Wine making in Bulgaria has an ancient history, extending back at least a few thousand years to the Thracians. Interestingly, during the 1980s, Bulgaria was the second largest wine producer in the world but that fell apart with the collapse of communism. In recent years, the wine industry has been rebounding, and the quality of their wines has been improving. As such, you may soon start seeing more Bulgarian wines on store shelves and restaurant lists.
Presently, the winery has about 200 hectares of vineyards, growing two indigenous grapes, Rubin and Mavrud, as well as some international varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Alicante Bouschet, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. Their winemaker and executive consultant is Michel Rolland, and they also have two oenologists, Plamena Kostova and Anton Dimitrov. I had the opportunity to taste six of their wines and overall I enjoyed them. I would have liked to see more use of their indigenous grapes, to gain a better sense of Bulgaria itself and its lengthy vinous history.
The 2009 Pendar Red (about $12) is an interesting blend of 55% Rubin and 45% Merlot. Rubin is an indigenous grape, a cross between Syrah and Nebbiolo. This wine spends about 8 months in new French oak and has an ABV of 14%. With lots of red fruit aromas and flavors, there was additional complexity with spice notes and hints of earthiness. The tannins were noticeable but restrained and there was a nice, spicy kick on the finish. This is an easy drinking wine with character, which could be enjoyed on its own though pairing it with food might be a better option. Highly recommended.
The 2008 Via Diagonalis Red (about $15) is a blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Rubin and 5% Mavrud. This wine spends about 8 months in 50% new French oak and has an ABV of 14%. This wine is a bit deeper and more tannic than the Pendar, with more black fruit flavor, some vanilla and a touch of leather. This is definitely a food wine. The 2010 Dominant Red is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet spends about 8 months in new French oak and has an ABV of 14.5%. This was an easy drinking wine with red and black fruit flavors, plenty of spice and moderate tannins.
The final wine was the 2009 Butterfly's Rock (about $30) is a Bordeaux-style wine, a blend of 50% Merlot 50%, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 10% Syrah. This wine spends about 24 months in new French oak and has an ABV of 14.5%. This is a silky and elegant wine, with deep, ripe black fruit flavors, a spicy backbone and well-integrated tannins. It tends to be more Old World in style, and is complex, well balanced and delicious. This wine should probably be decanted before drinking, and should age well. Highly recommended.