Bulgarian wines are rich in history and traditions. With its long history of cultivated grapes and a warm continental climate, it’s no wonder that Bulgarian wines have been a popular choice during many times in history. Even Homer wrote about the famous wine produced by the ancient Thracians.

Nowadays, winemakers have moved away from relying on a style based on sheer size and power. Modernization of the Bulgarian wine industry has allowed producers to focus on local grape varieties, along with exciting wines from international varieties. You will find there’s never been a better time to explore what Bulgarian wines offer.

What kind of wine is made in Bulgaria?

In many ways, Bulgarian wine feels like an undiscovered corner of Europe. The country is home to a slew of indigenous varieties that are capable of producing very good wines despite not being well known outside the region.

The Bulgarian wine industry has been growing for several years now, with production volumes increasing steadily and quality improving at nearly every level. This growth has come in spite of the fact that Bulgaria is still relatively new again to the international export markets.

Bulgaria’s temperate continental climate is ideal for producing high-quality red wine and white wine, which benefit from its long growing season while being bolstered by a hot summer and cool nights.

The mountainous terrain in most parts of Bulgaria provides excellent drainage and exposure to sunlight during growing seasons, giving many vineyards a significant edge over locations where vines are planted on flat ground or have limited direct light access.

Bulgarian wine has a wide range of soil types available for wine production, ranging from clay-based to sandstone-based soils that give winemakers an additional advantage when it comes to choosing the right terroir for their grapes.

Bulgarian wine regions

The Black Sea forms the eastern border of Bulgaria. Because of its influence, the country’s climate is warm and humid. Most of Bulgarian wine production takes place on the Danube plain, around the Maritsa River, and Struma Valley —but many other areas are ideal for growing grapes.

In 1960, the Bulgarian government officially divided the country into five distinct wine regions.

  • Danubian plain,
  • Sakar
  • Rose Valley
  • Struma River Valley
  • North Black Sea Coast

According to experts, the Bulgarian wine wine industry is expected to be divided into nine regions, which may include vineyards close to the Thracian Valley.

The ‘Cote D’Or’ for Bulgarian wine is a south Bulgarian region between the Maritsa River and the Sakar Mountains. There are plenty of big names in the area, but the climate here seems too warm for some red wines, such as Pinot Noir. Instead, producers here concentrate on bigger red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Mavrud.

The Rose Valley region is located near the Balkan Mountains. For centuries, roses have been cultivated here and today it produces around half a ton of the world’s rose oil. As a wine region, some of its notable wine styles include Muscatel, Rkatsiteli, and Pinot Noir. Off-dry and dry white wines are also commonly made in the region.

Bulgarian wine grapes

According to the Pleven Institute, Bulgarian winemakers cultivate around 200 different local grape varieties. Red wines account for 63% of the country’s total wine production. The other types, white wine and dessert wine grapes are around 31% and 6%.

The main grape varieties and blended wines are Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. The traditional local varieties that are most commonly grown and popular in Bulgaria are the Gamza, Mavrud, Melnik, Ruen, Rubin, Pamid, Dimyat and Red Misket.

Alongside the reputation for single-varietal wines, if you are young winery in Bulgaria you may have your own vineyards. Wine producers are experimenting with organic, biodynamic, pet-nat, and skin-contact whites (orange wines). These methods remain niche, but it is encouraging to see producers have the confidence to experiment.

Bulgarian wines are back!

Wine lovers are missing out on a great opportunity by not trying Bulgarian wines. They have been producing bottles of excellent quality for decades, yet they have not received the attention for various historical and economic reasons. This means you can get a bottle of equal quality but at much lower prices than you might pay elsewhere. It’s a true win-win situation. Take advantage of this under-appreciated niche while it lasts; once the world catches on to their fantastic wine offerings, the affordability and accessibility of Bulgarian wine may be lost.