In this interview Georgi Mihov talks with Katia Iontcheva
How did you get into wine? Is there something that has provoked/motivated you?
I encountered wine twice in my life – the first time was early in my childhood when it was part of my family life and the second time was in my professional life when it became my daily occupation.
I come from a family where wine has been made for many generations. Wine has been the family traditional dinner drink ever since I remember dinner.I believe I grew up with a “wine culture” that gave me a good reason to develop a lifetime interest in wine, to embark on a journey into the world of wine which was far less colorful and complicated in Bulgaria in the mid-nineties than it is today. I can never forget my first impressions of some interesting Bulgarian Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons of that period.
Later on, in 1999, before graduating my Master’s degree in Economics, I started my professional life in wine.My first job was in the marketing department of Vinprom Rousse, at that time owned by the American Seaboard Corporation. I was lucky to be in put in charge of organizing the presentations of the winery at different wine fairs and exhibitions in several countries. It gave me the first possibility to taste many wines from different parts of the world.It was in those years that I released wine would not only be my drink of choice but it would also remain the focus of my professional interest.
Is there any particular person that has been your inspiration?
I would not say that I needed much inspiration, but if I think back in time, it is the late Ivan Dimitrov that comes to my mind - the winemaker at Vinprom Rousse in those days. He was the one who introduced me then to the new world trend for fruity wines compared to the heavily oaked Bulgarian wines.
Do you have favorite grape variety and why?
I do not have a favorite grape variety. When I think of it, I realize that at different stages of my life my preferred style of wine was different. I am not sure if that comes with the age, with the food or if it is the result of what is available on the market but I like the fact that wine can be so different, that it is an universe by itself. I do love, however,to taste indigenous grape varieties from Bulgaria and many other countries.
What are your expectations regarding wine trends in next 1-2 years in Bulgaria?
The positive wine trend in Bulgarian winemaking started about 7-8 years ago and I am pretty sure it will continue at least in the next few years. A lot of new vineyards have been planted since 2001 and many modern winemaking facilities have been introduced in quite a few existing and new wineries. The Bulgarian wine market has developed and matured a lot as well in the last 15 years and I believe we are one of the few wine-producing countries where the market is so open to wines from around the world and from almost any price range. My strong believe is that the quality of wine will keep improving, my dream is that our traditional wine culture will be revived and more and more people will choose wine as their everyday drink. I also hope and dream of a real wine tourism in Bulgaria that would become the best promoter of wine itself. It is happening at the moment at some wineries but there is so much more to develop in that respect.
Where do you see “Bulgarian wine” in next 10 years on the world wine map?
In the next 10 years I see Bulgarian wine much better presented not only on the world wine map but also on the map of world wine tourism. These two things actually go together, we cannot have a globally successful wine industry without bringing the global wine consumer here. Wine is not just business, there is a lot of emotions that go along with it and its origins are a major part of that. The world has to see where it comes from in order to believe in it and our wine producers have a long way to go in that respect. I am sure that one day we will find some of our back roads on the map of the best wine tours in the world
If you have to recommend just 1 Bulgarian winery, which would that be and why?
I would never recommend just 1 Bulgarian winery. We have passed that period when there was just one Vinprom covering all of Bulgaria and selling all the wine. The beauty of wine is in its diversity and we should never forget that.Thank God, nowadays there are many wineries that offer very high quality wines and some of them come at an incredible price/quality ratio.
What is your everyday wine?
Wine is my daily beverage but I do not have an everyday wine. I love to taste different wines. I do not even have a seasonal wine. It is important for me that the wine goes well with the food as well as with my mood. So sometimes I could choose the meal according to the wine I want to drink or vice versa – chose the wine according to the food.
What is your dream wine no matter country that you want to try?
I don’t think you can dream about wine, it is something that you can only appreciate when you taste it and dreams are nowhere close to that. I never had a “dream” wine, at least until now! On second thought, I guess Domaine dela Romanée-Conti would be a good name if I need to mention one wine that I would love to taste
Describe „Bulgarian wine" using only 3 words
I would say that Bulgarian wine has become better than ever before, it shows consistency that brings the consumer back to it, the indigenous grape varieties will keep increasing their market share. Actually these probably are the key words to the current success of our wine industry and I believe Bulgarian wineries should stick to them if they are to increase their presence on the world wine stage
Katia Iontcheva has a Master’s degree in Economics. She holds WSET Advanced Certificate. Her entire professional career is connected with wine. Even before her graduation, she started working for the biggest Bulgarian wine producer at that time. In 2003 she became the first – and only one for the next few years – importer of South African wines to Bulgaria. Katia has participated in many international wine exhibitions and master classes. Since 2012 she has been the co-editor, co-author and translator of KA&TA Bulgarian wines – an annual, bilingual guide to Bulgarian wineries and wines (tasted and evaluated, with short description). Katia has participated in many international wine exhibitions and master classes. She has visited wine-cellars in Bulgaria, South Africa, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, California, New Zealand and others.