Here is what the owners of Dragomir Natalia Gadzheva and Kosyo Stoev shared about their project with the architects:
Working with architect Todor Obreshkov and the ZOOM studio team is an easy task because we speak the same language. They have prior experience implementing wine projects, and we believe that we have accomplished what we set out to do after giving them a clear task regarding the technology and, as a result, what the vision of the building should be. In terms of technology, our wines are very precisely produced, adhering to a strict line And the structure that would be their home had to be a match for them. We are relieved that, despite this difficult year, we have already passed through the threshold of our new home, and we are very pleased with our collaborative work with the architectural team.
Vin'N'Bar: Interview with Natalia Gadjeva
Dragomir Wine Estate and its architecture
Here is what the owners of Dragomir Natalia Gadzheva and Kosyo Stoev shared about their project with the architects:
Todor Obreshkov and Teodora Aleksieva both want their customers to enjoy each new project and be more satisfied than the last. This was the case with Dragomir! We wish them the same level of satisfaction when they complete their next winery project, which will be in the Struma Valley, near Melnik, in the village of Lozenitsa, a beautiful location with views of Pirin, Alibotush, and Belasitsa.
A brief excerpt from the project’s professional architectural description
NB Nothing can replace a personal tour of the cellar, followed by wine tasting!
The main volume of the cellar is divided into two rectangular levels that are arranged in accordance with the simple geographical directions. The long facades face north and south, while the short facades face east and west. The cellar is located in the property’s southernmost and highest point, providing a panoramic view of Plovdiv. When viewed from north to south, the elongated north façade is projected beneath the silhouette of the mountain hills and serves as a screen for the future area designated for the construction of 16 detached houses, a club, and a small fitness center, while also serving as a backdrop to hide the unsightly old outbuildings across the street facing south.
The goal from the start was for the appearance and character of the new winery’s construction to clearly reflect and show the essence of technological production while carrying out the basic principle – to fit in the terrain organically. The end result is a functionally complete and diverse ensemble that enriches the environment, particularly the natural features of the rural landscape. Underground and semi-underground levels make up a large portion of the actual built-up area. However, the main idea of using displacement during construction is definitely preserved. The terrain’s slope suggests a stepwise development of the construction. The gravitaty flow in the wine process is enabled by the difference in levels, which is used as a technological advantage. Gravity flow of grapes and wine is a classic and tested method from an oenological standpoint, and digging in the terrain provides the indoor microclimate typical of wineries and favorable for making good wine with low energy consumption. Located deep in the terrain, the large basements and their volumetric impact do not disturb the park environment and the nearby village’s neighborhoods with residential and villa buildings. Thus, oenologists’ requirements are met, and the production building, dug into the slope, is nestled in the folds of the terrain without irritating the eyes…
ABOUT THE POWER OF PATIENCE AND THE PATH OF WINE
The Dragomir family
When it comes to wine, if you can combine elegance and power in a harmonious balance, that’s when it becomes memorable, intriguing, inspiring, and makes you think about it. Such are the wines of Dragomir, and if it is true that in small productions, the wine expresses the personality of its creators, then Natalia Gadzheva and Konstantin Stoev and their wines are the perfect example. Anyone who knows this winemaking family – and they are well known in the industry as well as among restaurateurs and connoisseurs – will agree that the same words can be used to describe both them and their wines: cheerful and energetic, strong and straightforward, elegant and in constant harmony.
Dragomir is also regarded as a micro-winery, particularly in terms of caring for every liter of wine and every detail on its journey from the vineyards to the store or restaurant. Dragomir Reserva has, quite naturally, remained in the top five of DiVino’s top ten for three consecutive years and is the only one in the top ten of the four rankings so far. Since we display the wine estate and its creators personally and in greater detail here, they do not appear among the pleaid of the other micro-producers, despite being a part of it.
“In a small-scale production, each liter of wine is valued, and you feel compelled to produce it at the highest possible level,” Konstantin believes.
