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Tasting Modern Wines of Bulgaria in London

Local grapes 🍇 & bargain bottles 😎 make Bulgaria an attractive wine country 🇧🇬 where winemakers focus on quality to offer a unique range of wines.

At UnscrewMe, we are always eager to explore new, upcoming and exciting wine regions 🤓. Last year, we first came across Bulgarian wine 🇧🇬 and swiftly organised a private Bulgarian wine tasting 🍷.

Not long after our own tiny tasting, we went to the first “Modern Wines of Bulgaria“ trade tasting organised by the great people of The Old Cellar and Apollowine amongst others, who we worked with for our own tasting. At this tasting in 2018, a sparkling wine was our favourite, made from a Bulgarian grape variety called “Broad Leaved Melnik“.

Naturally, when we were invited again this year to come to the tasting at the Bulgarian Embassy in South Kensington, we didn’t hesitate for a second! As Bulgarian wines are still largely absent from most wine lists, we decided to highlight today the eight wines we enjoyed most at the “Modern Wines of Bulgaria” tasting. And while we didn’t quite manage to sample all the wines, we did go through 45 — not counting the raki we tasted at the excellent “Bulgaria Uncorked” Masterclass by the very knowledgeable Master Sommelier Svetoslav Manolev and Advanced Sommelier Blagoy Kuzmanski.

🍾 Pretty Rare Pét-Nat Riesling

  • Wine: 2018 Pét-Nat Riesling Extra Brut
  • Producer: Tsarev Brod Winery
  • Region: Danube Plain, North, Bulgaria 🇧🇬
  • Story:
    We knew this winery from our own tasting where their unique wine made from the almost extinct local variety Gergana impressed many of our friends. An uncommon “Pétillant Naturel” sparkling wine made from Riesling grapes was selected for the “Bulgaria Uncorked” Masterclass. It was great to learn that the fun and experimental wine bar Diogenes The Dog in Elephant & Castle chose to put this wine on its menu. Blagoy, one of the sommelier leading the Masterclass, also said that this particular wine had been selling very well at a pop-up in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital.
    The wine starts off a little musty on the nose. Once we tasted it, it turned out nicely balanced with fresh acidity, a bit of residual sugar and long-lasting stone fruit character of apricot. Not your average Prosecco, for sure!
    Unfortunately, we missed the other sparkling wines at the tasting, but this one was already a great discovery 👍.

🍑 Morish Misket

  • Wine: 2016 Expressions Sandanski Misket Single Vineyard
  • Producer: VIA VERDE Wines
  • Region: Struma Valley, South West, Bulgaria 🇧🇬
  • Story:
    Another wine highlighted at the “Bulgaria Uncorked” Masterclass was this white which evolved well from 2016 until now.
    The beautifully floral nose was followed by flavours of concentrated, ripe stone fruits, such as apricot and peach. But there was more, herbal notes and spices made the wine just a little bit more interesting.

🍇 Modern Melnik 55

  • Wine: 2018 Ayano Melnik 55
  • Producer: SeeWines
  • Region: Struma Valley, South West, Bulgaria 🇧🇬
  • Story:
    This was, I believe, the second wine I tasted on the day. I was pleased to come across this wine again at the “Bulgaria Uncorked” Masterclass. Only about 200 bottles were made as a bit of an experiment. This small batch production from biodynamic vineyards showcases the pure flavours of the Melnik 55 grape. As all over the world, many wines in Bulgaria, especially red wines, are treated with oak. However, this does not always bring out the most interesting and unique flavours.
    Beautiful fruit notes are balanced by spicy, smokey and savoury, almost minty, notes with a little tannic bite to it. It’s an enjoyable wine with its own, distinct character. And the producer’s website looks great too with plenty of details and a splendid visual design to guide you through all the characteristics of their wines.

🍒 Gentle Gamza

  • Wine: 2018 Gomotartzi Gamza
  • Producer: Bononia Estate
  • Region: North West Bulgaria, Bulgaria 🇧🇬
  • Story:
    When I read grape names I have never heard of before, I’m always keen to taste them. The Gamza grape was described to me to be similar to Pinot Noir.
    When I tasted the wine, I was attracted by its fresh, enticing and unspoilt strawberry and cherry character.

🍂 Pleasing Pinot Noir

  • Wine: 2018 New Line Pinot Noir
  • Producer: Yamantiev’s Family Winery
  • Region: Thracian Valley, South, Bulgaria 🇧🇬
  • Story:
    In general, when so many indigenous grape varieties are available, I prioritise those more unique bottles over standard, international grape varieties. However, sometimes a good old Pinot Noir can beat them all.
    This was one of the last wines I had tasted that day, and certainly worth it. Combining fruity and earthy notes with good acidity, this wine is a pleasure on the palate.

🌿 Minty Marselan

  • Wine: 2015 Gramatik Marselan
  • Producer: Rupel Winery
  • Region: Struma Valley, South West, Bulgaria 🇧🇬
  • Story:
    After having been in Varna last year and now at two “Modern Wines of Bulgaria” tastings, I thought I knew some Bulgarian grape varieties. But then I come across this black grape called Marselan. Of course I had to try this wine. The grape is originally French and an artificial crossing between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, or Garnacha as it is known it its native country Spain. After reading a bit about this young grape variety, I learned that it is becoming increasingly popular in China. Chinese wine as well as Asian wine in general is something I should probably try more of in the future. Not sure what to expect, but it should be exciting to find out!
    Back to Marselan from Bulgaria, this wine surprised me a little bit with a herbaceous nose, a smell of mint. The minty notes were complemented by great fruit intensity, balancing acidity and a measured amount of oak flavours. Another fun and interesting wine that I was very happy to taste.

🔴 Characterful Cabernet Franc

  • Wine: 2017 Via Aristotelis Cabernet Franc
  • Producer: Orbelia Winery
  • Region: Struma Valley, South West, Bulgaria 🇧🇬
  • Story:
    To me, the most interesting wines from Bulgaria are made with local, indigenous grape varieties. But like the Pinot Noir mentioned earlier or the Marselan, Bulgaria also does highly drinkable examples using international grape varieties.
    Being perhaps the only Cabernet Franc shown at the tasting, I was curious to taste it. After sipping and spitting once or twice, I knew that it was a good choice. The whole package was a delight, starting with a beautiful colour and showing a substantial fruit character that I didn’t expect just from the nose. This wine was another example of a smooth red wine, a good combination of body, noticeable oak influence and an acidity level that made the wine seem very much alive.

❄️ Ice Ice Baby

  • Wine: 2017 ICE Riesling
  • Producer: Tsarev Brod Winery
  • Region: Black Sea, North East, Bulgaria 🇧🇬
  • Story:
    Completing a full circle, we end at the same wine producer where we started. Even with the same grape!
    One of the few sweet wines at the tasting, this Riesling ice wine was nothing short of amazing. Pure Riesling flavours all the way, refreshing yet sweet, an explosion of fruit in your mouth.

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After one year of pushing up the number of tastings we list on UnscrewMe every month, right now we focus on features and automation. Our goal is to bring even more events in more convenient ways to you soon.

Flat White on table at at HJEM coffee shop in London.

(One of the nice things of going to a wine tasting in South Kensington is that it gives me a reason to visit the great HJEM Kensington. Going to trade tastings for me always also means to go through the catalog before the tasting and putting together some notes about the wines I am most curious about. Going through my notes over a coffee is the perfect preparation before an afternoon of sipping wine.)

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First published in November 2019.
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