The history of the Bulgarian grape variety Vrachanski Misket and the top 10 wines

On the Bulgarian wine market today, there are at least 10 different white wines from the charming Vrachanski misket variety. So which one is the best? In the tradition of the Bulgarian news website “e-vestnik”, one has to organise an elaborate tasting event. All but one wine was priced between 15 and 20 BGN, even as high as 22 BGN a bottle. Some of them are harder to find because they are only small batches of 2-3 thousand bottles available. There are some doubts among connoisseurs in Bulgaria whether all of the selected wines are actually of the variety in question. It is also unclear whether there are enough vineyards in Bulgaria growing specifically the old Vrachanski misket. Could the grapes be mistaken for Vrachanski misket or even blended with ordinary misket, and other varieties?

The men behind this event

The author of this article, Ivan Bakalov is a Bulgarian journalist. He invited wine producer and merchant Margarit Todorov. Margarit is an independent wine expert for over 10 years. Once at the helm of the famous Bulgarian winery “Domain Boyar”, he is now retired and based in London. He loves his wines and finds time to travel back to Bulgaria three times a year. The two were joined by Vladimir Vlachkov, a connoisseur, and a jury member in some prestigious competitions – “Vinalies International” – Paris, “Mondial de Rosé” – Cannes, the “Wine Challenge” – London and “Mondial du Vin” in Brussels. Mr. Vlachkov currently acts as a consultant for “Vila Yambol” and “New Bloom” in Bulgaria. All three of them took part in a tasting session and made notes for each of the wines.

A little history of a rare variety

Previously wine of this variety was made in only two places during the communist period. There were limited quantities available. All in all, only several thousand bottles a year were kept in the cellar of the former King Ferdinand’s residence near Varna. The grapes were driven from Vratsa in the North West to Euxinograd on the Black Sea coast. Until 1989, it was intended only for foreign high-ranking guests and the top Bulgarian officials. It is known as the favorite wine of Todor Zhivkov, former Bulgarian communist leader.

Modern wines of this variety are still produced, but everyone who has tasted the former says the two cannot be compared. The present-day “Vrachanski Misket from Euxinograd” is ranked in the middle of the results table. Of the many miskets in Bulgaria, only the Vrachansky misket variety is an old variety. The viticultural institutes in Pleven, Plovdiv, and Sofia made other Misket varieties namely: Danube misket, Plovdiv misket, Pleven misket, Ruse misket, and others. All of them, are the result of crosses between the varieties Dimyat, Perla, Hamburg Misket, Tamyanka, etc. Outside Bulgaria, Vrachanski misket is also found in Hungary. The two main regions for this variety are Vratsa and Lom regions in the North West of Bulgaria. In appearance and aroma, all of these varieties have similarities. There are rumours of a separate variety known as “Vrachanska Pansy”, supposedly different, but it turns is a result of creative marketing and branding. All but two of the wines Vrachanski misket included in the event are from cellars in this region. The two exceptions are one from the cellar in Euxinograd and one from the village of Staro Oryahovo, both in the Varna region.

Some of the wine brands, only exist as older vintages, it is not clear whether they are stuck in storage and not selling because of the price, or they simply do not produce this variety every year. For example, “Vrachanski Misket” – Evksinograd was a 2020 vintage, and “The Place” of “Vrachanska Temenuga” EOOD was a 2019 vintage.

And the judges’ scores are in…

Starting from great and going down to good in the ranking and the respective average score:

  1. “The Guest” Vrachanski Misket 2021 from “Staro Oryahovo” cellar, rating 5.25
  2. “Vrachanska Pansy”, rating 4.75
  3. AHINORA Vrachanski misket 2020 from Selanovtsi cellar, rating 4.25
  4. White Story Vrachanski Misket 2021 from “Staro Oryahovo” cellar, rating 4.25

According to the judges, all of the wines above are excellent or very good white wines, worth a try. The wines further down are not good value for money given the higher price with the exception of the one from Magura winery.

  1. Vrachanski misket 2020 “Euxinograd” cellar, rating 4.00.
  2. “Tochka” Vrachanski misket 2021, Tipchenitsa Winery, rating 3.75.
  3. “Vrachanska Temenuga” black label, Bononia Estate Winery, rating 3.75
  4. “Trevite” Vrachanski misket 2021, Magura Winery, rating 3.75.
  5. “The Place” Vrachanski Misket 2019, rating 3.25.
  6. “ISTAR” Vrachanski Misket 2021 ” from Bononia Estate Winery, rating 3.00.