The company’s spacious tasting room and office, as well as the production hall and maturation facilities, are all located in Plovdiv, on “Kuklensko shose,” just south of the center. August is a busy month for them: they formed the 2013 Cabernet and Merlot reserve, they bottled two single barrels on their own for the first time, Karizma Chardonnay 2014 is ready to bottle, and private orders are being prepared.
After 25 years in the business, the two are not only skilled and dedicated oenologists, but also a fixture in Bulgarian wine and connoisseur circles. And more – talented educators and trainers in our country’s wine culture. Natalia and Konstantin have most likely piqued the interest and enthusiasm of hundreds of wine connoisseurs and restaurateurs because they not only know how to make good wines, but they also know the wine, how to tell about it, and how and with what it is appropriate to serve it.
Almost a decade later
Dragomir will be ten years old in 2016, and Natalia and Konstantin, who lovingly create wine after wine and despite their youth, begin to wish for their sons, or at least one of them, to carry on what they started. Dimitar, the eldest, is a dental student who volunteers at the winery in his spare time. However, his father and mother emphasize that the younger one, 10-year-old Mihail, is interested in winemaking and is showing signs of success – he has a good nose and happens to find a faint plug, which naturally makes his parents proud.
It is natural to want the things you have started and accomplished to last forever. Furthermore, while 10 years is a long time in a human lifetime, it is nothing for a wine brand, as Konstantin points out. “The essence of the production requires time,” Natalia adds. “And Konstantin is correct; it would be very helpful if someone followed our path because this is a very difficult business. We already have a story behind us, but in the world of winemaking, it is only a drop in the ocean. The most successful wineries in the world have a history dating back to hundreds of yearsnd become well-known in a short period of time. But, on the other hand , it’s intriguing that you still have a lot to strive for. ”
That is why, in her opinion, patience is the key to success in recent years – patience and measured, albeit sometimes painfully slow, steps, but made in the right direction. Konstantin and Natalia’s future plans include their own vineyards of 320 decares in the Simeonovgrad area – part of a larger vine massif – which they will share with other micro-producers. “It has a wonderful south-southwest exposure, and we plan to plant Rubin, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and possibly a small amount of Mavrud on it,” Konstantin explains with delight – he prefers to work in the vineyards and cellar, leaving Natalia to skillfully lead the marketing and all the activities around Dragomir, which require her social skills and charm.
So many different and intriguing wines…
The Dragomir family became well-known for their deliberate work with local varieties, which was an important part of their winemaking philosophy. Their wines are primarily sold in restaurants, specialized stores, and to private customers abroad, and every wine that goes abroad must include a Bulgarian variety.
“In general, 70% of our wines are made of Bulgarian varieties,” Natalia says, “which is normal – how can a wine country be identified if not by what is unique to its territory?” Konstantin and I are both convinced that we should work with native varieties. Not only do we believe this, but many of our colleagues do as well. We recently had a wine tasting with some Americans, and they told us that the global market is gravitating toward the new, the interesting and unique, the experiments. As consumers, Bulgarians are traditionalists who prefer to order and buy what they are familiar with. But how will you know that there are so many other good and interesting wines if you only drink Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc your entire life? “
“We are pleased that we have been able to impose the Bulgarian Rubin variety in recent years,” Konstantin continues. (Dragomir Reserva Rubin has a remarkable terroir appearance, and is one of the wines that best exemplifies the new face of Bulgarian wine – ed. note) In Belashtitsa we also offered an intriguing young Mavrud variety in a style that reflects the vineyard’s character, 12 years old. We already use this Mavrud variety in a blend with Merlot for the red Sarva, and if we decide it’s worth it, we’ll release it separately as well. And for the white varieties, we intend to impose the Dimyat, but in a variety of styles, which we believe has great potential.
