Having been fully immersed in all things Balkan during the last week after just returning from a family skiing trip to Bulgaria it feels only apt than I write a few notes from the perspective of an oenophile – Bulgaria is most certainly red wine country – the only known folk song about white wine has the chorus “white wine, white wine – I wish you were red.”
If anyone tries to tell you that the most controversial date in the Bulgarian calendar is the 9th September 1944 (the date of the Communist takeover) you’d be mistaken. Valentine’s day, on the 14th February causes much more of a kerfuffle. There’s a clash of interests here where the West mark all things romantic the Bulgarians have a holiday to celebrate the Saints day “Trifon Zarezan” – the day of Winegrowers. I’m not entirely sure why both Saints can’t be marked on the same day – but I suspect the proud Bulgarians follow the winegrowers day partly in defiance of St Valentine who is seen as an advancing Western aggressor!
There were red wines aplenty – at base camp and up in the mountains. The owner of our basic but charming hotel was ‘into his wine’ so I took a steer from him. Mavrud is a typical Bulgarian wine variety from Thrace, so that’s the one we drank the most of – there was a great ceremony during this one, with the owner cutting the foil below the rim – I guess not everyone wants to explore the 45 Lev wines when you can buy a litre of house merlot for 4 Levs – but experience is everything and I was keen to try whatever I could! After all, it’s not everyday you find yourself in an authentic family run hotel with an owner who knows his stuff!
Our group (from George’s Ski Class) eventually worked through 2 bottles on the Thursday evening and it’s full bodied style went perfectly with my favourite Bulgarian dish of the week – Pork and Chicken Kavarma – a ‘must try’ Bulgarian dish if ever there was – and I’d say that about the wine as well.
Safe to say, the family had one of our best holidays in living memory and we’ll certainly be heading back to the wonderful slopes of Pamporovo next year and enjoying all things Bulgarian!