DiVino.Taste Wine Forum Organizer Emil Koralov: Bulgarian Wine Should Rely on Modernity, Not Traditions
Interivew with Emil Koralov, Manager, Gourmet Publishing, and organizer of the DiVino.Taste, an ambitious forum for Bulgarian wine designed to promote it internationally.
Where did the idea and initiative for the Bulgarian Wine Forum Divino.Taste come from?
This is an old idea, which I hadn't realized for many reasons. But its main rationale is that there isn't a wine event of this kind in Bulgaria.
The format is not our idea – we have borrowed it from many other similar forums.
DiVino.Taste is mainly oriented towards the end customer, and in my view this format has a place in the calendar, because it has a different target audience than the purely business oriented wine exhibitions in Bulgaria like Vinaria.
What are the goals that you set for yourself with this forum and what are the results that you expect?
Our most important goal is to bring together the best of the Bulgarian winemakers in one place and to show wine lovers – both beginners and established connoisseurs – the modern face of Bulgarian wine.
In the setting of the Military Club in Sofia, with its respectable atmosphere, we would like to give wine a different feeling - not only as a beverage but also as a means of socialization and enrichment of communication.
The best Bulgarian producers, with very few exceptions, will participate. We have ambitious expectations as regards the number of people who will visit the event, bearing in mind, of course, that the product is specific and we have paid entrance.
The master classes have limited seating and most of them we probably be completely full. Anyone who loves wine, wants to meet the people standing behind their wines, and wants to taste and discuss with them what they have done, can come to DiVino.Taste.
How should Bulgarian wine be promoted around the world?
This is a difficult question to answer in an interview. It is basically a matter of strategy, well considered action, and long-term plans.
If I was to make the strategy I would rely a lot more on modernity than on tradition. That Bulgaria have some serious traditions in winemaking is a big myth.
And the fact that we make great wines at the moment is something that we can prove by putting local wine next to foreign wine on the table.
We should use this rather than trying to explain to people abroad how the Thracians used to make ??wine. Nobody would be interested in that - people want good wines, and a good price/quality ratio.
Wine lovers, who are not so many, but are the people who are opinion-makers, want to discover new things. They should discover Bulgarian wine!
I think that the strategy should go in this direction – to make the right people love Bulgarian wine and become its ambassadors.
Divino.Taste will also have numerous training sessions. How are they structured? What is their purpose?
The more people know about wine, the better for business. Our goal is to make people more educated about wine because this will make them even more demanding. And when they are more demanding, winemakers will try harder to win them over.
Other than that, we have two types of lectures - master classes, where the focus is wine itself. Each master class includes a tasting of particular wines. The other type of lectures are theoretical and are business oriented - wine marketing, legal aspects, wine education, etc.
Latest data shows that Bulgaria's internal market is growing faster than the exports of Bulgarian wine. At the same time, however, it is quite limited. Does this mean that the focus is on export? What is its potential? What are the unused resources of Bulgarian wines?
Currently, both domestic consumption and export are growing. The rise, however, is minimal and keeping in mind where we have started from the starting position, it is not much. Export, of course, has greater potential, but investments in foreign markets are supposed to be large.
For me the biggest untapped resource is that Bulgarian wines do not impose their own face, or to put it another way, there is no established definition of Bulgarian terroir or terroirs, because there can't be one definition.
This is done by establishing places or local varieties, or, as is often the case, both.
Unfortunately, however, it is difficult for us to establish local varieties because of their lack of serious potential. We have several typical varieties - Mavrud, Wide Melnik Vine, Rubin - but such varieties can hardly become our flagship wine.
My opinion is that we must rely on promoting areas and use local varieties to increase the sense of origin.
On the international market, Bulgarian wine falls mostly in the low and possibly in the middle price segment. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this situation? Besides low prices, what are the other competitive advantages that Bulgarian winemaking could develop?
I personally don't see a single advantage and the disadvantages are a quite many. The low price is a competitive advantage only at first glance. A lower price would be an advantage if you wonder whether to drink Bulgarian wine for ?10, or a Chilean one for ?12. But it does not make a difference when you are on the bottom shelf.
There, the big fight is on another level, your target is different and here everything is about business, not so much about wine, which is far from being a low-alcoholic liquid in a glass bottle.
I always ask myself rhetorically: 'Which is better - to sell one million bottles for ?2 each, and get 5-6 cents per bottle, or to sell 100,000 bottles for ?10 each and get ?1 per bottle. Everyone wants to drink better wines for less money, but when we go down very low things start to blur.
Do you have any observations on the development of the so called 'wine tourism' in Bulgaria - the potential, the opportunities, the current number of attracted tourists?
My observations are that Bulgaria is trying, but generally we are not doing our best. You have to offer adequate service if you want to attract real 'wine' tourists.
The organized tourists at Sunny Beach are not wine tourists. For them, it is exotic and nothing more. True wine lovers love to discover places. They are curious and adventurous, and as much as they like to go around the chateaux around Bordeaux, there comes a moment when they wish to diversify their travels.
They are willing to pay and pay well at that, but they also want to get more. You can't welcome tourists with plastic cups, and to have quickly reorganized conference rooms as tasting halls..
Bulgaria might have some, though not considerable, winemaking traditions, we may be famous for our hospitality, but this is not enough and has nothing to do with receiving and taking care of higher class tourists like wine tourists.
Fortunately, Bulgaria already has several modern wineries, with modern architecture, polite and smiling hosts, trained to make you feel as if you have been in the best winery in the world when you leave. Yes, you might think that you are in Chile, or Napa!
There are two ways to attract wine connoisseurs - either with chateaux or with impressive contemporary design. We have missed the first one.
The other problem for wine tourism, which is objective, is that Bulgarian wineries are very scattered, and this is not a prerequisite for making wine tours.
In any famous wine region in the world there are clusters of cellars within a radius of 20-25 km. Recently, the Sakar region is forming in a similar fashion. Given the desire and common effort, this will not be an unsurmountable problem.
What does the wine sector in Bulgaria need in terms of state policy - from wine production and wine tourism to the promotion and image of the country?
What the industry needs most is a long-term wine development strategy for Bulgaria, coordinated and strongly supported by the state.
When I say long-term, I mean 20-25 years. Otherwise we will just remain on the lower shelves. It also needs a lot of money. Money can be found, of course, provided it is clear in advance that it will be spent properly.
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Its the job of Traicho Traikov to get off his ass, import some foreign expertise and develop and implement a strategy for the wine export industry. The quality of Bulgarian wines is well established but they are just not available elsewhere in Europe. Its a huge market just waiting for exploitation.