Some more details of the 10 wines, in the order of tasting

  1. “Vrachanska Pansy”. Produced by “Vrachanska Temenuga” Ltd in an unknown cellar. It is a limited edition of only 3,200 bottles. There is no vintage on the label either.
  2. Vrachanska Temenuga 2021, Black Label, Bononia Estate Winery. Note that it was produced by the “Bononia Estate” winery on behalf of “Vrachanska Temenuga” Ltd.
  3. “White Story” Vrachanski Misket 2021, Staro Oryahovo cellar. Produced by “Agromeliorations” OOD, Staro Oryahovo. It is a village 8 km from the sea and 30 km south of Varna.
  4. “The Place” Vrachanski Misket 2019 Produced by “Sky club” EOOD, Tipchenitsa winery, on behalf of “Vrachanska Temenuga” Ltd. Limited edition of only 3400 bottles. From the design of the label, one can assume that the above wine “Vrachanska Temenuga” was also produced in Tipchenitsa.
  5. “Tochka” Vrachanski Misket 2021, Tipchenitsa winery, from a small vineyard in the village area, as indicated on the label. The village is 20 km from Vratsa.
  6. Vrachanski misket 2020 “Euxinograd” cellar. As stated on the label – it is produced from grapes grown in the residence’s own vineyards. There are no large vineyards, it is a boutique wine, but only in terms of quantity.
  7. AHINORA Vrachanski Misket 2020, produced by Selanovtsi Ahinora Winery, Selanovtsi village. The village is 8 km from the Danube river, and 80 km from Vratsa, to Oryahovo. There are new plantings of their own vineyards with Vrachanski Misket.
  8. “Trevite” Vrachanski Misket 2021 “Magura” winery. The wine is one of the oldest of this variety, from a 50-year-old cellar, but this is no guarantee of a certain quality.
  9. “ISTAR” Vrachanski Misket 2021 “Bononia Estate” cellar. A new winery on the banks of the Danube, with its own vineyards around, not far from Vidin to the north on the river.
  10. “The Guest” Vrachanski Misket 2021, “Staro Oryahovo” cellar. Produced in “Agromeliorations” OOD for “Devina Smart” OOD, Devnya.

The judges made some final remarks about the high retail prices of the wines in the above selection making them less affordable to local consumers: “Bulgarian producers don’t really know how many good and cheap wines there are in the world.” You can find the full article in Bulgarian here.

Last but not least

Move2Bulgaria asked our own wine expert Rob Nout to share his thoughts on Bulgarian wines and this is what he had to say. For me, Bulgaria is a country with a beautiful historic wine tradition and with a diversity of wine regions, producers, and grape varieties that one can be proud of.

With great enthusiasm, I try to promote and sell Bulgarian wines with their ‘own identity in the Netherlands. At the moment I distribute wines from Bratanov, Damyanov, Edoardo Miroglio, Magura, Tsarev Brod, Rumelia, and Villa Melnik.

It is not easy to ‘seduce’ the Dutch with only wine from indigenous Bulgarian grape varieties. People often stick to well-known international grape varieties. Bulgaria can also distinguish itself in this area, such as the great red wines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc from the Sakar region.

Larger wineries such as Domaine Boyar and Katarzyna are able to sell wines in supermarkets in both Belgium and the Netherlands with these international grape varieties.

But … once on the menu of a Dutch wine lover, the interest in quality wines from Bulgaria continues to grow and people become curious about the various varieties of Melnik, Rubin, Ruen, Pamid, Mavrud, Gamza, but also the different varieties Misket. I got to taste the “Trevite” Vrachanski Misket from Magura.

A visit to the Northwest is on my list for 2023. I, therefore, hope to discover the diversity of the Vrachanski Misket and Gamza too.

I have a wish for the future: I hope that specific appellations can be created in the wine regions. It would perhaps give the wine lover even more guidance than just the division into the two IGP Danube Plain and Thracian Valley.

If you want to follow Rob and his experience with Bulgarian wines visit Bulgaarse wijn, wijnspecialist Bulgarije, wijnreis Bulgarije (noutswijnwereld.eu).

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