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Wines from Brestovitsa: Elevating Bulgaria's presence on the world wine map

Brestovitsa wine in the context of Bulgarian and global trade in the sector

Photo: brestovitsawinery.eu

The demand for wine is growing rapidly in the world markets. This is according to the latest data. The reason is customers' preference for sustainable beverages. And there is a new trend in the wine sector - towards the integration of modern technologies and quality improvement, as well as an increase in e-commerce. Last but not least, artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies are also making their way into global supply and demand. 

Against this backdrop, however, Bulgaria, once a leading wine producer and exporter in the 1980s, is now becoming an importer due to the high cost of domestic bottled production and the low level of wine consumption in the country. The wine consumption in Bulgaria is well below the European average - an average of 23 litres per person per year, while in countries such as Italy, Spain and France, wine consumption is over 40 litres per year (data for 2022).

Over the past two decades, production of Bulgarian wine has halved to 80 million litres. Despite this decline, imports are increasing and, in monetary terms, sales exceed the income from the export of Bulgarian wine abroad.

As the volume of wine production in Bulgaria decreases, the number of small wine producers in the country is increasing and now exceeds 350. A noteworthy trend is the emergence of numerous boutique wineries that strive to deliver quality wines and compete for a leading role in the Balkans. This development sets the stage for the growth of wine tourism in Bulgaria.

The wine routes through the Thracian Valley lead us to the village of Brestovitsa, which proudly bears the title "Wine Capital of Bulgaria". The region is where most of Bulgaria's red grape varieties are grown, including the famous Mavrud and the lesser known Rubin and Pamid.

With a population of about 4 thousand people, Brestovitsa is one of the largest villages in the Plovdiv region, located only 17 km from the city. In the 1930s, the cooperatives of Brestovitsa built their own cellar, designed by French engineers. It has been preserved until today and is a traditional French ground-floor cellar. 

The history of the Brestovitsa cellar has had many twists and turns. In the 1940s it was nationalised. After the fall of communism in the country, ownership was returned to the local cooperatives. Although there are plans to gradually renovate the cellar building in the near future, it still operates today as it did 90 years ago.

"We are trying to develop wine tourism in Brestovitsa. That is why we are planning to build a new and bigger tasting room and a shop in the cellar to sell our own wine," says Krasimir Patishanov, chairman of the Brestovitsa Wine Producers' Cooperative.
Krasimir Patishanov
"This is a segment of the wine business that has enormous potential, and we are actively working with our colleagues from Brestovitsa and the region to develop wine tourism. We have created wine routes, maps with a marked wine route connecting Plovdiv with the wineries in the surrounding area and the Rhodope region. The philosophy of our winery is to focus on traditional Bulgarian varieties - it's been our strategy for decades - and that's why the main varieties we develop here are Mavrud, Rubin and Pamid. 13 years ago we took on the mission to revive this traditional Bulgarian variety - the Pamid. We already have followers, as other wineries are now producing Pamid. We also have a wine museum in Brestovitsa. On the initiative of the wineries, the town hall and the Ministry of Tourism, our village has been officially registered as the "Wine Capital of Bulgaria".

Older people in Brestovitsa remember that 80 years ago there were 6 800 acres of vineyards in the village. Today there are no more than 3700, a large number of which are dessert varieties. Over the years there has also been a policy of deliberate destruction of vineyards, but at least in Brestovitsa wine production is flourishing. People are returning to the village's traditional way of life, new vineyards are being planted and there is no family that does not have its own vineyard and homemade wine in the cellar.

The wine of Brestovitsa is already known on 4 continents - in Europe, in Asia, in North America and in South America. Every year, from 10 to 12 March, it is presented at the prestigious Prowein fair in Düsseldorf, where the participants are specially selected. 

"A few years ago we focused on the emerging markets in China, Japan, and Vietnam, where we have our main customers - Krasimir Patishanov tells Radio Bulgaria. - But the pandemic and the outbreak of war have created an unfavourable environment in recent years. Before the pandemic we sold up to 70-80 thousand bottles a year in China alone. I hope that Bulgarian wine will have a future in these markets, because if we succeed there, the whole Bulgarian wine industry will succeed.

Photos: Facebook/ brestovitsawinery, Pixabay
Translated and posted by Elizabeth Radkova

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