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Rolland now in Bulgaria

Globe-trotting oenologist Michel Rolland has added another country to his portfolio of consultancies – Bulgaria.

The Bordeaux-based winemaker, who advises more than 100 wineries in some 12 countries, is now chief consultant to Telish Wine Cellars in Pleven District, northern Bulgaria.

He will be involved in a new project that will include 200ha of new vineyard and a new winery, with the aim of producing top quality wines able to compete on the international market.

‘I have tasted many Bulgarian wines and found several to be very attractive, possessing all the components necessary to make a good wine into a great wine,’ Rolland said.

He has started by using a new pruning system in existing vineyards to improve fruit exposure and will carry out crop thinning and leaf plucking later in the season. ‘My target is to understand vineyard management to produce the best grapes, and to adapt the vinification process to make the best wine.’

Telish Wine Cellars was founded in 1960 and was privatised in 1996. It specialises in red wines, using Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and exports to the US, Canada, Japan and Scandinavia.

Chief executive Jair Agopian has said the next step towards quality could only be achieved by investing in vineyards to guarantee fruit of the right quality – something that has often let Bulgarian wineries down in the years since the fall of communism.

Recently, Bulgaria – which was one of the world’s biggest wine producers in the 1960s – has seen rapid development of premium wines and estate wineries. Considerable investment has gone into vineyard plantings, helped by generous EU subsidies ahead of the country’s joining the EU in January 2007.

This concept of ‘terroir’ wines is still new to Bulgaria, but the involvement of internationally known names like Rolland will help to give credibility to Bulgaria’s claims to be able to produce truly world class wines.

And Rolland is not alone: St Emilion proprietor Stephan von Neipperg of Canon La Gafffeliere is leading the Bessa Valley Project in Bulgaria, with 105ha of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah on French rootstock and clones. The wine – ‘an international blend’ – should be ready by 2007/8.

Written by Caroline Gilby MW

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