To your health!)