A story of a rare Bulgarian grape variety and 10 wines

On the Bulgarian wine market today

There are at least 10 different white wines from the charming Vrachanski misket variety. Which one is best? Bulgarian news website “e-vestnik” has organised an elaborate tasting event. All but one wine was priced between 15 and 20 BGN, some even as high as 22 BGN a bottle. Certain wines were harder to find because they are only small batches of 2-3 thousand bottles available. In addition, there are doubts among connoisseurs 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 variety. Grapes could sometimes be mistaken for Vrachanski misket or even intentionally blended with an ordinary misket.

The men in charge

The author of the article, Ivan Bakalov is a Bulgarian journalist. He invited along wine producer and merchant Margarit Todorov. Mr. Todorov is an independent wine expert for over 10 years. Most of his experience he acquired while at the helm of the famous Bulgarian winery “Domain Boyar”. Now retired, 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 carefully made notes for each of the wines.

A short history of a rare variety

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.

Back to the present days

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 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, 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 as it turns out it is a result of creative marketing and branding. All but two of the wines included in the event are from cellars in this region. The two exceptions are from the cellar in Euxinograd and 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 gathering dust in storage and not selling because of the price, or they simply do not produce this variety every year. For example, the 2020 vintage of “Vrachanski Misket” – Evksinograd, and the 2019 vintage of “The Place” from “Vrachanska Temenuga” EOOD.

And the judges’ scores are in…

Starting from the number one wine and going down the rankings with their respective score:

1. “The Guest” 2021 from Staro Oryahovo cellar, rating 5.25

2. “Vrachanska Pansy”, rating 4.75

3. “Ahinora” 2020 from Selanovtsi cellar, rating 4.25

4. “White Story” 2021 from Staro Oryahovo cellar, rating 4.25

According to the panel of experts, all of the above wines are worth a try. The wines further down do not offer such good value for money.

5. Vrachanski misket 2020 “Euxinograd” cellar, rating 4.00.

6. “Tochka” 2021, Tipchenitsa Winery, rating 3.75.

7. “Vrachanska Temenuga” black label, Bononia Estate Winery, rating 3.75

8. “Trevite” 2021, Magura Winery, rating 3.75.

9. “The Place” 2019, rating 3.25.

10.“Istar”  2021 ” from Bononia Estate Winery, rating 3.00

Finally, the judges made some remarks about the high retail price 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.

The Bulgarian wine industry found a friend in the Netherlands

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.

In 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.”