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 Wines of Bulgaria

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PostSubject: Wines of Bulgaria   Thu 15 Sep 2011 - 9:56

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I've trawled the net and found as much information as I can but I'm sure there is a lot more and I'm also sure you too can add your comments here about the wines of Bulgaria. I will try and add to this as time goes by and maybe write something about a different wine every week. s

It's a fact that geographically the land that Bulgaria now sits on may well be the first region where vines were planted and wine produced. The Wine Cellar, may also be a Bulgarian invention since monasteries in the country were the first to have been reported storing wine in cool vaults deep under the ground level.
Wine making during the Middle Ages and Ottoman rule although banned, continued 'underground'. After Bulgaria's liberation, wine making was once again permitted and there was a major revival. Economic progress after liberation was helpful for the beginnings of the Bulgarian wine industry.
Eventually, Bulgaria began to establish first class wineries with names such as the Sjarovi Brothers.
As a whole, Bulgaria continued to produce wine for immediate consumption but there was a problem with oxidization. This meant that only a limited amount was suitable for being cellared.
During the communist regime, wine making was, like most other industries, turned into a state controlled business, with its market export restricted to its communist neighbours. Although there were the foundations, the standard of wine was not high and the technology remained non-progressive.
The 1980s arrived, and 'Vinprom' a state owned wine company began to trade with non-communist European markets.
With the fall of communism in 1989 and the loosening the government stranglehold, Bulgarian wine makers began to share technology and shed their insular way oif thinking.
This had a major affect of the quality of the wine which had now grown in popularity worldwide.


The Five Wine Making Regions of Bulgaria each have their own distinct wine with individual characteristics, but all have quality vines which improve every year.

Northern Region

High quality wines are produced from a number of different grapes, red as well as white. The reds are made from the local Gamza variety of grape as well as from the majestic Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc are the most popular white wines. This region is home to the first class wineries such as Suhindol and Rousse.

Eastern Region

The wines from the Eastern region are made mostly from white grapes. Almost all white grape varieties may be found in this area as well as with the native Misket and Dimiat. The white wines from this region are of a rather spicy characteristic and loved by Bulgarians, East and South Europeans who have a leaning to wines of this nature.

Balkan Region

Based in the Southern foot of the Balkan Mountains, these valleys produce micro climates unique to wine growing. The excellent Sungurlare Misket comes from there as well as the superb Sungurlare Eau deVie. White wines from different grapes are a local speciality. Slavjantzi is a popular winery from this region.

Southern Region

The Tracian Valley runs from the Balkan mountains through to the Greek border with an almost Mediterranean climate. These conditions are particularly good for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot production.
The best variety of grape is Mavrud which grows in the Tracian Valley. Reds coming from this region are second to none, with particular mention of Yambol and Haskovo areas.

South Western Region

otherwise known as the Pirin Macedonia, the Struma Valley has good "
Mediterranean"
weather and produces lovely Cabernet's. Melnik is the home of the Melnik variety of grape which is aromatic and produces a fine wine that ages very well.
The first choice in wine from this region is Damianitza. Another good local variety is Keratzuda.

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 the Black sea and the Mediterranean. Furthermore, hilly landscapes create a perfect micro-climate with good quality soil providing a "
God-sent Environment"
for growing best quality grapes.
Bulgaria has several well developed wine technology institutes. The most forward and modern of these is based in Plovdiv in the centre of the country. The best wines are produced from the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties. High quality, rich Bordeaux-like wines result.

Local grapes varieties in the main consist of:

• Gamza - the most popular grape produces an earthy, light bodied red wine good for simple everyday drinking, hence a Bulgarian favourite! Incidentally, in Romania and Hungary it is known as Kadarka.
• Melnik - grown in the southern regions of the country, this makes full bodied red wines that age extremely well.
• Mavrud - makes a full bodied, spicy red wine that can be cellared to an age of more than 8 years.
• Pamid - basically quite rustic but still good enough for the commercial market and again for daily drinking.

White wines are produced from well known varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. Many are also produced from the local varieties such as Misket, Ottonel, and Dimiat.
Whites are generally seen as the bridesmaid of Bulgarian wine with the reds being so good.
There are however some white wines that hold their own against any quality white wine in the world.

Bulgaria is currently the second largest exporter of bottled wine in the world and has four times the area producing Cabernet Sauvignon compared to California. It must be the fastest growing wine producer in the world, and with new investment from the EU this will accelerate.
Current production levels run at over 200 million litres which substantially increase as each year passes and new vineyards mature. There are thousands of acres of new vineyards being planted in many prime areas all being funded with EU money. You can see some of these as you drive from Sofia to Bourgas on the highway.

