Wine in Bulgaria - Regions, Types & Traditions

Regions

Bulgaria can be geographically divided into five wine producing regions as follows:

Eastern Region
Covering the territory along the Black Sea coast between the Northern border with Romania and the Southernmost point on the Black Sea coast where Bulgaria borders Turkey. The wines from the Eastern region are made mostly from white grapes. Almost all renowned white grape varieties can be found along with the native Misket and Dimiat.

Northern Region
Between the Danube river and the Balkan mountain range from North to South and between the Dobrudzha Valley and the Yugoslav border from East to West respectively. High quality wines are produced from a number of different grapes, red as well as white. The reds are made from the local Gamza as well as from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties. Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc are the most prominent whites. This region is home to the fine wineries of Suhindol and Rousse.

Southern Region
The Southern Region includes the Thracian Valley from the Balkan Range to the Greek border that boasts almost Mediterranean climatic conditions and is particularly good for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot production. The best Bulgarian variety grape -Mavrud grows in the Thracian Valley. Reds coming from this region are renowned. Jambol and Haskovo are two fine examples.

South Western Region
The South Western region covers what is known as Pirin Macedonia. The Struma Valley runs along it and brings strong Mediterranean influences in terms of climate. Fine Cabernets are produced there. The appellation of Melnik is home to the Melnik variety.  Damianitza is a winery of note. Another interesting local variety is Keratzuda, a rose type wine produced only in the appellation of Kresna.

Sub Balkan Region
The Sub Balkan Region exists at the Southern area of the Balkan Mountains. These deep valleys produce unique micro-climates. The famous Sungurlare Misket comes from the region as well as the excellent Sungurlare Eau de Vie. White wines from different grapes are a local speciality. Slavjantzi is a popular winery from this region.

Types

Bulgarian wine is characterised by its high quality and  low prices; wines from Preslav, Novi Pazar, Suhin Dol, Melnik and Khan Krum (Shoumen Region) are regarded as the best, Sungularski Misket (dry white) is one preferred brand.

There are hundreds of Bulgarian folk songs about red wine, and only one about white: "why can't the white wine be red?" Red is drunk in the winter, white in the summer, both with almost everything!
The best red wines are produced from the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties. High quality, rich, and Bordeaux-like. Local grapes include:

Gamza - Late ripening the most widespread type producing an earthy, light bodied red wine good for simple fare and everyday use. Distributed mainly in the central and northeastern part of Northern Bulgaria - Suhindol, Kramolin, Pleven and Novo Selo.

Mavrud - A full bodied, spicy red that can age to more than 8 years.  Distributed in south Bulgaria - the regions of Assenovgrad, Plovdiv, Pazardjik, Chirpan, Stara and Nova Zagora. The leaf is large as is the grape coloured in dark blue. The wines produced from this variety are thick, well coloured and ideal for continuous ageing.

Melnik - Very late ripening red wine and its name from the region where it is most widely distributed - the town of Melnik. The leaf is large and slightly flattened. The grape is medium in size oval and juicy. The skin is thick, tough, coloured blue/black upon ripening with a thick wax coating. The wines are characterised with a dark red colour and thick. Upon continuous aging the taste improves further still. 

Pamid - One of the oldest Bulgarian wine types with a middle to early ripening season. Distribution is greatest in southern Bulgaria. The wines produced from this type are characterised by a slightly coloured appearance with a lightness making for easy drinking!

White wines are produced from renowned varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling as well as from the local varieties of Red Misket and Vratza Misket, Ottonel and Dimiat which has a wide distribuition on the Black Sea coast in particular the regions of Shoumen, Preslav and Chirpan. Whites are not nearly as good as reds but they are improving constantly.

Traditions

Wine making traditions have endured during the Middle Ages and the Ottoman rule in Bulgaria. After liberation from the Ottoman, wine making prospered and fine wineries evolved such as Sjarovi Brothers for example. The wine cellar may also be a Bulgarian invention since Bulgarian monastic orders had first been reported to have stored wine in cool vaults deep under the ground level!

As a whole though Bulgaria has continued the traditions of South and East European wine making, producing light, often over oxidized wines for immediate consumption.

At the present time Bulgaria is now the second largest exporter of bottled wine in the world, second only to France. It has four times the area planted with Cabernet Sauvignon of California and the industry is rapidly growing. The annual average production of wine in Bulgaria ranges between 200-220 million litres depending on the crop. In the Bulgarian wine industry, traditional classic technologies are applied, as well as refined, and modern ones borrowed from the leading wine producing countries like France.


Turtle Hill has the ambition to resurrect that popularity, producing wines with excellent quality and character. The grapes are grown in our own vineyards in an EU eco-friendly area of Natura 2000. The name Turtle Hill is inspired by just one of the many local inhabitants roaming freely on the sun drenched banks of the river in an area that locals describe as "land that has been kissed by God”.

Enjoy!


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