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Adriana Srebrinova: In the world of wine there’s no room for compromises

As our first guest-writer we invited one of the most experienced in the profession – Adriana Srebrinova. Winemaker with a long-term practice she is the person behind a number of memorable Bulgarian wines since 1999 – starting with Maxxima, through Sensum and Dux, to the topical Vox Dei and Guardians. She believes that the terroir plays the biggest part in the making of a good wine. Adriana is convinced that some of best conditions for growing vines and winemaking in Bulgaria are present in the North-Western region which she respectfully calls “the North-Reserved”. Ms. Srebrinova has another quality which is not very often found in other Bulgarian winemakers – a more comprehensive view on the global issues and tendencies. She maintains that the Bulgarian producers must learn continuously from the most successful nations in the world of wine. Otherwise they risk being quickly forgotten. Especially for the readers of Adriana Srebrinova shares her views on the global and local trends in the world of wine as well as whether Bulgaria has its place on the international wine map.

About the wine as a special beverage


Both the recent and the distant history of wine are interestingly and deeply linked to the sacral cults and religion. The Christianity sets a special place and role for the wine but let us not forget that the divine drink has been existing millenniums before the birth of the Christian religion. That is to say that the wine is something endogenous, necessary, and important for the civilizations.


In the different regions the approach to winemaking is based on what is the purpose for the beverage production – for consumption at home or as a separate business. This influences the choice where to plant the vines: in the first case it will be on inhospitable spots of land because the best land is designated for the wheat growing which makes the living of the family, while in the second case it will be on a fertile land since it is essentially the main crop grown. This also determines the mode of consumption – at home or in the pub (now they call it fashionably restaurant, bar, etc.), and establishes a distinct regional wine culture.


Whatever the culture might be, the wine has always been considered as a crown of the agricultural activity of man. There is no other product whose price can vary from cents to some hundreds of thousands of dollars per bottle. Its great diversity is “food” for endless conversations. However, one thing is the wine that simply stimulates the talks, while quite another is the one that gives rise to talks about itself.


Until recently a process of moving down the social scale of some of the more sought-after wines has been witnessed. Such wines are now affordable for larger groups of the society. Other wines walked the paradoxical path from the modest regional status to the global presence. Since it is unlikely that a Bulgarian wine can become a global player, probably it will be better to attempt offering the new regional wines to the world. Definitely, a countless number of factors, circumstances, and events can influence the development of such a process. That’s why the life with the wine is so unbelievably exciting and the feeling sometimes is as if you are riding on a roller-coaster.


About the making of a memorable wine


This topic can be seen from another perspective: what are the necessary conditions for praising given wine as “memorable”?


Obviously the consumer is influenced to a great extent by the background of the consumption: e.g., which season of the year is; what is the reason to drink this wine; is there a pleasant company of other people to drink with, etc. On its part, the producer puts more importance on the background of the making of particular wine: e.g., were there any troubles in finding qualified workers for the vine pruning; what were the emotions felt when making the wine, etc. Quite a different context will exist for the wine critic if he has to describe given wine as “memorable” (this critic should no longer necessarily be Mr. Robert Parker). Then the aforementioned circumstances will have no special meaning, while others which most of the people do not understand or even find unacceptable will take the lead.


About the “terroir” and “technological” wines


If we have to measure the contribution of the factors for making of a wine, and what shall be the respective weights of the terroir, vintage, skills of the winemaker, as well as the quality of the production equipment, probably the most correct answer is: it depends on the wine, and it depends on who and why is making it. There is a group of wines where the distribution of the above said factors is figuratively: 100%, 0%, 0%, 0%. However, in other wines these 100% of the terroir contribution can be as low as 0%, and the rest of the factors are entirely responsible for the end result. Many examples of that are present: there are great wines where the winemaker’s sole purpose had been not to leave any tangible expression of the terroir, and this is simply the philosophy he follows. In that case just the ratio between the last two factors – skills of the winemaker and the quality of the equipment – determines how successful will be the wine.


About the Bulgarian winemakers and the global world


Now everything in this modern world changes on an exponential curve: from climate to technologies, and from finance to culture. Some people call it “globalization”. In Bulgaria, we had a much proper term – “massovization”. However, now this happens on a global scale. It is important to keep an eye on these processes, but the environment in which we are born, live, study and work does not tolerate the deep and fundamental knowledge, not to speak about solicitude.


