As our map shows, most of Bulgaria is wine country. The country has a continental climate, with hot summers (somewhat mitigated by the Black Sea to the east and the Danube River to the north). In the latter part of the communist era, from the 1960s to the 1980s, Bulgaria began to move away from bulk wines, largely exported to Russia, and into quality wines, especially reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, with substantial exports to Great Britain. After decades of disarray, the 21st century is showing a greater cohesiveness in the Bulgarian wine industry, but Bulgaria’s largest wine trading partner is still Russia. Except for the eastern region by the Black Sea, red grape varieties dominate Bulgarian viticulture, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all grapes grown. Merlot has recently pushed its buddy Cabernet Sauvignon off the number one spot. The local red grapes Pamid and Melnik are in decline, but Mavrud, born in western Thrace, is gaining in importance as the major component in red blends. Prominent whites include the Georgian grape Rkatsateli, the Serbian Dimiat, the pink Misket grape, Muscat Ottonel, Chardonnay, Traminer, Trebbiano, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Aligoté and Viognier.
Bulgaria has a modern EU-compliant system of controlled appellation. The country has two PGIs, the Thracian Lowlands and the Danubian Plain, and over 50 PDOs.
The Thracian Lowlands have a temperate climate ideal for the local Mavrud, as well as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscatel and Pamid.
The Danubian Plain in the north produces Muscat Ottonel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Aligoté, Pamid and the local Gamza (Kadarka) grape.
The Valley of the Roses sandwiched between the two PGIs is world-renowned for its rose-growing industry. It produces 85% of the world’s rose oil. The characteristic wine grape is the Misket Cherven, or Red Misket, a pale pink grape that produces a white wine with floral aromas, vanilla, rose, citrus and tropical fruit. The wine has minerality, light body, and a clean finish.
The Struma River Valley in the southwest near the border with Greece grows the unique Bulgarian varietal Shiroka Melnishka (“Broad Leaved Vine of Melnik”) used for dry and semi-dry wines. The grape likes oak from which it produces tobacco notes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pamid here also produce dry, spicy reds.
The Black Sea Coast is characterized by long and mild autumns, ideal ripening conditions for white wines from Dimyat, Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Ugni Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, and Gewürztraminer.