“So far, we have primarily produced Chardonnay and Dimyat from white varieties,” Natalia adds. When a winery produces small batches, it cannot afford to waste. It must either concentrate and improve quality, or increase quantity and afford new varieties. Everyone is crazy about Sauvignon Blanc, and we know it’s an excellent marketing wine, but Konstantin is as stubborn as a mule, and he says we won’t produce it until we find the Sauvignon Blanc of such quality that we can create the wine about which we can say, “here is the Sauvignon Blanc of Dragomir.” I’m also convinced that this is how things are done – every technology team and every winery must find the specific products that create its identity and make it recognizable as a brand. Over 90% of Dragomir’s wines are blends – based on their experience and countless tastings Konstantin and Natalia are convinced that blending varieties improves the harmony, balance, and complexity of a wine. The Dimyat, for example: delicate, flowery, unobtrusive, with a slight spicy bitterness at the end, it adds ethereality and lightness to the Chardonnay.
Spain is now famous for its Verdejo, but Konstantin recalls that in 2006, at one of the interesting wineries in Castilla La Mancha, he was told that until recently, it was sold with Sauvignon Blanc, which had previously prevailed. They gradually reduced it to 50% until they were able to completely impose Verdejo varietal wines. It took them about ten to fifteen years. This is how we attempt to impose the Dimyat. Now we reached about 30-35 percent Dimyat in the white blends.
as the style evolves into a finer and more elegant range, and the overall quality continues to improve. This is also true for many of Bulgaria’s other cautious and ambitious producers. However, as Natalia Gadzheva points out.
There must be trust!
You know how difficult it is to convince a Frenchman to drink Spanish wine or an Italian to drink Austrian wine? The Bulgarians, on the other hand, are not like this. “Recently, we heard from restaurateurs that consumers are afraid of unfamiliar wines, particularly Bulgarian varieties,” Natalia explains. If they are willing to try something new, it will be Pinot Grigio, but not Dimyat. The Pinot Grigio sounds more modern and appealing to them, whereas the Dimyat, as a Bulgarian variety, will not be good. This mindset is a test of our endurance, both our own and that of our colleagues. I’m curious when Bulgarian consumers’ attitudes will shift and they will declare, “From now on, I’ll drink quality Bulgarian wines.”
“We have been in the industry for twenty-five years, Konstantin adds passionately, and we have owned Dragomir for almost ten years, and I can say that the wines that are created and produced in Bulgaria today are much more mature, well-formed, elegant, and of a much higher class in general.” I’m not referring to us specifically, but to Bulgaria as a whole The vineyards are fantastic, and they are only getting better. After 15-16 years of ownership, our vineyards begin to resemble the well-kept vineyards found in French chateaux and other parts of the world. The wines are also improving – this is all part of the routine, an experience; many colleagues travel abroad to harvest grapes, compare sights, and borrow the positive aspects. “There is no way all of this could not be beneficial.”
Many of Natalia and Konstantin’s fellow winemakers are friends with whom they support and enjoy each other’s good wines. Because they not only share common interests, but also form a community: consumer trust is built upon the consistent and rising quality of all winemakers..
The lack of politics is also politics
But the bad news is that the government’s policy to stimulate Bulgarian producers is ZERO,” Natalia complains. In a market as small as Bulgaria’s, you cannot afford to have no restrictions on wine imports!
A product with no excise duty… We’re talking about an industry that has been the face of this country for many years and, despite obstacles, is growing at an alarming rate. So many people have decided not only to produce wine, but also to develop wine tourism – to make the world of Bulgarian wine a memory that every foreigner will bring back to their home country. And when you have the opportunity to make this industry a leading and prosperous one, you approve a bad policy that results in complete dumping, even at prices that Bulgarian winemakers are attempting to establish.
