Of all of the Eastern European wine producing countries there can be little doubt that Bulgaria has been the most successful. This is due to the fine quality of the vinification and viticulture which has produced wines from this region since the times of the Thracians.
There are vineyards in all parts of Bulgaria, except for the region around the capital city Sofia. For administrative reasons the vineyards have been grouped into five viticultural regions.
This area produces red and white wine (e.g. the Suhindol. Russe and Svishtov wineries)
The region which is affected by the climate from the Black sea produces mainly white wine (e.g. Khan Krum, and Varna)
This area is best known for its red wines. (e.g. Plodiv and Assenovgrad)
This very warm region is famous for reds (e.g. Melnik)
This central and mountainous region it is also better for reds and is famous for brands such as Sliven, which makes Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay
The commercial success of Bulgarian wines dates back to 1970. This was assisted by the world famous wine department at the University of Davis California which succeeded in promoting what is now known as a global quality product.
International wine lovers could recognise the familiar French and German grape varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnay.
These varietals were accompanied by the Bulgarian indigenous grapes such as the black Gamza, Mavrud, and Melnik, and the white Misket and Dimiat.
A white grape originally from Rkatsiteli Georgia (east of Bulgaria) is also a common alternative.
Bulgarian wines are graded into three different categories. This has been the result of the implementation of wine laws which were introduced back in 1978.
Standard Wines Basic light wines
High Quality Wines These wines are generally without geographical origin, and are sold under a brand name.
Special Wines This broad band of category includes sparkling and fruit wines
The high quality wine category is considered to be the most important and is divided into sub-divisions.
- Declared Geographical Origin (DGO)
This categorises the area of origin of the bottle of wine which can come from one of the 43 geographical regions. The term Declared Geographical Origin (DGO) is not printed on the label. An example of this category being displayed would be in the following format e.g. Russe Welshriesling (Russe being the town of production in the north of the country)
This wine is a grade higher than the DGO status and can be compared as the equivalent of the French AC category. There are 27 Controliran wines.
This wine must come from a specified grape variety grown from selected vineyards. The label is required to display the variety and region. The wine must also be approved by a tasting panel before this status can be awarded. The word Controliran will be visible on the label.
Although Controliran is a step above DGO and will come from a different vineyard, the labels may share the same geographical location. This has led to situations of confusion. An example of this is in the wine Assenovgrad Mavrud Controliran and Assenovgrad Mavrud. The latter example belongs to the DGO category.
Other terms that apply to Bulgarian wines are
Both DGO and Controliran can be classified as reserve wine provided that they have been aged for a minimum period in oak (at least two years for whites and three years for reds). The oak vats which are old and large in size tend to mellow the wine more than creating a wood flavour.
- Country Wine
These wines are made from a blend of more than one grape and are designed to be consumed whilst young and fresh. A typical example of this type of wine is Pinot Noir or Sliven Merlot. These wines would compare with the French Vins de Pays category.
Zagreus Vineyard situated on the Plovdiv plainin the Upper-Thracian lowlands