Rakia is Bulgaria's national drink. It is part and parcel of everyday life here, and somehow Bulgaria wouldn't be the same without it.
"
Rakia and Salad"
, is a combination unsurpassed and is the perfect complement of food and drink in Bulgaria.

For many generations rakia has been made in the Bulgarian villages, just like its younger sister, wine. There is much talk about who has the best rakia in the village and it seems that every household has the best rakia in the area!
Bulgarian's are very proud of the rakia they make and are not shy in showing it off and forcing upon guests in rather large quantities.
Most rakia bought from supermarket, shops and drunk in restaurants and bars is commercially made and essentially made from grapes. Many good brands of grape rakia are about, along with a few commercial brands made from "
sliva"
, plum.
There remains an enormous market in Bulgaria for this and you will see bars, shops and supermarkets where the shelves have a greater selection of rakia than any other type of drink.
But far more interesting is the home made rakia, where standards and quality are as diverse as you could imagine. It is very common for home-made rakia to exceed the quality of top brand names. Bulgarian's by nature would back this up on every occasion, stating that their home-made rakia is far better than anything on the commercial market.

Rakia is basically made from wine which is then distilled into spirit. There are many types of rakia with different base ingredients.
The bulk of rakia is made from the sliva fruit, (plum). You will see countless sliva trees everywhere you look in Bulgaria.
The fruit comes in many colours from yellow through to pink and on to black. The size of the fruit also varies from a small marble size to a large egg size.
Rakia is also made from grapes which usually come from the sediment left over from wine making. The fermenting process is restarted by adding more sugar and water.
Rakia is also made from apples, pears, melons and other fruits that are not suitable eaten or bottled. In essence the rakia is made from waste ingredients.
It is a great joy and occasion to go and gather the sliva on a lovely dry summer's day. The time is chosen when the fruit is about to drop from the trees from the weight of their ripeness.
Bulgarians being so practical, do not pick the fruits but place a sheet under the trees, climb up the tree then violently shake the branches to a shower of sliva which lands on the sheet. The sheet is gathered up and the slivi picked over for twigs and leaf debris.
The crop is then taken to an outbuilding where the barrel is now filled to 1/3 full of sliva and topped up with a ratio of 3 litres of water to every 1 kg of sugar.
With a 240 litre barrel they add 75 litres of water and 25 kg of sugar. The mixture is then stirred and the fruits crushed by hand at least twice a day for the next three weeks, with the fermentation starting almost immediately in the warm August weather.
Once the mixture is no longer bubbling it is technically wine but not very nice to drink, this is the stuff from which rakia is made.

In every village and town there are rakia houses specially built for the use of the community. There can be anything from one to five stills in each house, and the smell once experienced tells you exactly where you are.
These houses are managed by a "
responsible person"
, usually a man, and are supervised by the Mayor who grants permission for the rakia to be made ensuring it is solely for personal consumption.
An appointment has to be booked well in advance, as from August through to the end of November these facilities are heavily used.
There is a charge of anything from 10 - 15 leva for the use of a still and the equipment there. A receipt is given, in triplicate of course, which is also accountable to the Mayor.
Once booked, the day is eagerly anticipated, as it is an excuse for eating, drinking and talking with the exception of a year's supply of rakia. This is also a day where there would be no time for work anywhere else as the process takes up to 5-6 hours.

Distillation day has arrived, but much preparation has to be made the day before. The use of the rakia house is one thing, but everything has to be supplied and taken to the rakia house by trailer or cart.
For a start, how do you lift a 240 litres barrel of wine onto a trailer or cart? Bulgarians don't! An empty barrel is placed on the cart and a bucket is used to transfer the wine from one to the other. This is also a team effort where at least two, and in some case up to five people help. With trailer or cart being shared by more than one family this is quite common.
There is the wood for the fire which has to be provided which also has to be taken to the rakia house. This is loaded up around the barrel jamming it against the sides of the cart to stop it toppling over on the rough tracks en route to the still. Then there is the flour that has also to be taken to use as a seal for the copper stills.
The ingredients are ready and outside the rakia house for the distilling operation.
The still is primed with a little coriander seed and other, "
family secret"
additives. Once the wine has been transferred by a chain of helpers and buckets from the barrel, the flour, which is mixed with a little water to make a dough, is then moulded around the still and pipes to seal them and make them air tight.
The fire is lit and the waiting begins. It takes about an hour before the wine is hot enough to produce steam which is then forced through the sealed pipes into the cooling condenser. In the meantime, the fire heating the wine is used to cook food on a grate.
Whilst the waiting goes on, other villagers' rakia is sampled and beer and wine is brought in along with food by the wives who set up a picnic in the house.

