The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2015

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36  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2015 CAMPAIGN FINANCED WITH AID FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION, GREECE AND THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA I t could be argued that some of the freshest, most interesting new wines coming into the U.S. in 2015 were 5,000 years in the making. New releases of European wines from the region of Bulgaria—and the high-profile events being staged to promote them under a European Union–sponsored program called European Wine Treasures—represent an exciting move forward for the wines as their cachet for consumers continues to transition from curiosity into discovery. This can be credited in part to the increasing number of American wine drinkers who are interested in the history behind these discoveries—that Bulgarian wine had its origins five millennia ago and flourished in the Middle Ages, and that, in modern times, the country achieved status in the 1980s as the world's second-largest wine producer. The U.S. market is finally catching up to these tradition-rich wines. New U.S. arrivals in 2015 will include new vintages of wines that have been present on the American market for years, as well as the introduction of newly-imported wines from seven Bulgarian wineries at high-traffic trade shows such as World Wide Wine Meeting in Chicago in April of this year, showcased within the framework of the European Wine Treasures campaign for the promotion of PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) wines. The lineup of 2013 red varietals include those made from Mavrud (an indigenous Bulgarian grape variety whose name means "black"), Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Mavrud grape is also blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in some red blends. White releases include wines from the superstar Chardonnay grape that should appeal strongly to the American market. "The fact that Bulgaria is on the European continent adds accessibility and interest for the new crop of our wines," says Radoslav Radev, Chairman of the National Vine and Wine Chamber of Bulgaria and manager of European Wine Treasures. "One of our challenges is to get past their desire to connect our country with something or someone famous or familiar. However, we are seeking continued success with the strategy of staging events that show that our winemakers and their products offer trade and consumers the best of Old World winemaking traditions and a New World outlook." In other words, an ultimate goal is to appeal to a generation of wine drinkers who are excited about the idea of step- ping outside their wine comfort zones and embracing something new. The effectiveness of this strategy is measurable. The past decade has seen a flood of imaginative new Bulgarian ventures, a re-emergence of boutique producers and an up-and-coming generation of internationally-trained winemakers. In New York City, meanwhile, wine trade members and press were treated to a late April wine-and-food pairing semi- nar at Corkbuzz Wine Studio, moderated by Balkan wine experts Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jensen. The event provided a deeper introduction to the constantly evolving Bulgarian wine industry and hotly-anticipated new releases. In future stories in this series, we will examine how the wines from the ancient Thracian lands are being introduced to consumers on-premise and ways in which sommeliers are pairing them with international cuisine. With a 5,000-year history behind it, Bulgarian wine is moving confidently into the future. Old World Wines, New World Outlook DRAWING ON A TRADITION THAT DATES BACK MILLENNIA, QUALITY EUROPEAN WINES MOVE INTO THE U.S. MARKET by Elyse Glickman White grapes include Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Chardonnay, Traminer, Dimyat, Rhine Riesling, Tamyanka, Pinot Gris, Ugni Blanc, Rkatziteli, Aligoté and Viognier, among others. The resulting wines, now coming into the U.S. market, have complex aromas with predominating citrus fruit and nuances of herbs, fresh grass and wildflowers. The taste is fresh and harmonious, with balanced acid and a long aftertaste. PHOTO COURTESY OF EUROPEAN WINE TREASURES

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