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Bulgarian WINE – a JOURNEY in THE TIME

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This story is prepared by Mr. George Ganchev – Hedonique, Founder of Wine & Food Society
only for „Beyond Taste, Oltre Il Gusto” – Magazine.

Looking at the map of Europe, Bulgaria is at the same latitude as Spain, southern France and Italy. Here in the land of the Thracians from the deepest antiquity, the four mountains define a huge variety of terror and wines.

The Thrace
/300 and 400 BC./
The Thracian wine was praised even in ancient literature. Herodotus wrote in his treatise “The Histories of Herodotus” that Cleomenes lost his senses drinking “wine unmixed with water”. In “The Iliad” Homer writes of “a cup of wine as sweet as honey” – Book 18. What we know of their taste from back then can be drawn from Homer who wrote “as often as they drank that honey-sweet red wine he would fill one cup and pour it into twenty measures of water, and a smell would rise from the mixing-bowl marvelously sweet” (The Odyssey, Book 9). We can only assume that ancient red wine was thicker, sweeter and more fragrant. What is sure, though, is that the ancient Thracians, the The Legend of Mavrud
The legend tells of an young man from the remote past, when khan Tervel /700 – 721 AD/ – St. Trivelius, the savior of Europe, ruled the Bulgarian lands. The lad had recently been recruited in the army. When his mother saw him fighting for the first time, she gave him a canteen with a special liquid. She told him that whenever the courage eluded him, the young man should drink from the canteen in order to regain his braveness.
In the campaign against the Arab horde during the siege of Constantinople on the 15th of August, 718, the young man was inspired and imbued with courage. Several times he saved the khan from sure death. He was fearless. At the end of the battle, the khan searched the young man and found him lying wounded amongst several dead bodies. The khan then asked him:
– „Young man, this is the first time you have entered a battle, your comrades fled because of fear, you remained bold. How did you gather such courage?”
– „ My mother gave me a canteen, filled with a miraculous liquid. She told me to drink from it whenever I’m scared. So I did.”
The khan took a sip from the canteen and immediately fell warmness going through his body. His mind cleared, his strength recovered. The khan smiled and asked the lad:
– „What is your name?”
– „My name is Mavrud! – replied the young man.
– „From this day forward let this miraculous liquid be named after you – Mavrud, so that the future generations remember your courage!” – said khan Tervel.
Middle Ages
The quality of the Bulgarian wines was described in the centuries that followed. A legend tells that during the Fourth Crusade /1202 – 1204/, knights entered the city of Asenovgrad. But the Mavrud that they found there made them kind and they spared the inhabitants.
Other documents were alsow found, that describe the abundance of wine in the region. During the Middle Ages the monasteries played an important role in the development of wine-making. Monks were among the avid admirers of the liquid. Evidence in the Bachkovo Monastery indicates that monks drank between 4 and 8 cups of wine a day, which is an average of more than a liter. The barrels, in which held the wine, were stored underground in stone-walled cellars, where they were kept at low temperatures.
After the Independence 1878
When Europe celebrates Valentine’s Day – on the 14th of February, in Bulgaria we celebrate Saint Trifon Zarezan – the heavenly patron of the wine. This is the first holiday associated with spring. The name Zarezan comes from the fact that the vines are ritually cutted then. Blessing vineyard, drinking wine, eating and dancing a lot …
It 1938 that vineyards returned to the prephilox. A French specialist was invited to assess Bulgarian grape varieties and soil types. These are the first attempts to plant French grapes such as Gamay Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and others.
The period of socialism 1944 -1989
In 1978 an entity called “The Central Tasting Committee” was created. Wine had to pass strict requirements and was categorized based on quality control. Although around 90% of the wine, which was of low to medium quality, was still exported to the USSR, the creation of the Committee helped Bulgaria in broadening its markets to England, Germany and Japan, where Bulgarian high-quality wine was praised for its affordable prices.
Bulgarian wine industry is export orientated. The foreign trade accounts for 64% of the production. During the period 1986-1990, Bulgaria was the 5th largest exporter of wine with average annual export of 1804 thousand hectoliters (Bulgarian National Bank).
Today, after ten years of full membership in the European Union, Bulgaria ranks 15-th in the world ranking of wine-producing countries. Over 200 producers of modern wines from many local and world varieties are waiting for you. Wine & Food Society – Bulgaria is honored to be your host of this wine tour. Cheers!

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