Bulgaria: Grape varieties

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Red varieties account for about 63% of plantings with whites dominating only in the eastern Black Sea region. Bulgaria may have been famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, of which there were 8,437 ha/20,000 acres according to the most recent data, gathered in 2009, but Merlot has overtaken it to become the most planted variety with a total of 10,572 ha/26,125 acres. Local pamid has fallen out of favour, dropping to 6,792 ha/16,783 acres, as its light body, low acidity and low extract means that it rarely produces anything better than light wines for early consumption. Shiroka Melnishka Loza or broad-leaved melnik is grown exclusively in the south west around the towns of Melnik, Sandinski, and Harsovo and its vines total 1,580 ha/3,904 acres. It is very late ripening and can require extensive ageing, though an earlier-ripening cross is also often labelled Melnik. Most interesting of the indigenous red grape varieties is mavrud, grown traditionally around Plovdiv but now planted more widely. It is increasingly appearing in flagship blends such as Santa Sarah’s Privat and Rumelia’s Erelia. Varietal Melnik is very popular on the home market and typically has powerful tannins that require careful management or lengthy oak ageing. Plantings of Gamza, the kadarka of Hungary, comprise just 1.5% of vineyards now, most in the north of the country, where it can make interestingly spicy wines if yields are controlled, especially from boutique producer Borovitza winery. rubin looked set to become Bulgaria’s signature grape but it has fallen from favour due to doubts over its wines’ longevity, although some powerful, richly fruited versions are now being made, notably by Damianitza, Dragomir, and Santa Sarah.