Bulgaria has been making wine for many a century and millenia which makes way for its incredible and rich history of viticulture and vinification. The wine scene here was almost exclusively indigenous grape varieties for the last 3000 years yet it was in the late 1970s where a few winemakers made a cheap buck by pumping out cheap wines made from international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Though this notion has trickled around the country and bulk wine (largely for export) is still a large part of Bulgaria's wine production total it is by far not all that Bulgaria produces. Still to this day many of the countries greatest wines are made from indigenous grape varietals, like mentioned below, which give the wines of Bulgaria a traditional touch to the otherwise fruity and fantastic whites, red, rose and sparkling wines. It was in 1957 when the official viticultural body made its first appellations (geographical delimitations) which was a big step forward for the countries wine scene.
Main Grapes or styles
Pamid – It is thought to be Bulgaria's oldest grape varietal, as well as being the most highly respected. It is for these two reasons that it is also the most single most planted grape variety in the country. It is a red grape varietal which produces lighter red wines akin to Cabernet Franc or a fuller-bodied Pinot Noirs.
Rkatsiteli – Rkatsiteli is a Georgian grape varietal and is thought to be the oldest varietal known to man. So it should be of no surprise to find it in Bulgaria's vineyards. It is currently the most important white grape variety making up around 10% of all white wines produced. Though international grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are on the rise.
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon – After Pamid, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are the two most important (red) grapes to Bulgaria's wine scene. Generally speaking they are either single varietals or blended together along with other Bulgarian red varieties.
Mavrud – Mavrud is largely a native grape to Bulgaria. It is a thick-skinned grape varietal which produces full bodied and deep coloured red wines. It has a strong affinity with oak, and when done well it can produce some very long-lived wines.
Thracian Valley – The Thracian Valley is the most important wine region in the country and produces just over a third of all wines. This is one of the most important regions in the country due to its mountainous aspect which gives cooling breezes and altitude - it is thanks to these characteristics where some of the countries greatest wines are produced here.
Split into the West and Eastern Thracian Valley.
Black Sea – As the name suggests this the only region in the country which has a fully maritime-moderated climate thanks to the Black Sea. Here whites, largely in bulk, are making up the majority. Many international grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are actually taking up great importance.
Climate and its effect on the wines made here
Bulgaria is such a vast country and has many micro-climates which top viticulturists have used to their advantage. However, overall there is a continental climate which brings very hot summers but also quite cold winters as well. In many regions frost can be an issue which is why many of the top vineyards are planted at some (even minor) altitude. The extreme heat in the summer can been that this is much more suited to red grape varietals. The grapes (Pamid, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mavrud etc) all produce fairly full bodied and ripe wines.