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Copyright © 2015
Forkmedia LLC

by Fred McMillin
for March 23, 2000


Another Bulgarian Bargain


Today Bulgaria is apparently the world's second largest exporter of bottled wine...The southern district of Sliven is known for its full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.

...World Atlas of Wine, Hugh Johnson

The Rest of the Story

We've got a Sliven Cab for you, a Bulgarian bargain. Bulgarian wine?? Huge exporter?? Let's see how it got that way.

8000 B.C.—Wine is fermented west of the Black Sea in what is today Bulgaria. Hence, Bulgaria may have been the first place man made wine.

The Wine God Dionysus appears. Homer mentions the area's wines in both the Iliad and the Odyssey.

However, the vine has had its opponents. Legend says that during the reign of Khan Kroum all vineyards were ordered destroyed. Later, a lion escaped from its cage and terrorized the city. However, a fearless young man named Mavrud (now the name of a wine grape) confronted and slew the beast. The king summoned Mavrud's mother to learn the source of such courage. She said she secretly saved a vine, made wine, and that was the source of his bravery. Khan Kroum ordered the vineyards replanted.

A more modern opponent was the Soviet's Secretary General Gorbachev. As part of his program to reduce alcohol consumption in the USSR, he also ordered the uprooting of large tracts of Bulgarian vines.

However, you can't keep a good vineyard down. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the vines were back. I've seen Sliven Cab production figures in the range of a million cases a year.

The Wine

The Sliven winery making today's selection is named Vini. We reviewed their Merlot in the April 7, 1998 WineDay, "A Bargin from Bulgaria". Today's wine picks off bronze medals, which is no easy feat for a seven dollars Cabernet. Here are the details.

Vini 1995 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
District—Sliven, Bulgaria
Rating—If you drink Cabs costing less than $10, be sure to try this one. RECOMMENDED in its price range. Europe's Opinion—Great Britian imports about five millions cases a year of Bulgarian varietal wine, including plenty of Cab. The U.S.A. brings in only a trickle. It looks like the U.K. knows something we don't.
My Panel's Opinion—"Tastes like a good Zinfandel." Food Affinities—Buy now, drink now with any fairly robust food, be it a Big Mac or a small pizza.
Importer—Bulgarian Master Vintners, owned by Vance Petrunoff. Vance hasn't slain a lion like Mavrud, but has shown similar bravery. Way too creative for his Soviet-dominated homeland, he obtained a visa to travel from Bulgaria to Tokyo, and after some careful maneuvering, wound up in Anchorage, Alaska. He slipped out of the airplane, and in time his request for political asylum was granted. That was 15 years, and many imported cases ago!
To reach Vance—Ph. (707) 939-8719, FAX (707) 939-8731


You may recognize a familiar influence in Bulgarian wines. Sliven benefited when Pepsicola helped upgrade Sliven winemaking by having a pretty good outfit guide them...University of California—DAVIS!

Credits: The Wine & Food of Bulgaria, Don Philpott

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created March 2000