The wine tourism in Bulgaria is a big challenge for tourists, as well as for the wineries and touroperators. Visiting cultural site the tourist expects a professional lecture from tour guide. It is the same with the winery visits or with wine tours. The winelover expects to learn more about the history of winemaking at that region, characteristics of the terroir, modern technologies, local varieties, the wines of wineries as well.
In many Bulgarian wineries the visits are led by the winemakers which limits the options of visits on weekends, during holidays and even during harvest. Few wineries have invested in a wine guide giving priority to wine visits as a successful trade channel. And they are doing well. Touroperators work with these wineries because they feel safe, they are not afraid that their visit will be cancelled last minute because of the winemaker’s commitment which is more important than the visit of the tourists. They plan their trips in advance but sometimes they have last minute request and delayed e-mail replies or lack of specifics is unacceptable for them. The winemakers are artists, they create wine and should be focused on that! The wine is their priority.
Tourism has other laws, different rules, and in order the wine tourism to be successful, the wineries must follow these rules.
OUR MAIN GOAL IS TO FILL THE GAPS, TO HELP ALL “PLAYERS” IN WINE TOURISM FIELD TO OFFER QUALITY SERVICES, THAT WILL LEAD MORE WINE TOURISTS. THIS WILL INCREASE THE WINE CULTURE IN BULGARIA, AS WELL AS WINE SALES FROM THE WINERY.
The teamwork with WINE GUIDES is one of our means to help wineries, touroperators and wine travelers as well.
We would like to present you OUR WINE GUIDE in Southern Black Sea Region – LIDIA PELOVA
- Hello, Lidia. Would you present your wine business card? How did you end up in the world of wine?
The truth is that I got involved in it quite by accident. At the tender age of 18, few are determined to know exactly what they want to do in the future. Besides, consuming wine was not very popular among my classmates at that time. To be honest it was something very exceptional. Anyway I found it interesting and rare to be an oenologist (winemaker). So out of pure curiosity and some weakness for chemistry, I enrolled at the University of Food Technology and after 5 wonderful years I graduated as an engineer-technologist of fermentation products. And what a tastier and more enchanting product of fermentation could exist than the good wine. I had the opportunity to travel and work in some of the best wine regions in the world.I came across the magic of Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand. Every winery there smells of freshly cut grass. I worked with Pinot Noir in Oregon. I had the honor of being part of the team of an exceptional wine cellar, built entirely according to the laws of gravity. I also visited France, in the style of Bordeaux. I was admitted to a small bio dynamic cellar, where I directly helped with grape harvesting, sorting, tasting and blending. I met valuable people. Today I dare to say that I am a rich person because I have many friends – people connected through wine and the memories that the harvest campaigns, the life in the cellar, the hard but full of emotions days and nights have brought them.
- What is your favorite wine destination?
I had a short work experience in tourism. Out of love for travelling, I focused my energy on professional travel, on being a tour guide and leading tourists around Europe. That’s how appeared my desire to combine two in one, to connect wine with the adventure of travelling and to present the cultural wine trails of our country. Bulgaria is my favorite destination, so I went back to my roots and I think that our country provides an exceptional variety of quality wines, within its almost 300 wine cellars.
- What is wine tourism for you and how do you see its development in Bulgaria?
It still seems to be a difficult task. Especially having in mind the unexpected situation we have all been in for the last three months, mainly in the tourism industry. As far as I understand not all of the winery owners realize what would be the necessity and the benefits of developing our profession. Being a wine guide is a dedication, but also a combination of hard work, devotion, knowledge and communication skills. We should know how to work with people, how to predispose them to spend an unforgettable day, dinner or tasting.Also the way we present the wine to them to be interesting and to attract their attention. Tourists are impressed by new things that they have not heard and are not aware of. I can give a personal example of how a visitor to a Bulgarian winery, for which I worked, was extremely surprised by the secondary aroma of “Lyutenitsa” (Bulgarian traditional dip, made of peppers, tomatoes and eggplants), which produces during fermentation, something completely natural for a good Merlot for instance. At first he didn’t believe it, but then he convinced himself when he tasted it directly from the fermenter tap. And this really made the whole group joyful and enthusiastic.What I saw more than 10 years ago, say in Oregon, is an incredibly good organization for wine tours, interesting ways to present the activities and the products of a winery. For example riding bicycles or picnicking in the vineyards, participating in sorting the grapes, tasting directly from the barrels, doing punch downs with boots, bottling your own wine before buying it,measuring some of it’s indicators in the lab, and even the extreme arrival on the field by helicopter or flying with balloon and tasting in the air.
