A visitor’s observations on the Bulgarian wine scene: Chateau Burgozone

I first met Stefan and Svetla Marinov in the closing phases of the First Balkan International Wine Competition held in Sofia recently. They were at the Chateau Burgozone stand, an estate that was not among the medal winners. However, my guide assured me that I would not be wasting my time. Looking at their slogan, I was frankly skeptical. Soon a lively technical discussion, ranging from the use of oak to the design of labels ensued, ending with a spontaneous invitation to visit the estate.

To taste “probably the best wine in the country” in the company, and under the guidance of the team that produced it, was a challenge not to be missed.

So last week, I was met by Stefan Marinov, guiding spirit behind this very impressive venture, on the banks of the Danube, a few kilometres east of Vidin. He immediately took us to the top of the 150 hectare property, from where one had a magnificent view of the Danube and the verdant vineyards. On this hill, the highest elevation on the entire Bulgarian riverfront (250m above sea level ) wine has been grown for literally thousands of years. This was the location of an old Roman fort called Burgozone which gave its name to the current vineyard.

As we looked at the verdant vineyards, Stefan explained that it had taken two years to prepare the soil, after the area had been allowed to revert to nature over the preceding 20-odd years. Also, it had taken negotiations with more than 500 title deed holders, to consolidate the current property. Altogether it had been a costly exercise, but according to Stefan, well worth it. The soil had been rested, and the roots were able to penetrate deep into the sub-soil. In the heat of mid-summer, the vines looked very healthy, and they had grown fast, despite the lack of any irrigation. However, I could not but think back to some of the scruffy canopies I had seen in Australia, where the mantra was – the vines must suffer, to create great wines!

I need not have worried. This young estate has already garnered three Gold Medals at Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2012. After a quick tour through the state of the art winery – a prerequisite for the inclusion of EU funding – we met in the tasting room, where we tasted a flight of six wines. A Sauvignon Blanc 2011, a Chardonnay 2011, a Viognier 2011, a Rose with a cheerful, colorful second label, reminiscent of summer and autumn colors, a Cabernet Franc 2010 and an unusual, but exciting Marselan 2010, which had won one of the Gold Medals and was actually my favourite.

As one would expect from such young vines, all the whites had a high alcohol level. However the team is well aware of this, and the use of reverse osmosis in the future, for some markets, is seriously being considered. On the other end of the scale, the team has set itself the challenging task of producing a palatable, alcohol-free wine – a contradiction in terms? – which could, if  successful,  reach a large new market.

There is no doubt that in the years to come Chateau Burgazone bears watching closely, and that it will be right up there, with the medal winners at the 2nd Balkan International Wine Competition.

(Photo: Antti Simonen/sxc.hu)