Since Bulgaria's integration into the EU in 2007 there has been some rapid improvement in all aspects of the wine trade. Investment naturally followed the feeling of excitement and potential stability and everything from new technology to improved approaches to packaging and marketing followed. Alongside this, winemakers understood the need to travel and taste other wines and have gradually returned to the country with both knowledge and ideas.
There is still a long way to go before Bulgaria can honestly say it is reaching its high potential though. The focus is sadly still very much on international varieties. Many of the wines are big, ripe and full bodied with high alcohol and little elegance. Disappointingly, many are overextracted in an attempt to create big showy wines that lead with punch and power. These kind of wines may well be appreciated in domestic circles but they struggle to leave much impression on the curious and seasoned wine lover.
That said, there are a number of new, modern wineries producing very good, interesting wines from Bulgaria's local red and white varieties.
The wine making boom of post Soviet times focussed on international varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were planted in abundance. Today there are some good wines but there are also many that are over packaged, over sold and over valued.
Of far more interest are the native red varieites, particularly Mavrud and Melnik. These seem to make wines with much more character and do not seem to receive the same heavy levels of oak that international varieties do, a habbit that seems unfortuantley widespread in Bulgaria.
The Thracian Valley is always a useful place to start when engaging with Bulgarian wines. Many of the wines come from the various towns around this large region and are labelled simply as Thracian Valley PGI.
There are two main tiers of quality classification. The basic regional classification is simple. There are only two.
PDO Strouma Velley
PDO South Black Sea coast
PDO Black Sea Region
PDO Novo Selo
PDO Novi Pazar
PDO Veliki Preslav
PDO Khan Kroum
PDO Stara Zagora
PDO Nova Zagora