Bulgaria: Post communism

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About
In 1990, the wine sector was suddenly liberalized and Vinprom disbanded in 1991 as part of the free-market reforms introduced in the wake of the fall of communism in 1989. Throughout the 1990s, the Bulgarian wine industry was in disarray as ineffectual attempts were made to return land to its pre-1944 owners, many of them absent. The inherited separation of grape-growing and wine production continued very largely unchanged until 1999, and even as recently as the mid 2000s very few wineries actually owned vineyards. Winemakers were rarely involved in managing viticultural issues. Grape growers tended to be focused on harvesting and being paid as quickly as possible—before being threatened by inclement weather or, a real threat, theft of grapes. At the same time, lack of professional viticulture and vineyard management meant that yields, already low, declined further. The position was not helped by a series of short crops, and by the end of the 1990s the Bulgarian wine industry was suffering from a serious shortage of fruit. This led to fierce competition for grapes, which encouraged early picking. This in turn led directly to much leaner, under-ripe wines at a time when western consumers expected ripe, fruity wine styles. Bulgaria rapidly lost market share.