"...Bulgaria’s phenomenal export success in the 1970s and ‘80s was built on a winemaking tradition among the most venerable in the world... "
(from THE NEW ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO WINE by Stuart Walton)
According to historic and archaeological researches the territory of Bulgaria may well be the first geographical region where vines were planted and wine produced. The same area may claim property to the first vine protection decree in 2 c. AD as well as to the first prohibitionist laws implemented in history by the Bulgarian Khan Krum during his reign from 802 to 814 AD. The wine cellar may also be Bulgarian invention since Bulgarian monastic orders had first been reported to have stored wine in cool vaults deep under the ground level.
Bulgaria can be geographically divided into five wine producing regions. Each one of them has its own distinct features and peculiarities and is somewhat different from the rest.
The potential for wine making in Bulgaria is enormous. The climate in the northern part of the country is continental with cool winters and hot summers. It is milder to the south due to the influence of Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Local hilly terrains create ideal micro-climates and combined with good quality soils they produce extremely suitable conditions for growing best quality grapes. Bulgaria has several well developed viticulture and enology institutes, most notably in Plovdiv - the second largest city in the country.
The Northern Region spans between the Danube River and the Balkan Mountain Range from north to south and between the Dobrudzha Valley and the Serbian State 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 noble 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 Ruse.
The Eastern Region covers the territory along the Black Sea Coast between the Northern border with Romania and the Southernmost point on the Black Sea Coast, where Bulgaria shoulders Turkey. The wines from the Eastern Region are made mostly from white grapes. Almost all renowned white grape varieties may be found along with the native Misket and Dimiat. Many specialists say that the whites from this region are a little too spicy to the Western palate, yet they are greatly appreciated by Bulgarians and East and South Europeans in general.
The Sub Balkan Region contains the kettles at the Southern foot of the Balkan Mountain Range. These deep valleys produce unique micro climates. The famous in Bulgaria Sungurlare Misket comes from there as well as the excellent Sungurlare Eau de Vie. White wines from different grapes are local specialty. Slavyantsi is a popular winery from this region.
The Southern Region includes the Tracian Valley from the Balkan Range to the Greek Border and boasts almost Mediterranean climatic conditions particularly good for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot production. The best Bulgarian variety grape - Mavrud grows in the Tracian Valley. Reds coming from this region are superb. Yambol and Haskovo are fine appellations.
The South Western Region covers what is popularly known as Pirin Macedonia. Struma Valley runs along it and brings strong Mediterranean influence in terms of climate. Fine Cabernets are produced there. The appellation of Melnik is home to the Melnik variety. An aromatic and hefty wine that ages very well. Damianitsa is the winery to note. Their "reserves" are extremely good and my personal favorite. Another interesting local variety is Keratsuda, a rose type produced only in the appellation of Kresna.