The first drops of rakia are eventually produced, turning into a continuous stream of spirit that subsequently runs into a bucket. This is transferred into a plastic container which is measured every so often for the alcohol content.
The first samples are usually between 65-70% proof but as the process carries on it drops to 50%. The last trickles can be as low as 25-30% and are stored separately as it is not good enough to drink and added to the next batch of distillation. In effect being double distilled.
Nothing is wasted in Bulgaria. From a 240 litre barrel of slivi wine there should be about 30 litres of rakia whose overall proof should be around 45-55%. The optimum proof level is between 45-50% and mineral water is added to bring this down.
The fresh rakia is now back at home, but it is another three weeks before it becomes drinkable. Peeled and cut apples are put in a net bag and a certain type of wood placed in the rakia barrel. This is to change the colour from crystal clear to a distinctly rakia smokey coloured spirit.
There are normally two rakia making sessions during the season. The sliva rakia taking place in August to September and the grape rakia from the end of September to the end of November.
The grape rakia is an every day drink, but home made sliva is a much prized item and drunk on special occasions.
Rakia making is part of the way of life in Bulgaria. In the villages and smaller towns it is part of their seasonal routine.
It is now big news that this home-made rakia will become a thing of the past with Bulgaria's inclusion in the European Union. Officially, this will be the end of home-made rakia in Bulgaria, but being Bulgaria, the art will still go on.
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Thu 23 Feb 2012 - 22:22

Hi.
where exactly is the degustation room in Sliven, fancy a nosey around.
regards
William
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meandmine
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Thu 23 Feb 2012 - 22:39

A bit of information

SLIVEN, BULGARIA – Hidden amidst the weeds and behind a rod-iron door that once marked the entrance of a World War II bomb shelter is the degustation room of one of Sliven’s oldest and largest wineries. There are no signs or posted hours of operation. There is no indication whatsoever to the public that what lies behind the graffiti-covered facade near the center of this sleepy city in central Bulgaria is a place to taste the wines made by Vini Sliven. By appointment only, large groups can see what lies behind the secret entrance. Inside is a series of cool, arched tunnels that house the winery’s oldest wines and long tables where the visitors can sit and taste them. The dusty, moldy bottles add to the ambience. But the stash is also a buried clue that reveals a neglected treasure, and only recently have the Sliven region’s wine-producers begun to realize that they might be sitting on gold.
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Thu 23 Feb 2012 - 22:42

Have a look here to [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Thu 23 Feb 2012 - 23:42

Hi,
Thanks for that but where exactly do I look in Sliven, I like to wander around and knock on doors to see what opens up. At the end of the day it is sup rising what you get shown if you look interested, which I am. I just need pointing in the right direction, a disused air raid shelter sounds interesting.

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davshaz
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Fri 24 Feb 2012 - 13:33

This might help you

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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Fri 24 Feb 2012 - 13:53

This might be better its only about 3 km from the town center but if you go here [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] ... md%3Dimvns you can plan your own route which might be easier let us know how it goes.

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LisA
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Fri 24 Feb 2012 - 20:04

Well done Dave that should make it easy to find
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Sat 25 Feb 2012 - 0:57

Hi,
Thanks for that will have a mosey.
Regards
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Sat 25 Feb 2012 - 1:00

Come back and tell us all what it's like if you don't mind. s
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Tue 28 Feb 2012 - 12:56

Glad you found it of use and as daisy said come back and tell us all about it
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Thu 1 Mar 2012 - 18:52

Thanks all, will do
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Thu 1 Mar 2012 - 19:04

Mind you don't over do it Will Drunk
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Wed 21 Nov 2012 - 17:30

I was given a couple of bottles of a Bulgarian red wine a few xmas's back i think it was called Blue Ridge it came in an odd shape bottle that slanted inwards about halfway down, it was very good and i discovered they sold it in Tesco and i bought it regulary , but they stopped selling it a couple of years back and i havent found it since. Anyone had this or know where i can find it? Thanks in advance
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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Thu 22 Nov 2012 - 6:48

There is one at Tesco look at the link, and here is an email for a company that you can order Bulgarian food and wine from which is based in Essesx, they are retailers.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] ... =256258395

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PostSubject: Re: Wines of Bulgaria   Thu 22 Nov 2012 - 8:57

Thanks Daisy I'll give that a try. My current favourite is a Co OP Chilean Chardonnay£4.49 but I drink the white wines to quickly, so looking to change back to a good red?
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