Located south of the Balkan Mountains, bounded by the Black Sea to the east and Greece to the south, Bulgaria’s Thracian Valley is considered by many historians to be one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world. Recently unearthed archaeological evidence suggests that wine was made 7,000 years ago by members of the cult of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. The lowlands have a mild climate, rolling hills and a maritime influence that provide a perfect environment to grow grapes. Base yourself in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city, to discover indigenous grape varieties, ancient culture and modern winemaking techniques.
Where to Dine
Located on a rustic cobblestoned street in Plovdiv’s Old Town district, Puldin Restaurant serves traditional Thracian and Bulgarian cuisine in a former Orthodox monastery. You’ll feel like a tsar at Peter the Great’s namesake restaurant, Peter I, while you dine on Thracian grilled meats and elegantly prepared French dishes. Have a glass of wine while you enjoy the view over Plovdiv from the terrace. For small plates paired with Bulgarian and continental wines, try Vino Culture just steps from the Plovdiv Ancient Theatre, one of the best preserved examples of its kind in the world.
Where to Stay
The modern Grand Hotel Plovdiv Novotel offers views of the Maritza River. Centrally located with spacious guest rooms, Park Hotel Sankt Peterburg features an outside pool and spa complex. Attached to a bustling casino that draws locals and jet-setters alike, the Ramada Plovdiv Trimontium is on one of Plovdiv’s wide pedestrian streets with loads of shops, restaurants and cafes.
Visit Plovdiv’s Ethnographic Museum to get a feel for old Bulgaria’s glory.
You’ll find exhibitions of art, furniture, crafts and folkloric costumes housed in a beautifully restored mansion.
Active travelers can enjoy cycling in the nearby Rhodope Mountains. A short drive from Plovdiv takes you to shaded mountain roads and marked cycling trails.
A few lev gains you access to the Ancient Theatre. Built around 100 A.D. during the rule of the Emperor Trayan, the theater once hosted hunting games and other bloody spectacles. Today it’s the site of considerably more genteel entertainment, like drama and music.
Recently unearthed archaeological evidence suggests that wine was made 7,000 years ago by members of the cult of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.
When to Go
Plan to travel before 2019, when Plovdiv holds the honor of European Capital of Culture and will be more crowded than usual.
Where To Taste
Just a few minutes from the Old Town, you’ll find a beautiful tasting room at Dragomir Winery Estate, where you can sample wines made from indigenous and international varieties. Another charming Old Town option is Minkov Brothers Wine Cellar, built on a picturesque hill. One of the oldest wineries in Bulgaria, Asenovgrad LTD was founded in 1947. Its Chateau Assena is a great place to stop when you’re visiting the Bachkovo Monastery.
Angel’s Estate is a new operation that’s making wines from estate-grown grapes. Make sure to try the Stallion wine. One of the most technologically advanced wineries in Bulgaria, New Bloom Winery, in nearby Saedinenie, offers wines made from traditional grapes as well as varieties like Regent and Dornfelder.
An elegant tasting room, gourmet restaurant and luxury guesthouse, Edoardo Miroglio Winery is set among nearly 400 acres of vineyards.
Quality winemaking may have suffered during the Communist Era, but today’s young, post-Soviet winemakers are producing excellent wines from indigenous varieties. Mavrud is one of the leading red grapes. It produces a powerful and tannic red wine that can stand alone or be blended with international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Merlot. Wines are also made from Rubin, a spicy red grape. White wines are produced from native Misket and Dimyat as well as more familiar Chardonnay and Viognier. They can be made in a crisp, stainless steel-fermented style or a fuller oak-aged version.
Local in the Know
Margarita Levieva, editor of Lozarztvo & Vinarstvo magazine, says, “My favorite way to spend a day in Plovdiv is to walk around the Old Town. It is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, and it is an archaeological and historical treasure. Just a few minutes from the noisy modern town, you suddenly sink into the silence of the ancient town and walk on the same stones that people stood on 8,000 years ago.”
Last Updated: May 4, 2023