It is well known that this causes a conflict between producers and consumers. “Why drink Bulgarian wine for 15 BGN when I can drink New Zealand wine for 15 BGN?” customers ask. However, New Zealand wine comes at even a lower price since it can be sold in the store for 15 BGN. And the Bulgarian one costs that much for a reason – it is a limited batch and has a high production cost. There is also something else – the person who produces millions of liters, has just purchased, if you will, certain restaurants in order to secure a market. And the restaurateurs are dissatisfied with the lack of quality consumers of Bulgarian wines in their restaurants. How can they possibly have such consumers? In some places Bulgarian wines are “destroyed” by surcharges. You can’t just add 300% and 400% markup on wine prices, as happens at the seaside during the summer, for example – they add such high markups in places where foreigners have the opportunity to drink and learn about Bulgarian wine, as if to discourage buying!”
Wine and family stories
Given their strong personalities, one has to wonder how these two winemakers manage to balance family life and work.
“It’s both bad and good,” Natalia Gadzheva explains. “You really bring the negatives and problems with you. But also the joys – when you have a reason to rejoice, you can fully experience it. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid problems at work from affecting our personal relationships. We have disagreements about work issues at home as well… ”
“But when we get home, we drink wine together with great pleasure – any wine, not just ours,” Mr. Stoev smiles.
“There is something else – you know you can rely on this person completely. Regardless of how much we disagree, the support we give each other is utterly serious.”
“And would it be better not to have someone to make you mad?” With their approach to life and work, the Dragomir creators leave no doubt that they will present many more impressive and world-class wines in the future. And, because our conversations with them are always interesting, we are looking forward to tasting some new blend of sweet stories in their new cellar soon.
Di Vino топ 10: Dragomir Rubin Reserva
How did you feel when you saw your wine at the top of the list after all those years of being close but never number one?
Konstantin Stoev and Natalia Gadzheva: Happy and content. We believe that there is no such person who works hard and doesn’t feel happy when he or she receives recognition for his or her efforts. And not so much for our own sake, but for the sake of our friends, fans, and followers, if you will. This award is given to all of the people who have stood by our side over the last ten years, regardless of the difficulties or stages of development we have gone through. Because of them, we are working harder and harder to achieve the highest quality in our wines. We are most pleased that Dragomir’s Rubin Reserva is the wine that has taken first place. Not because we made it, but because it is made from a Bulgarian grape variety. You are aware that we have been attempting to emphasize and work with Bulgarian varieties for several years. We saw most people’s reactions after the ranking was released, and we want to thank everyone who greeted us, wrote to us, called us, or sent messages, and commented on various media emphasizing the fact that a Bulgarian variety did indeed win the ranking. The competition this year was fierce, as evidenced by the other twenty places in the ranking. By the way, we organized an internal wine tasting of the top 20 and were convinced that the quality of Bulgarian wine is improving. Bulgarian oenologists’ work is becoming increasingly serious, which is a challenge for all colleagues!
Natalia Gadzheva: Konstantin and I have always believed that when you win a recognition, whether it is a medal in an international competition or a prize in a national competition, it is your responsibility, and you must approach it with seriousness and engagement, be even more serious about your work, and, of course, defend your recognition by repeating and exceeding the quality in each subsequent harvest. Single awards and prizes are not indicative of a job well done. Without being too modest, I can say that the fact that our wine has been in the top ten of DiVino for five years in a row is the best indicator of the consistent quality of our wines; Dragomir has now become a symbol of quality.
Aside from the fact that you haven’t (apparently) changed, have you become wiser in the ten years since you purchased the Dragomir Wine Estate, and how do you feel now, after ten years as owners and winemakers in Bulgaria?
Konstantin Stoev and Natalia Gadzheva: So, obviously, we’ve changed! White hair demonstrates that ten years in a human life is not insignificant. However, when it comes to winemaking, the changes are both numerous and few. There are many, because when we look back and remember the beginning of the Dragomir project, as well as the subsequent trials and errors, successes and disappointments, discoveries and losses, we realize that a long time has passed. But, in terms of style and vision, we can now say that we are on the right track. When it comes to wine, however, ten years is an infinitely short time to accomplish everything you want as a professional. We’ve always said that winemaking is a business for the patient, and that things can happen even after several generations. It’s no coincidence that the world’s best wineries are all the same. We hope that one of our children or the children of our partners will continue in the direction we have begun, because the business is both interesting and difficult, and it is certainly not good to leave it incomplete.
