Apart from various VIPs plunging into vineyards to try their hand at vine-pruning, Bulgaria’s annual Trifon Zarezan celebration on February 14 also gives a glimpse of the performance of the country’s wine industry.
After the years of financial and economic crisis that had a sour effect on exports of Bulgarian wine, more recent figures for production, exports and grape quality are leading the sounding of optimistic notes.
According to a statement by Bulgaria’s agriculture ministry in November 2013, a new national programme of assistance for the wine industry, spanning 2014 to 2018, foresees the spending of more than 130 million leva.
At the time, the government announced its intention to hold promotions of Bulgarian wines in the country’s embassies in various parts of the world.
Close to 65 per cent of Bulgaria’s wine is exported, and in turn 80 per cent of these exports go to Russia.
Going by agriculture ministry figures, exports of Bulgarian wines increased by close to six per cent year-on-year in the first six months of 2013. However, speaking in October 2013, Agriculture Minister Dimitar Grekov cautioned producers that while an international marketing campaign was planned, Bulgarian producers should aim constantly at improving the quality of the wines they made.
Production of wine rose from about 127 million litres in 2012 to about 200 million litres in 2013. While production was up, there were complaints from producers about lower prices.
Earlier in February 2014, Radoslav Radev, head of Bulgaria’s National Vine and Wine Chamber, said that Bulgaria “had never produced better wines”, telling Bulgarian National Radio that a “real revolution” had happened in the domestic wine-producing industry in recent years, financed to a large extent by the EU Common Agricultural Policy.
“We have registered great progress in the way vineyards are planted and grown,” Radev said.
“Lots of money was invested in modern technologies. The Bulgarian wine now has a completely new face. We offer good proportion between price and quality, excellent wines with a great design and history. The challenge now is to spread this news successfully abroad.”
Apart from progress in restoring Bulgaria’s place in the wine market in Russia, there also had been progress in the Polish and Czech markets, according to Radev.
Other markets where contracts have been signed to import Bulgarian wine include Sweden, Japan and India. Bulgarian wine is available in notable quantities in retail chains in Switzerland and Romania, while other destinations for exports include Germany, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Radev said that, in terms of the export market, Bulgarian wine was shiftly slowly from the low price segment to the medium and higher-price part of the market.
Against the background of Bulgaria’s efforts at further building trade relations with China – in recent months, the country’s president, prime minister and speaker of parliament all have made the trip to Beijing – there is hope of further developing exports of wine to China, which have been increasing steadily in recent years.
In November 2013, the executive director of the Vine and Wine Executive Agency, Krassimir Koev, told local media said that Bulgaria intended “seriously entering” the Asian wine market in 2014.
As to the domestic market, consumption of wine locally increased 10 per cent year-on-year in 2013, and further growth was expected in 2014.
(Photo: Antti Simonen/sxc.hu)