Mar 12, 2019 | NEWS

Could you introduce yourself and the Bononia Estate cellar in a few words?

Hello! My name is Aglika Yotova and my family and I are the proprietors of the winery. Bononia Estate specialises in the production of high-quality Bulgarian wines, focusing its efforts on the white and rosé varieties typical of the northwest regions of Bulgaria, and on the lighter and more ethereal red varieties. Out family business is named after an ancient Roman fortress which stood on the banks of the Danube River, Bononia – the present-day town of Vidin. Our vineyards are situated between the villages of Gomotartsi and Koshava, District of Vidin, on the Danube banks, and currently occupy 1,300 decares which, for now, we are hoping to make into 1,500 decares.
Our portfolio includes 4 brands: Gomotartsi, Istar, Ooh La La, and Reserva, where the name Gomotartsi comes from the eponymous village on the edges of which lie our vineyards, and Istar is the name of our more elegant and higher class wines named after the lower course of the Danube.
Our goal is to make a high-quality and reliable product for the people who are able to appreciate the authentic things in life. We want to present an alternative to the wines which make the most part of the output in our country where production and consumption have a long history and many traditions but the products seem to have lost their attraction and the trust of the customers over the generations. Also, we are trying not only to build one of the best cellars in Easter Europe, but also to support the revival and assert the position of Bulgarian wines on the international scene.

What would you say makes your cellar stand out? How is it different from the other winemakers in Bulgaria?

Bononia Estate has a very interesting and curious history which we love to call a journey through the centuries because it has inherited and unites the traditions of 3 centuries. In the 19th century one of the first breweries in Bulgaria was established where our cellar now stands by a Hungarian who later changed his mind and turned it into a winery. Sadly, though, this part of the country started to lag behind the other regions and seemed to have sunk into oblivion. Nevertheless, thanks to the peculiar characteristics of the terroir and the close proximity to the Danube River, including the big temperature amplitudes and, most of all, the unique natural characteristics of the region, we decided to revive the winemaking industry in this area and to build a closed cycle production business which gives our wines their distinctive character.

Where can your wines be found?

Currently, our products can be found in several of the larger chain stores, such as Metro, CBA, HIT, and some smaller specialised wine shops such as Casa Vino and Vino Orenda, and in various restaurants in Sofia – Shtastlivetsa, SASA, MoMa, Nashe Selo, Kara Ivana, Topolite, and since we are still in the swing of the winter season, I will also mention the places where our products are on offer in Bansko – Molerite, The Obetsan Tavern, Euphoria Bar&Dinner, Ginger Bar&Dinner, Queen’s Pub, The Bears, Five Points.
These are only off the top of my head, there are more. We are planning to start distributing our products to numerous new venues this year.

Have you considered exporting your products?

Of course. At the moment we are focused mostly on the domestic markets because a lot of our attention and efforts are invested in the cellar project but I expect that very soon we will be able to start exploring our options for export.

Tell us more about your latest winner on the market – Gomotartsi Gamza

Currently, we have 45 decares of Gamza and we are planning to expand our vineyards so that we can meet demands. We are enjoying a strong interest in this product even beyond the national borders – a large order was soon made from England. On the whole we ran out of stock very quickly and even had to decline some of the orders. It really is a winner.

Some global wine gurus believe that Bulgaria should do more to encourage and promote its local varieties. Are you a proponent of this view? Other than the Gamza, do you work with other local varieties?

Indeed, Bulgaria has some wonderful and unique local varieties that need to be fostered and presented to the world, but we are also very good at producing the standard and most popular varieties. I know of many people, myself included, who have tried and seem to like better the more traditional varieties, but made by Bulgarian winemakers.
Apart from the Gamza, we are planning to plant authentic Misket which is typical of the region of Vratsa. We hope to make it into a hit product too.

Bononia’s wines really made a lasting impression in 2018. What are the new surprises for this year? Are you planning to market new wines?

We are actually planning some very exciting projects: apart from planting our beautiful vineyards, we are in the final stages of our cellar project located right where the Danube River takes its sharpest turn, which will include a boutique hotel with a restaurant and gardens offering fantastic views that are difficult to put in words. I would like to note that we did the best we could to preserve as large a part as possible of the authentic 1895 building that I mentioned earlier, so that our guests have even more reason to enjoy their visit and find interesting and curious things to explore.
After the completion of the wine cellar with the hotel complex in 2019, the uniqueness of the wines produced by Bononia Estate will be the dialogue between the traditional winemaking craft typical of family wineries and the introduction of some of the most innovative technologies in this sector. We will offer our customers 100% quality control from our own vineyards to our own winery for the achievement of the best value for money for each product.

What is Bononia Estate’s capacity and how many bottles are produced per year?

When the cellar is complete, its capacity will be of about 300,000 litres per year. Of course, with time and depending on the growth of our business and the developments on the market, it is very possible that we may increase our production capacity even further.

Your wines are very popular among Bulgarian wine lovers. How do you rate on the international markets?

We have participated in various expositions abroad. For example, just last year we were in Houston, U.S., then in Guangzhou, China, followed by London, England, and in late January we presented our products in Dortmund, Germany. Quite honestly, our wines enjoy great popularity and the interest of the international consumers in the good Bulgarian wines is growing every year.
Last year I defended my graduation thesis in Spain and the topic of my dissertation was wine and Bononia Estate. I brought some wine so that everyone could taste it and they were all seriously impressed with it.

In 2018 you organized a lot of wine tasting events and presented your wines actively. What feedback did you get from your customers? Are you on the right track?

Frankly, most of the feedback we get is very positive. Many people are also quite happy about our new projects in the northwest region of Bulgaria and can’t wait to visit the place once we have finished. Besides, they seem to understand how challenging our work actually is and that we only manage to push further because we are so highly motivated and have such great passion to succeed.
Of course, there are also people who are not overly impressed with our products, which is only normal, but we are always ready to hear them out and take their recommendations in order to assess if we need to make any changes and introduce specific modifications in the years to come.
For this year we are planning even more wine tasting events and presentations and, as a whole, there are a lot of interesting activities and campaigns in the making. I should also add that this is a very special year for us because our winery and the entire project will be finished and this will enable us to become even more active and distinctive.
This year we want to participate in more expositions, organize more wine tasting events and presentations, so that more people can try the Bononia Estate wines without committing to an actual purchase. In addition, we are making plans for better online advertising and more presence in selected stores and venues. In general, we intend to present interesting and creative activities and campaigns in order to make the Bononia Estate brands more popular because we firmly believe that our products are of very high quality and people deserve to know about such products!
As for the introduction of new products – yes, we will be launching some new ones! Our customers will be able to try and enjoy a high quality authentic Gamza grown in the old vineyards of the village of Novo Selo. We really hope that everyone will be impressed with its taste and that more people will fall in love with the excellent wines of Bononia Estate.