Stefan Pirev, production director, tells us why this is an experience appealing to both enthusiasts and true connoisseurs
One of the most attractive regions standing out on the wine map of Bulgaria is the Northwest Region: it stretches from the Danube River to the Iskar River and the Balkan Mountains. The rich soils and favourable climate of this region are only a small part of the unique conditions for growing high quality grapes and producing wine for real connoisseurs. The typical variety of the Northwest Region is the so-called Gamza, and some other quite popular ones include Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, etc.
It is not by accident that a little over three years ago the locality between the villages of Gomotartsi and Koshava on the bank of the Danube River became the home of the family winery BONONIA ESTATE. Its name was inspired by an ancient Roman fortress rising on the bank of the Danube River, Bononia – or present-day Vidin.
You can learn more about the winery and the wines it makes from Stefan Pirev, one of the leading Bulgarian oenologists with more than 30 years of work experience in viticulture. He took up the challenging task of turning the wines made by BONONIA ESTATE into an experience appealing to both enthusiasts and true connoisseurs.
‘What is the ideology behind the selection of the wines you offer?’
‘In terms of style, our wines are made in a way which relies a lot on the extraction and combination of the best qualities of the terroir and the modern trends on the markets, shaped and adjusted through the lens of our winemakers and the traditions of the region. In the past, about 40 or 50 years ago, Vidin was one of the leading grapes growing and wine making regions in Bulgaria. It is best known for its Gamza variety which we have set our hearts on reviving although its growing and vinification require some serious efforts. It ripens late and is very susceptible to diseases, and also has a very low level of anthocyanes, but at the same time, its aromatic potential, its phenolic structure, and its aging characteristics make it a real oenological challenge.’ ‘How would you describe the term ‘terroir’ as seen in the context of BONONIA ESTATE? ‘In the last years everyone talking about wine, starts and finishes with the terroir. All I want to say on the matter is that the climate changes of the past 15 years have worked in favour of BONONIA ESTATE. The vineyards owned by the winery sprawl over 1,500 decares and are planted in a terroir which is perfect for grapes growing. Thanks to all that, our wines are elegant, fresh, full-bodied and with a distinctive character.
Do you have a favourite wine of the BONONIA ESTATE portfolio?
For a winemaker it is always very difficult to point to only one favourite wine. This is not unlike asking a parent to say who their favourite child is. There is hardly any parent in their right mind that would be able to choose. Of course, it is a little bit easier with wines. So far, I would say this is the BONONIA ESTATE Gamza for me. I would like to open a bracket here and explain that we are still in the process of developing our portfolio; in fact, we are at the very start, and this is the most important element for any winery. But why this wine in particular? As I said, this is a very challenging, yet delicate variety. Stylistically, our work has been focused on coming up with a new vision for this wine and presenting it to the consumer in a new light – as authentic and refined, but at the same time with a huge potential. Those who can appreciate a good wine will see the point. We will only produce it if we decide that its quality is consistent with our idea of a good wine.
This year BONONIA ESTATE is expected to open its doors to guests with a new boutique hotel complex with a restaurant and a SPA centre. Do you think that Bulgaria can compete with the big global producers that are well known in the wine tourism industry?
I think there is no competition in wine tourism. Tourists who invest in travel of this kind are a very specific group of people. They are led by emotion, passion, and a love for wine. It is like a drug and once you try it, you cannot quit. At the same time, winemaking is a livelihood or, in other words, it is associated with the culture of a particular country. It’s a hard, but dignified business. So in order to attract tourists, it is not enough to have good wine. Very often they come to Bulgaria with a keen interest but leave disappointed with the product that they were offered. When all components are at the required level, they will come in larger numbers. It is all in our hands, but the natural resources are really not all it takes.
This year BONONIA ESTATE is expected to present all wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts with the opportunity to visit the one-of-a-kind building with its preserved underground corridors dating back to 1895. In addition to the cellar, there will be an opening of a brand new boutique hotel with 23 rooms and a modern restaurant with gardens. Amazingly, this project is developed only 11 metres away from the Danube River. BONONIA ESTATE is planning to present to its guests various wine tasting rooms, a SPA zone, a conference hall, a swimming pool and many other experiences for all wine enthusiasts. With this enterprise we will try to contribute to the development and improvement of the wine tourism in the region and the country.
And finally, in your personal opinion, which are the strengths and most remarkable aspects of the BONONIA ESTATE project?
First of all, this is the attitude of the owners and their unbridled confidence and excitement that things will turn out in the best way, and that at the same time everything will be done by the book. An aspiration of this kind is a rare sight in Bulgaria. Secondly, this is the team. A group of young people unburdened by the deleterious aspects of our business who are under the spell of the magic called wine. To me, the human factor is more important than the terroir.
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