- How would you describe the Bulgarian wine production compared to other known and developed wine regions?
Wine production in Bulgaria is world class. Our vineyards are planted at a high level and very good agronomists take care of them. The wine cellars are built in a high-tech way with modern equipment, and they employ incredible winemakers, masters in harvest campaigns and tastings. However, we still do not have a culture for mass consumption of quality wine and the advertising and management of the wine industry are not sufficiently developed.It seems that winery owners do not see much benefit from uniting and directing their energy capacity to the presentation and growth of tourism yet. And there is much to show – Bulgarian wine is unique and shows its region and terroir, just like the other world famous wines reveal their qualities.
- Is there a potential for wine tourism in the area where you live?
The southern Black Sea coast is a preferred region for many tourists. It is clear why – the sea and the cool breeze in combination with the burning sun make it a great place to relax. But there are also a variety of vineyards whose fruits give rich and interesting wines. Several varieties are typical for our region. These are Dimyat, Riesling,Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Uni Blanc. Here are located the wine cellars Stracin, Dives Estate, Tohun, Boyar Pomorie, Santa Sarah, Black Sea Gold, and this is only on the southern Black Sea coast. To the north, not far from Bourgas, there are also wonderful wine sites open for visitors.Of course their wine is not only based on local varieties. But I think that the tendency is more and more to focus on the development of Bulgarian varieties and to show the richness of our nature. All these wineries have their own character and potential and some of them already develop tourist activity. The production part of the cellar is presented to the tourists, sometimes a tour of the vineyards is made and all that ends with a tasting of several wines in combination with pleasant light conversations on a wine topic. Their tasting rooms can not accommodate very large groups, considered about twenty people, so that every guest can feel special in a calm and quiet atmosphere.At this stage foreigners are more interested in wine tours, but for wine cellars the Bulgarian tourist is more valuable. We should work in both directions. Bourgas is a tourist city unfortunately unrecognized by tourists as a wine destination, but wine tourism can only draw positives and take advantage of its status and tourists in the city. Wine can add value to any visit to the region, whether organized or not, a trip or vacation.
- Do you think that together we can help wine cellars, tour operators and companies that organize events and how?
Of course. The idea of creating a network of specialists to help wineries develop their wine tourism and draw positives from it is great. Not only wine connoisseurs and lovers, but also people who have never had contact with oenology, have not been part of the wine world, and are yet to discover it. Our goal will be to help wineries to welcome more wine tourists, to attract more customers, presenting the best of their product.How will we arouse the interest of our tourists? For those tourists who come for summer sea tourism, we will offer them wine experiences. A good partnership with tour operators is essential. There are not many tour operators who take tourists through the wine cellars or are focused on only one of them. Drawing up a wine route or a wine tour in the form of one day or two days excursions, necessarily led by a wine guide, who would aid the tour operators so they can start offering it, will be one of our main actions to attract tourists.In the Scandinavian countries as an example, vineyards are very rare. Visitors from these countries will be interested and curious what wine can offer a country unknown to the general public, other than France, Spain and Italy. We will have the capacity to prepare tourists in advance, to tell them about the region and the specific winery, to warm them up let’s say so that they can relax and enjoy the tour and tasting, winding up in the store, where everyone will be able to buy wine. Companies that organize events can also take advantage of our services. We could host tastings on various topics, according to the region and the season, on the occasion of holidays or team buildings, presentation of new wines and other similar events. All we should concentrate now is organizing and mobilizing. I believe that with my experience in winemaking and tourism, and due to the foreign languages I speak, French and English, I can promote our undertaking to help the better development of wine tourism and the recognition of our country as an attractive wine destination.
If you want to develop wine tourism, but you have more questions than answers, we can help you and together we can create SUCCESSFUL WINE TOURISM in your wine spot!