Up to 11 new wineries will be established in Bulgaria by foreign investors over the new few years the country's official agency on winegrowing and winemaking has revealed.

Vineyard near Biberna peak, near Kableshkovo, credit: Uroboros

According to Krasimir Koev, executive director of the Bulgarian State Agency on Winegrowing and Winemaking (BSAWW), the proposed new wineries will primarily be built in the southern part of Bulgaria within such cities as Melnik, Petrich, Karabunar, Burgas, Harmanli and Beloved, as well as in Rusensky and Shumen Province.

Koev highlighted cheap labour costs as a major factor in the growing interest of foreign investment in Bulgaria, as well as the chance to introduce new grape varieties that are more resistant to disease and drought, and higher yielding.

He also added that this year’s grape harvest will be significantly lower than 2013 due to a wet summer. It is understood that permission has been given for local winemakers to chapitalise to increase the overall alcohol content of the final production.

Historically, the majority of Bulgarian wine (up to 50% of total production) is supplied to the Russian market, a figure buoyed by the Russian government’s decision to halt supplies of wine from Moldova, because of its non-compliance with Russian veterinary standards.

Since the start of 2014, total exports of Bulgarian wine amounted to 22million litres, around half of which was supplied to Russia.

A significant amount of Bulgarian wine is also exported to Ukraine. However, due to the current military conflict in the country, the volume this year is expected to be significantly lower than in previous years.

According to the BSAWW, total wine consumption in Bulgaria is estimated to be about 100 million liters annually, of which around 5 million litres is imported. The average per capita wine consumption in Bulgaria is currently estimated at 11.2 litres.

The total area of grapes grown for commercial production, is currently 100,000 hectares, with another 60,000 hectares owned by farmers. Total wine production in the country is currently estimated at 10 million hectoliters, with the average annual grape harvest varied in the range of 230,000-250,000 tonnes.

Written by Eugene Gerden