By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 15 April 2017
An Italian textile magnate is changing the face of the modern Bulgarian wine scene with an impressive range from his boutique wine estate and the country’s first luxury wine hotel.
Edoardo Miroglio (pictured above) first came to Thrace in southeast Bulgaria to sell fabrics and set up his own textile and wool factory in Sliven. As his family originated from Alba in Piedmont, where they own Cantina Tenuta Carretta with vineyards in Cannubi in Barolo as well as Malgra winery in nearby Asti, it seemed natural that he would also explore the local Bulgarian wines.
“I was really inspired by the Thracian tradition, wine was considered a divine drink and ancient recipes have been handed down the generations”, says Miroglio.
The ancient Thracians with their mythological figures, including Dionysus and Orpheus, had a reputation of enjoying wine ‘neat’, whilst others diluted them with spring water. As Plato commented: “Thracians drink their wine undiluted and…and pour it over their clothes”.
Miroglio saw potential in the Thracian Lowland’s terroir and climate with its diurnal temperatures, cooling winds from the mountains in the north and warm dry summers suitable for organic viticulture. After a two year search for the ideal site, he planted 220 hectares in 1999 on Saint Ilia hill at the far end of the Thracian valley above the village of Elenovo, south of his factory in Sliven in southern Bulgaria.
In the 1990’s, Bulgaria was just starting to revitalise its wine industry once again. After export successes in the 1970’s with bargain Cabernet Sauvignons, it had lost its way in the 1980’s thanks to Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol purge and vineyards were abandoned. But by the late 1990’s state-owned wineries were being privatised, EU investments revitalising winery technology - and outside investors like Miroglio attracted by the cheap land prices and obvious potential.
His first vintage in 2005 in his new state-of-the-art winery with all the latest Italian technology was overseen by Italian consultant Marco Monchiero. Even at this stage they saw potential for Pinot Noir for both still and sparkling. “Bulgaria has no history of quality sparkling wines, but with Monchiero’s experience in fizz, we decided to break with tradition and make quality sparkling using the Champagne method”, says Miroglio.
He also focused on organic wines. His current vigneron, Alberto La Rosa who used to work in Barolo for Luciano Sandrone, has converted Miroglio’s vineyards to organic certification and launched three new organic wines. This year they will launch their first organic sparkling EM Bio Traminer.
Like many Bulgarian wineries today Miroglio specialises in international varietals Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But he is now turning his attention to indigenous grapes: Melnik 55, Mavrud, Rubin and Bouquet some of which have been planted in Thrace for 5000 years.
The most promising of the Bulgarian grapes is the sturdy red Mavrud grape, named after the Greek word for black ‘mavro’ producing rich tannic reds with vibrant fresh acidity. This characterful red varietal ages well in oak with good ageing potential.
“I discovered Mavrud when I started to travel to Bulgaria almost 40 years ago. It was a thin wine with a lot of green tannin, but still with the capacity to age very long - in fact only long-aged bottles were a pleasure to drink”, says Miroglio.
One of Mavrud’s disadvantages is its late ripening, often picked in mid-October when the Bulgarian weather starts to turn abruptly to bitter winter, so Mavrud must be planted in the warm southeast. Another Thracian winery nearby, Santa Sarah, even makes Mavrud Ice Wine from frozen grapes left on the vines until winter.
Today Edoardo Miroglio has invested a mere 22 million euros in Thrace, but has significantly added to Bulgaria’s new quality wine focus. Miroglio’s wines are certainly not bargain-basement Eastern European wines, all priced over £10, but the results are impressive in such a short time.
Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2011 Miroglio
(£18.50 www.swig.co.uk) 12.5%
Brioche and biscuit bouquet, palate starts well; fruit flavours seem rather baked mid-palate, but this Chardonnay cuvee finishes well with rich citric length.
Rose Vintage 2011 Miroglio
(£18.50 www.swig.co.uk) 12%
Floral notes, with biscuit hints, light elegant fruits initially, becoming fuller in the mouth – an interesting 100% Pinot Noir rose fizz.
Soli Pinot Noir 2014 Miroglio
(£11.95 www.swig.co.uk) 12.5%
An approachable elegant partially oaked Pinot with light strawberry notes, soft smooth and well rounded.
Pinot Noir 2014 Miroglio STAR BUY
(£14.50 www.swig.co.uk) 13%
Miroglio’s most impressive achievement to date – plenty of voluptuous ripe fruits, hints of sour cherry with smooth soft tannins.
Merlot 2012 Miroglio
(£13.95 www.swig.co.uk) 14%
Everything you remember about Bulgarian Merlot – but better and juicier – with luscious blackcherry and plum fruits and smoky oak.
Mavrud 2015 Miroglio STAR BUY
(£14.50 www.swig.co.uk) 12.5%
Dried prune and blackberry aromas, rich intense spicy palate with smoky oak notes from 12 months ageing in French and Bulgarian oak and sturdy tannic grip to finish.
Further information: www.emiroglio-wine.com
Soli Invicto Hotel (359 889 066 330; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Join Rose’s Alsace & Baden wine tasting on 25 April in Edinburgh £42 www.rosemurraybrown.com