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Elissaveta Zaharieva

In this interview Georgi MIhov meets you with Elissaveta Zaharieva - wine journalist and wine judge.

How did you get into wine? Is there something that has provoked/motivated you?

It all kicked off at my UK university when I started digging deeper and choosing the topic of my PhD thesis. I only knew it had to be about Bulgaria, about business and it had to be marketing oriented. Then wine came to my mind. Back then I had no idea that I am embarking on a long journey!

Is there any particular person that has been your inspiration?

I can never stop admiring one very crazy personality – Chester Osborne from d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale. He is very far from the stiff and focused wine personality, often encountered in Europe. I really like his all encompassing approach – he does not stop at the cellar but also has a vision of how his wines will look like and be named. He is quite of a name in the industry and internationally because of his knowledge and opinion. Here, in Bulgaria, wine needs a little bit of his craziness and open mindedness.

Do you have favourite grape variety and why?

Although I have preference towards Riesling, Sangiovese, Barossa, Coonawarra reds and Bordeaux blends I cannot really say I have a favourite variety. Neither do I dislike any variety. I can never stop wondering how some fellow wine personalities say they hate and would never willfully choose to drink certain wines, with Merlot springing on my mind first.

What are your expectations regarding wine trends in next 1-2 years in Bulgaria?

Trends will be rose and blends, particularly red. Increasing presence of imported wines, especially white will give consumers more to choose from. Selling wine is getting more difficult, the modern off-trade and specialist channels will be particularly active in this respect. Wine events have played very positive role in bringing more people into wine or at least making them curious and willing to try new brands or varieties.

Where do you see “Bulgarian wine” in next 10 years on the world wine map?

Bulgaria has deliberately turned into a very local player and I do not see this changing dramatically in the coming 10 years. The local consumers will benefit most from this orientation as now we enjoy a very good choice at relatively good prices. Internationally, we are the unknown Bulgaria. Not only the consumer but many wine professionals associate Bulgarian wine with the problems it had with the restructuring of the wine industry in the 1990s. We need to attract advocates and start building from a scratch because there’s a lot been going on in the past 20 years.

If you have to recommend just 1 Bulgarian winery, which would that be and why?

I admire the work done by Dimitar Panov and Kapka Georgieva in Korten. They have been very focused on getting to the essence of the terroir, year after year. They have the freedom to experiment with small batches of fruit and I have heard them saying that not always the vineyards that are kept in most pristine condition provide the best grapes. It is positive that the Korten winery finally is presented as a separate winery.

What is your everyday wine?

When I do not try wine professionally but am in the client position, this would be red, rose or white wine in the 15-25 BGN brackets. Lately, I choose wines according to my mood rather than food. From the Bulgarian ones, the wines of Minkov Brothers, Rossidi, Dragomir, Telish and Preslav whites are quite reliable for such occasions. Of course, some days require sparkle and a special mood lifter and this is when I part with a bottle of Flaccianello or Pol Roger.

What is your dream wine no matter country that you want to try?

Wine carries history, so it would be one that has survived decades. A very special wine I had already tasted is one from 1931 vintage from Carmignano. The tasting turned into a very special ritual as the owner’s family was there to talk and share the wine and memories: imagine three generations all involved in the family winemaking! I will be curious to taste a Left Bank iconic vintage such as 1945. A vertical would even be better!

Describe „Bulgarian wine" using only 3 words

Patchwork of tradition and modernity.

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Elissaveta Zaharieva is the first Bulgarian with a PhD degree in Wine Marketing and she holds a WSET Advanced Certificate. Elissaveta discovered the world of wine during her studies in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and then oriented herself towards the Bulgarian wine industry. She has worked for many Bulgarian companies, such as Domaine Boyar, Veritas Wines, Damianitza and Casavino and as a project leader at Euromonitor International for wine and alcoholic drinks. She worked for Bacchus, many international publications and as a correspondent for Bulgaria for Meininger’s Wine Business International.