I am one day out of Bulgaria and I already miss it. Let me tell you first and foremost: I love Bulgaria, I love Bulgarian wine (what I tried of it), I love Bulgarian people (even though they don’t like each other). I want to live and die in Bulgaria! But how did this happen and what did I experience?
Arriving in Plovdiv
Through helpx I arranged to stay with Boyan and Ani in a village called Sredno Gradishte, which is located in the middle of Bulgaria, north of a town called Chirpan. I fly into Plovdiv, where Boyan picks me up and from the very first moment I feel like I am meeting a friend and not someone I come to work for. Driving back to Sredno Gradishte, Boyan explains to me how Bulgaria has changed over the last decades. Passing international supermarket chains at the ouskirts of Plovdiv, makes me understand what he means. International companies are pushing back local producers more and more and the Bulgarian people cannot do much about it. This is especially true for people who work in agriculture. They are having a hard time selling their locally and mostly organic grown produce at the local markets while competing with big super market chains.
Making wine: helping with the harvest and wine making
Bulgaria is divided into five main wine regions and Sradno Gradishte lies in the Thracian lowland region; the appellation is called Thracian Valley. The climate is mediterranean with mild winters and very warm summers. Great for wine making! Besides wine, Ani and Boyan produce different agricultural products that they sell at local markets. They are committed to quality, organic growing and are passionate about what they do. They produce sirups, sugarcane juice and, of course, wine.
Boyan learned wine making from his father and he produces great homemade wine out of different traditional Bulgarian varieties such as Dimiat, Thracian Glory, Mavrud and Pamid. But also international varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
I am here in the middle of harvest season so I get to experience the work in the vineyard, i.e. harvesting but also the work at home, i.e. pressing the wine and filling it into containers to start fermentation. We use a destemmer that Boyans fathers built some time ago and I am thrilled to see how a destemmer works from so close.
The countryside is covered with plenty vineyards but at a closer look it becomes clear that many vineyards are actually abandoned. They are owned by th councils but they don’t do anything with them, which, in my opinion is quite a shame.
Definitely the best things during my stay in Sradne Gradishte was the community and family spirit that was to be felt throughout my stay. Ani and Boyan are very welcoming and kind. We cooked together, drank together and danced together. I will not forget my time in this little village and hope to return very soon!
If you’re interested in the products that Ani and Boyan make, visit their website.