And how do we feel as Bulgarian winemakers? It appears that things are improving. We are pleased that, with each passing day, trust in Bulgarian wine is regaining. We believe that the confident steps that we and our colleagues from other wineries in the country are taking will contribute to this happening. We are increasingly pleased to see that local Bulgarian wines predominate in the majority of restaurants, that more and more presentations of Bulgarian wines and products are made in shops, and that an increasing number of enthusiastic and passionate young Bulgarian winemakers begin working in our cellars. In a nutshell, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We hope that the apathy and distrust towards Bulgarian products, which had conquered the market, restaurant owners, and even our colleagues years ago, will be a thing of the past. We are adamant that if a person does his or her job well, it will eventually benefit everyone. In short, we currently feel comfortable working with wine in Bulgaria; perhaps all we need is a little chance and support from the government, which must recognize that Bulgarian wine is an image product.
What are your hopes for the next ten years?
Konstantin Stoev and Natalia Gadzheva: In addition to wishing health to ourselves, our friends, and our families, we wish to produce many good wines, and whether they will be well evaluated and ranked is a matter of the tasting committee’s organoleptic judgment. But, seriously, the two most important tasks that lie ahead in the coming years are, first, planting our vine massif in an area that we are confident is the terroir we sought, and second (but not least), opening our cellar.
In this regard, we would like to share our pain as winemakers. We are very disappointed in the people who write the laws governing wine in our country, as well as in their classification of grapes as not being fruit. That is, because grapes have been declared “non-fruit,” a large portion of projects that have already begun will not be funded (including ours). In the long run, we have no or very little chance of receiving financial support. I hope that all those who try to pass laws in Bulgaria understand that wine is more than just a business. It is also history, tradition, culture, and image. Many people can be drawn to a country by a bottle of wine in order to learn about it and take a piece of it home with them. Giving such projects a chance to succeed is a good thing. We believe we will have a lot of important work to do over the next ten years. We hope to create a little jewel in the Bulgarian wine industry, a favorite spot for wine tourism, friendly meetings, and positive emotions in general.
Tell us more about this Rubin variety, the vineyard, your experience with this variety, and your plans for a future Rubin series.
Konstantin Stoev: I have been observing this Rubin variety since I was a young technologist. Both I and this vineyard matured (or aged) together to produce a fantastic wine. For many years, we have worked purposefully and intentionally with this vineyard. It’s almost 43 years old, and it once again proves that a great wine (hopefully ours) is born from “aged” vineyards and aged people. I can’t help but be proud that we reached this point with this vineyard in particular, because I raised it as if it were my own child for the entire time I worked as an oenologist (albeit with some temporary interruptions in the observation). But, for the past ten years, we have made wines from this vine massif at every harvest, and we have worked very hard in terms of technology to achieve this style in the wine. I hope that everyone who opens a bottle of our Rubin Reserva from this vintage (or previous vintages) experiences a great time. Then we’ll know we’ve done our job.
7 moments of 7 people engaged in BULGARIAN WINE MISSION: Natalia Gadzheva, Dragomir Winery Estate
We will continue to present you with interesting and important figures in Bulgarian winemaking who have taken the BULGARIAN WINE MISSION very personally and successfully carried it out. We attempted to select a variety of figures – Bulgarians from various fields (oenologists, marketing specialists, designers, bloggers, etc.) who are united by their love of wine, which they often refer to as “my other love.” And we’ve returned to the subject of love, which is something unavoidable in February.
