Why have Bulgarian wines done so much better in the West than that of other East European countries?
One reason is that it got off to an early start, thanks to specialization within Comecon countries, the East European Communist counterpart to the European Economic Community, under Krushchev during the 1950s. During the 1970s Bulgaria successfully exploited the western predilection for Cabernet Sauvignon (which now accounts for one in four vines), and since then it has never looked back.
Production has fluctuated during the 1980s. As exports to the Soviet Union dropped during this period, vines were pulled up, reducing output by a quarter. Years of drought in the late 1980s reduced it further, from 4.5 million hectoliters (118 881 000 U.S. gallons in 1985 to a mere 1.8 million hectoliters) 47 552 400 U.S. gallons in 1990. But the 1990 vintage was "The best in forty-five years" according to the Bulgarian Vintners Company (B.V.C.). Rain during 1991 relieved the worst effects of the drought, and production approached normal levels.
Short harvests in the early 1990s moved Bulgaria from fifteenth to about twentieth in the volume league table of wine production. Nevertheless, it was the second largest exporter of bottled wine in the world up to 1990.
Of the regional designations Shumen, Varna and Targovishte in the Eastern Region have the best track record for white wines, including Chardonnay. Oaky Khan Krum is best known outside the country, but Novi Pazar and Preslav also produce moderately good Chardonnays.
Suhindol, Pavlikeni and Pleven in the Northern Region are best known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and the native Gamza, which produces full-bodied, chunky wines that can age well. Svischtov and Lozitza Cabernet Sauvignons are particularly rich.
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