Which Bulgarian wines and grape varietals should you know and what traditional dishes should you add to them for a perfect local gourmet experience? Follow our insider’s guide to make the most of your culinary trip to Bulgaria.
Bulgarian wine in short
These lands have been covered in vineyards since the time of the ancient Thracians. Besides world favorites like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, you can taste local wines from a bunch of Bulgarian grape varietals. There are scores of wineries inviting visitors for wine-tasting tours in all corners of Bulgaria.
This varietal is grown only in Bulgaria and it’s one of the oldest grapes found in the country. The grapes are tiny, dark blueish to black, sweet and covered by a thick skin.
How to combine Mavrud and food: pizza Margherita, smoked and semi-matured yellow cheese, all kinds of pork, kebapche and kyufte (local barbecue-grilled minced meat), moussaka (a local baked dish with potatoes and minced meat), lamb.
There are many varieties of Misket (a grape similar to Muscat) that are widely grown all over Bulgaria. If you can’t try them all, make sure you at least sample Red Misket (Cherven Misket). Fun fact: Red Misket is actually used to produce wonderful white wines. You will recognize a Misket wine by its saturated hay-yellow color and intense aroma.
How to combine Red Misket with food: pasta cooked with savory or red sauces, Shopska salad (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and fresh cheese), vegetarian dishes with broccoli and cauliflower, fish, grilled seafood, poultry dishes.
Dimyat is another ancient varietal that is also grown in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, Turkey and Russia. Its green-yellow grapes are used to create dessert white wines.
How to combine Dimyat with food: vegetarian dishes with maize and peas, salads containing onions and mayonnaise-based salads, grilled fish, chicken dishes.
Rubin (or Ruby) is a hybrid created in the 1940s in the Bulgarian city of Pleven using Nebbiolo and Syrah. It is used to produce delicious sweet and semi-sweet wines.
How to combine Rubin with food: pasta and risotto with cream- and cheese-based sauces, vegetarian dishes with peppers, mature yellow cheese (cheddar, gouda), smoked meat, pork and sausages.
Shiroka Melnishka Loza (Broad-leaved Melnik)
This old-time Bulgarian varietal ripens late – in October – and in the 20th century it was used as a base for many hybrid varietals. One of these hybrids is Melnik 55, grown only in the valley of the Struma River and a symbol of the Melnik wine region.
How to combine Shiroka Melnishka Loza with food: fresh cottage cheese, feta cheese, vegetarian dishes with mushrooms, dishes with red meat.
Pamid was cultivated back in the times of the Thracians and it used to be the most widespread Bulgarian varietal. Its tiny red grapes with thin skin are used to produce red table wine for mass consumption.
How to combine Pamid with food: banitsa (a local baked pastry made with cheese, spinach or cabbage), cheese fried in egg and bread crumbs, fish with tomato sauce, fish soup, baked chicken with potatoes.
Another old-time Bulgarian varietal that makes an aromatic red table and dessert wine. You will recognize a good Gamza wine by its pale ruby color and dominant raspberry aroma.
How to combine Gamza with food: pasta, risotto and vegetarian dishes with mushrooms, soft cheese like camembert and brie, lamb, sweet baked pumpkin with honey and walnuts.