Galina Niforou: The Balkans Is a True Wine Treasury
Galina Niforou is a founder and manager of Oinorama – a consultancy company for wineries, restaurants, and any other projects related to the promotion of Bulgarian wines.Galina has an engineer degree in Wine and Spirits Technology from the University of Food Technology, Plovdiv, Bulgaria. She has also specialized in Wine Marketing & Management MBA at Bordeaux International Wine Institute - INSEEC, Bordeaux, France. As an oenologist she regularly takes part in wine-tasting committees at various wine contests in Bulgaria and abroad. She writes for different wine magazines.In 2013 Galina Niforou was elected to chair the newly established Bulgarian Wine Export Association (BWEA). In this her role she works intensively to promote Bulgarian wines abroad.Galina is one of the founders of the Balkans International Wine Competition (BIWC) and its managing director.
Here is what Galina Niforou said especially for VinoZona:
Why it is important for the Balkans to be recognized as a common wine territory? What makes them distinct from the world-famous wine regions?
Perhaps it’s better asking this same question with the exclusion of the word “territory”. What we try to do is to create mostly a brand through which the wine that comes from the Balkan region to be easily recognized. Clearly, in today’s world of wine it is the identity that can attract the attention of the consumers. Glutted with the tastes from the established wine regions – Old or New World – the consumers would definitely rush into another wine adventure should they have it presented properly. In fact this is our long-term goal: to create a trend for the Balkan wine. I can’t miss mentioning also the tremendous abundance of varieties, terroirs, as well as interesting personalities that the Balkans offers. From a global perspective this is the region with the richest treasury of local varieties and this must be shown to the rest of the world. Not the least, competing on the market with the other winemaking giants, the Balkans – if taken united – occupies the 5th place.
What is the benefit for the Bulgarian wines and wine producers to get associated with the common definition of “Balkan”?
Firstly, in a more general perspective, it is the positive message that we send to the world that the Balkans is united, at least in terms of wine. The image of the once troubled region can be very positively rebuilt through the means of the fine diplomacy that the wine offers. This will be beneficial for every country in the region, including Bulgaria. In a more focused perspective, evaluating the benefits just for the Bulgarian wine, the pragmatism shall take the lead. It is much easier for the consumer in USA, Canada or anywhere else in the world to be attracted by a large wine region where the diversity is so great that he can hardly get enough of it. We are talking about a niche market and consumers that would like to look for the different thing. This is our main presumption. Unlike the established wine regions we do not dispose of big marketing budgets. We need to compensate with good ideas.
Which are the distinctive characteristics of the various Balkan wines and wine producers?
The Balkan wines are on an upswing. The world must see and taste them. This was our primary goal, and such were the appraisals of the international jury, the journalists and the wine-lovers who took part in the festival of the Balkan wine in Sofia this year. What happened in the last couple of years on the beautiful Balkan Peninsula? The Slovenian wines excited unparalleled attention, the Croatian local varieties were nominated as “the flavors of the year”, Serbia started making wines of world class. Bulgaria demonstrated very actively its ability to produce top level white and red wines from international as well as from local varieties. The difficult for pronunciation Greek varieties were no longer unknown on the tables of many sommeliers of world renown, wine professionals, and – most importantly – wine consumers. Turkey lived through a real renaissance, where the winemaking and the wine culture took very strong positions. Romania, as a birthplace of excellent wines from local and international varieties, also climbed up the rankings of leading wine experts. Macedonia – a serious producer of top wines as well as easy for consumption everyday wines – found its proper place again with local Balkan varieties. If we add also the interesting wines coming from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Hungary, and Moldova, it is more than evident that we are having a true wine revolution on the Balkans.
What are the chances for the „Balkan concept” to operate successfully on the background of the accumulated historical and political tensions in the region over the years?
To me it is not a surprise that the idea was embraced with great enthusiasm by most of the Balkan countries. For instance, although being geographically on the Balkans Slovenia doesn’t like to associate with them. However, both at the first and second Balkans International Wine Competition we had participations of winemakers from this country and this is a very positive sign. Surely, we need to put a lot more efforts and do many individual talks with each winemaker to move the idea forward. And that’s what we actually do. In fact, the most optimistic feedback we receive comes from beyond the Balkans. The markets welcome this initiative; the international wine journalists support the idea and find it very appropriate in its both contexts – the Balkan wine and the Balkans as one wine region.
Is there a good potential for developing wine tourism activities on the Balkans? What are the preconditions and the concrete steps to be followed?
In my opinion the Balkans is a gold mine. This region is yet to be discovered through alternative forms of tourism such as the wine tourism. The great diversity of grape varieties, large number of wineries, cordiality of the local people, wonderful cuisine and climate, rich cultural heritage… What else shall be desired for an excitingly pleasant wine trip? Definitely, all this information must be gathered and presented to the interested groups of travelers who will discover the beauty of our region.
Specifically, it will be good if certain catalogue or book with the information on the wine routes of the Balkans is published. An organization dedicated to the promotion of the Balkan region shall be set up too. Of course, all individual efforts and achievements of each country shall be united through an alternative and creative approach to the topic. I am sure that this won’t be so much hard if one does it with a glass of Balkan wine in hand!
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