After three thousand years, you’d think they’d get their wine-production right. But then fifty or so years of the last six decades saw their wines forced into a state industry and two millennia of wine tradition became a cheap commodity. I haven’t been in Bulgaria since the modern “Liberation” from the Iron Curtain (modern as opposed to ancient Liberation when the Bulgarians were freed of the Ottoman Empire and its sinister attitudes toward alcohol consumption in 1878) when I, as a visitor, could dine in good restaurants. In the 1970s my “minders” saw to my food and drink, but unfortunately they knew nothing of wine and could not tell me where my dinner wines came from or how they were produced.
This commentary results from one of our Mothers’ Day wines. My son-in-law, fresh back from Sofia, presented a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Pomorie, long recognized as the best wine district in Bulgaria. On my travels behind the Curtain, I learned of grapes named Rkatzeteli, Pimid, Miskit, and Dimyat, written in a Cyrillic script I couldn’t read. The restaurant servers back then didn’t seem to know about Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot though they had heard of Riesling and Muskat Ottonel.
That’s changed a lot, I’m told, since the political climate changed in 1989 and the state monopoly of the wine industry came to an end. By the end of the 1990s, the wineries had become privatized and consultants and cuttings came across the borders from Germany, France, Italy, and the rest of the European Union. While the Bulgarians are shipping more and more of their wines westward, their primary markets are still in Eastern Europe, but wineries such as Black Sea Gold , which produced our bottle, are making a dent in the world markets.
Two years is very young for a Cabernet, but the tannins in our bottle had diminished considerably and there was harmony throughout the bottle. The color was an impressive garnet and the finish on the palate lingering and pleasing. Even after traveling thousands of miles, this one bottle proved more noteworthy than anything I could remember from those dreary 1970s in Bulgarian hotels and cafes with names I could neither read nor pronounce. We wish those plucky producers well and hope to see their wines in our stores in the near future.