It is quite unlikely for Bulgaria to become a recognizable element of the modern world of wine – let alone a factor in it – even if we put significant efforts towards this. A more rational approach will be to re-discover our traditions and manage to present them to the world. I am sure that the world has got a lot to see from us. What we only need is an inner conviction and, if you want, a revolutionary mindset. In the world of wine there is no room for compromises, but it’s also true that life is not designed to be easy. Certainly, this is a long and thorny path to go but it is more important to have the people ready to walk through. Since we’ve never even tried to do this, we’ll need to jump inside the express moving nearby.


About the local wine industry and its critics


Societies where a mutual agreement holds function most efficiently. If the local winemaking community does not realize this and transform itself into such society the prospects for success are leaning to zero. The ideas and the goals of the community members are currently quite diverse. Given the existing structure and level of participation of these members, business entities and unions, no miracles can be expected to happen. We need a new moral but it is hard to find a fresh source of it after one of the most brutal transitions in Eastern Europe that we’ve seen here.


The size of the industry implies dependence on the foreign markets. But how can you succeed there of you have not won your domestic market? The deficiency of true, influential wine critics and journalists is catastrophic. There’s no one even to write about the things happening within the industry. After all we don’t expect them to be exceptional minds, for being such one has to be successful in the extrapolation where a piece of genius and some time are also needed to prove or rule out the hypothesis made. The local “critics” have failed even in the interpolation. At the same time quite many important events happened globally and locally but remained publicly unnoticed.


No one yet understood that the main characters are not the advertising sponsors. These are the “deities” with sprinklers on their backs, the tractor driver who went to stop the fire in the vineyards even before the fire brigade although he’s neither a wine-lover nor a winemaker, and the school teacher who at the grape-harvest time reaching out to the next grape bunch got bitten by a snake hidden in the shoots but came back in the afternoon to the vineyard straight from the hospital “to finish his job”…


There is no way to glorify “the new barbarians” of the Bulgarian wine and expect a praise from even “beyond the borders of your village”. For the quality of wine of one country can hardly surpass the level of its culture. The appraisal from an astute wine critic is the most important thing our community can wish for. An appraisal like this can change the fate of distinct wines, individuals, regions, and even the entire country. The appraising and writing “brotherhood” which sets the social opinion in this field is still very unsure of itself. Despite that it regularly brings here some ultimate coryphaei from abroad it openly ignores their vital conclusions – even about itself – due to reasons mixing lack of competence with some petty personal benefits. Thus, everyone gets into the track of the wishful thinking – the most deceitful of all dangerous currents.


About the typical Bulgarian grape varieties and their global potential


The local grape varieties have certain potential but what is more important is how they will be shown to the world. If these varieties are not be able to overcome the definition “exotics” they will probably be doomed to remain within this perimeter until the world finds another exotics and leaves them in oblivion.


On the first place there should be an exact answer to the question who and how shall be building this new reputation. As for the question which variety shall be the “national emblem” of Bulgaria, it’s quite prematurely too speak about now. Actually, this is something we are not deciding on. The important things are who and how puts what in front. And this must be done in an extremely convincing manner with a lot of intellect, ardor, and charm. Of course, we need to have the wine made too.


Melnik is an interesting variety but we should be ready to answer why it can not be found beyond the borderline of Bulgaria. The Bouquet variety which is a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Mavrud, and looks like it has just came out of the fairy-tale about the Beauty and the Beast can also be worth noting. The Gamza variety could have been in the vanguard of the Bulgarian wine grape varieties – it stands out nobly as a queen: graceful, delicate, and fine. The wines made from Gamza can instigate feelings of love and affection for good. In a nutshell, all the typical varieties grown in suitable places and in the best way can make many influential people in the world of wine speak about them good.


About Bulgaria as a wine tourism destination


Each region where the wine tourism is a serious business has distinctive features around which it centers its supply-side strategy. We don’t have the castles of Loire, neither the history of Tuscany. Nor we have the several hundreds of wine cellars in Napa and Sonoma.


Moreover, the wine tourism is not only visiting of wine cellars. What do we do after 5 p.m.? In fact we lack an adequate infrastructure for steady development of such activity. Simply, we still miss sufficient in number and quality facilities and entities that can form the backbone of a sustainable community of activists.


Let’s assume that for a satisfactory spending of a “wine weekend” it is good to have at least five cellars at hand, while for a “wine holiday” you need around fifteen. So, there must be coordination at a regional and interregional level. Or even at a cross-border level. Obviously, this is the minimum number of entities which must have a common vision and shall not spare forces and resources for achieving this goal. And it’s not at all about the competition. Certainly, such is there and shall be there in any case but the people involved in uneasy mission like this must understand that the competition is not there where we often think it is.


What else can we do but strongly wish for it?


© 2013 "VinoZona"

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