They are seven Bulgarians who find in wine what and moves their lives (and makes ours more interesting and delicious) – satisfaction, emotion, freedom, passion, and positive energy. Each of the seven participants in the “BULGARIAN WINE MISSION” agreed to share seven real-life experiences in which wine was the main character and driving force for them. We believe you will find a lot of positive energy carried by these wonderful people; they are proud of their choice, and they infect everyone around them with enthusiasm and wine. And we believe that by sharing their stories, we will touch the hearts of many of you, and who knows, you might even become a part of the “BULGARIAN WINE MISSION” and be proud ambassadors of Bulgarian wine! We will publish their moments every day until February 14 – the day of the vine grower and winemaker (as well as the day of love, which we do not accept – but it is still a holiday)!
Pour yourself a glass of good Bulgarian wine and enjoy their stories. Just a 5-minute read!
Today we present you Natalia Gadzheva!
Natalia Gadzheva, or the other face of Dragomir (Dragomir Winery Estate), although she is not alone in this project, but together with Konstantin Stoev (her husband and technologist at the winery), we chose and invited her to share her moments. When you first meet Natalia Gadzheva, you get the impression that she is a woman with an iron character (a tomboy) who believes that nothing is impossible. In fact, she is an extremely emotional and sensitive person, always smiling and ready for anything as long as the mission is “Bulgarian wine,” as only a woman can. She captivates with her unwavering enthusiasm and ambition, believes in the positive change in the quality of Bulgarian wines, and works to make them valued all over the world. Sarva, Karizma, and Pitos are the names of their wines, which speak of precision and infinite devotion, and which bring them and us… sipping from them… nothing but pleasure.
THE MOMENT YOU PRESENT YOUR LATEST WINE …
… I’m looking forward to it because I know how much work has gone into getting to this point and how many people rely on this presentation. In most cases, it takes several years of hard work both in the vineyard and in the winery. I recall every detail of the wine’s creation and tell the most fascinating story… The one about a specific moment is the most important in terms of marketing, because whatever you say about wine will be known and remembered.
THE MOMENT YOU FIND THE HIDDEN FACE OF THE WORDS IN YOUR WINE…
… When I taste or consume our wine, it tells me its story through its taste, and because we write this story together, believe me, I frequently talk to myself, i.e., to the wine. Furthermore, wine senses your mood – when you smile, it is delicious and you enjoy it, but when you frown, it is best not to drink wine – especially your own………….
THE MOMENT YOU CHOSE WINE AS YOUR PROFESSION, LOVE AND PASSION…
… After graduating from Plovdiv’s High School of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, I was determined that I wanted to be more creative in my future profession. My high school education was extremely beneficial, but I am glad that I pursued a career in wine technology. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, a sudden desire, but I will always be grateful for this moment, because working with wine is more than a job for me; it is my life and my great passion… Now, 24 years later, I can’t imagine my life without wine …
THE MOMENT YOU DECIDED YOU WANT TO BE A TECHNOLOGIST…
… That is the correct question, because choosing a university major does not always imply that you will practice the profession in which you majored. Even though I wasn’t hired as a technologist, I was looking forward to the day when I would make my first wine, which came only a few months later because I was the only technologist left in the cellar out of three. I knew that the spirit of fermenting grapes had become an inseparable part of me during this first harvest season, with an average working day of 15-16 hours… The long queue of waiting trucks with grapes, the noise of grape crushers, the rattling of the pumps, the aroma of freshly crushed grapes, the countless wasps and bees around you…., the first tasting of fermenting must…, your first wine, all of this is a magical experience that I look forward to every fall… And the wine – it’s the most impressive story you can ever tell…
THE MOMENT YOU DON’T GO TO BED IN ORDER TO FINISH A WINE…
… As a true Capricorn with a perfectly structured working day, I can guarantee that there isn’t such a time, and if it happens that we can’t blend on the same day, I’ll try again the next day, because I know that there are days when things just don’t go your way and it’s futile to bother… Furthermore, our work is so well planned that there is time for everything.….
