Bulgaria has long-lasting tradition and excellent potential for wine making. Hilly terraces create ideal micro-climates, combined with good quality soils they produce extremely suitable conditions for growing high quality grapes.
According to historic and archaeological research the territory of present Bulgaria may well be the first region where vines were planted and wine produced. There are numerous Thracian traces of rituals connected with wine production and wine drinking dating back 6 millenniums ago (before the Egypt Pyramids). Wine making traditions were strengthened during the Middle Ages and survived the Ottoman rule in Bulgaria despite the Islam religion forbids consumption of alcohol. The main reason is that wine is considered sacred by the Christianity and it was part of many Christian traditions. The economic progress after the Liberation laid the foundations of Bulgarian wine making prospered in the start of the 20th century.
During the communist period wine making was turned into a state industry. Its target market, however, was restricted mainly to the socialist countries. In the 80's the state owned wine companies slowly opened up to western markets.
There are five wine producing regions in Bulgaria - each one with its own distinct features.
The Northern Region is located between the river Danube and the Stara Planina mountain range. Gamza is the typical local red variety in this region. It is grown together with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc are the most prominent whites. The traditional large scale producers in this region are Lovico Suhindol (the first vine&wine cooperative created in the 20th century, traditional producer of excellent Gamza), Rousse, Targovishte, Svishtov & Khan Krum (known for its excellent Chardonnay).
The Eastern Region covers the territory along the Black Sea coast and is known for its white wines and excellent aged grape brandies. The typical white varieties are Misket and Dimiat. From the more popular Riesling, Saugvinion Blanc, Traminer and Chardonnay are widely grown. The winery in Pomorie is the best know in this region together with the small boutique cellar of Evxinograd.
The landscape of the Sub-Balkan Region at the southern foothills of Stara Planina Mountains comprises a combination of plains and deep valleys with a unique climate. The famous in Bulgaria Sungurlare Misket comes from there. White wines from different grapes are local specialty. Slavyantzi is a popular winery from this region.
The Southern Region includes the wide Thracian Valley down to the Greek border. The climate resembles Mediterranean climatic conditions with mild winters and long, hot summers. This region is particularly good for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties as well as the best known Bulgarian red variety Mavrud. There are many small-scale wineries in this region and many of them produce excellent wines from the above varieties.
The South-Western Region covers the foothills of Pirin Mountains, Struma Valley. The climate is strongly influences by the Mediterraneans. Melnik is the most important local variety and Melnik is known as Winston Churchill's favourite red wine. Damianitza is a winery to note with many small producers in the area.
In addition to the larger wines producers a number of small new wineries have been created in the last two decades. They rely on small quantities of high quality wine from more recently planted vineyards.
Look at this map of the main wine regions of Bulgaria.
According to the Wine Law, wines in Bulgaria fall into several categories. The best quality wines are wines of Declared Geographical Origin (D.G.O.) made from selected grapes originating from a particular geographical region, wines of Controlled Appellations of Origin (A.O.C) made from grapes, originating from strictly defined and controlled micro-regional vineyards with a limited maximum yield of grapes and Reserve wines aged in small oak casks. Reserve wines can be either of declared geographical origin or of controlled appellation of origin.
A Classic Barn Convertion
Houses of traditional Bulgarian outlook seem to be of greatest interest to foreign property buyers in Bulgaria. Most of these houses date from the last years of the 19th century or early decades of 20th century. Traditional houses in different parts of the country differ a lot in terms of outlook and function of the different premises as well as decorative details of carving, stone masonry and structure.
Often these houses however are difficult to convert for modern living as ceilings are low, rooms many and small. However many properties have wonderful barns made of stone and large wooden beams which are ideal for conversion which is still a difficult job requiring a lot of skills and knowledge.
Today we would like to present to you one outstanding property - a huge house of traditional styling which was once an old stone barn. The key of this diligent conversion lies in the skilfully carpentry work which has kept the character and added warmth and beauty to both the interior and exterior. The property occupies a beautiful spot in a mountain village 10 miles from Veliko Tarnovo. The house has two floors and total living area of 236 sq m. The ground floor comprises an open plan kitchen/dining area/lounge with an open fireplace and a toilet. Internal stairs lead to the first floor with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and toilets. There is a spacious balcony called 'cherdak'. The garden of 1,700 sq m is lawned and there is covered BBQ area.
Bulgaria Recognized Kosovo's Independance
On 20 March Bulgarian Government took a decision to recognize Kosovo a month and three days after it declared independence from Serbia. Bulgaria issued a joint-declaration together with Croatia and Hungary stating their readiness to recognize Kosovo's self- proclaimed independence.
The political outcry in Bulgaria was immediate and, inevitably, the ruling coalition and the opposition took different positions. While the ruling coalition maintained the decision was timely, carefully considered and responsible, the opposition was united behind the feeling that the decision was late. The opinion of the opposition is that because of indecision, Bulgaria lost its chance to join the governing commission of states, which are to oversee and insist on the implementation of the Ahtisaari plan and therefore to stand for its economic and political interests.
Ministry of Ecology Stops Building Plans for Strandja
After regular protest against the removal of protected area statute of Strandja Nature Park on April 2, the Ministry of Environment and Water Affairs turned down the environmental assessment of the amendments of Tsarevo municipality master plan for re-design, the coalition of 30 non-governmental environmental organizations To Sustain the Nature in Bulgaria said in a statement. The initial document foresaw almost 100 per cent construction of the seaside part of Strandja Nature Park and legalizing construction of Golden Pearl development near the village of Varvara, which environmental activists say is illegal. They have organized various protests and street blockages in 2007, which finally led to amendments to the Protected Areas Act and temporary salvation of this part of the park.
However the decision of the Ministry have not secured the future of Strandja as Tsarevo Municipal Council approved the amended master plan, which covers part of the Strandja natural park. The document endorsed doubling the constructed part of the park up to 931.8ha, construction of 42 000 apartments and hotels with 15 000 beds (double the number in Bansko resort in Pirin Mountains). Ecologists organise further protests throughout the country to safe Strandja together with areas in Rila which have not been included in the Natura 2000 network. Let's hope for their success!
Bulgarian Documentary Wins Peabody Award
The TV documentary A Journey Across Afghanistan: Opium and Roses filmed by Venelin Petkov won the George Foster Peabody award for broadcasting excellence in news and entertainment, the oldest and possibly most prestigious honour in electronic media in the United States. The documentary shows farmers from Afghanistan who have decided to trade the growing of poppies for growing roses for rose oil. The crew of Bulgaria's bTV shoot the film in a mountain valley in eastern Afghanistan where poppies are usually grown for opium.
According to the awards program organizers the documentary shows a rare, everyday Afghan perspective on the fighting between Taliban and western troops, while revealing fascinating efforts to supplant the growing of opium poppies with rose bushes to produce rose oil.
Monthly Travel Guide
Below is a link to the Jamadvice HRG Bulgaria Monthly Travel Guide. It provides useful information as well as some interesting facts from the travel industry.