THE MOMENT YOUR MUSE STANDS YOU UP (AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THE WINE)…
… I wait for the muse to act otherwise, then I restart…, but I don’t stop thinking about it in the meantime. Furthermore, an old wine rule states that you may not make a good blend out of two good wines. You collect new samples and begin again. The good thing about our line of work is that you always have an excuse – “Why are you tasting again?” – “Well, my muse stood me up…”
THE MOMENT YOU SAY “I’M SO GLAD I BECAME AN OENOLOGIST, NOT…”
… Every time someone calls to thank me for the incredible emotions they experienced with our wines…… or when you see the satisfaction in the eyes of the people in front of you, when they smell or taste our wine…. These are the kinds of things that make me want to cry… and I did it as well…
Dragomir’s wines are well-known throughout Bulgaria. Those who drank them, on the other hand, are few and far between. Even fewer people are aware of anything other than the most well-known label, Karizma. Restaurants with ambitious wine lists are an exception, as are a few bottles on the shelves of wine boutiques.
One reason for this is that the winery only produces sixty thousand bottles per year. (By comparison, Santa Sara produces 300,000, and Edoardo Miroglio produces one million and two hundred thousand.) Each wine’s series is limited to one thousand five hundred and forty-seven, with a maximum of eight thousand bottles from a single vintage.
Another explanation can be found in the intentions and strategies behind the winery’s website’s inscription of the brand Pitos: “The wine is only intended for restaurants and collectors.”
Dragomir Winery Estate, according to Ivan Manahilov, a buyer for the specialized chain of wine shops Casavino, differs significantly from other new wineries because it “is not the main business of the owners and this allows them to work “non-market” – in the sense that they work on their own style and are a little more artistic than others who are business-oriented.” In other words, the winery is in the fortunate position of focusing on art rather than money. The owners would add some details to such a conclusion, but it accurately describes their position among the other cellars.
However, this is not the only distinction between Dragomir and the others. When the idea of making classy wines with recognizable brands began to spread among Bulgarian winemakers seven or eight years ago, they quickly ran into a universal and critical problem: a lack of grapes of consistent quality. Then, nearly 90% of them decided to start their own vineyards. Dragomir Winery Estate, founded in 2006, did the exact opposite. It decided not to plant.
The idea of its owners, Natalia Gadzheva and Konstantin Stoev, is to create a product that represents the “new face of Bulgarian wine.” As a result, they rule out the possibility of establishing vineyards for the cellar – without hesitation at the time, and without regret now. They concentrate on an alternative solution, which they believe is more appropriate for their plans to create a boutique cellar. They signed a contract with the owner of 1500 decares of vineyards in Gorno Belevo, near Chirpan, and the cultivation of grapes there takes place with their participation from the first to the last annual process. This gives them control over the raw material as well as the freedom to select only the portion of it that appears to be appropriate for their wines. “Right now, we consider our position to be more profitable because we do not have to process 100% of the grapes we produce,” Konstantin Stoev says.
Some of the best Bulgarian wines, such as many of Domain Boyar’s high-end wines, are made in a similar manner, using the best grapes obtained from external producers by technologists. However, one of the factors that allows them to do so is their scale, or their position as a large buyer. Natalia Gadzheva and Konstantin Stoev’s choice is not only a simple solution for a micro-winery like Dragomir, but it is also the only one tailored to their boutique intentions.
Currently, the entire winery is located on “Kuklensko Shosse,” one of Plovdiv’s old semi-industrial, semi-administrative areas: an elegant hall for winetastings, meetings, and even dinners (extremely successful, according to Natalia Gadzheva), a larger vinification room, two smaller ones for barrel maturation, and a refrigeration system that changes its functions in accordance with the production cycle: from cooling the grapes before fermentation to acting as a fermentation fridge for the white barrels and the rosè.
The idea of expansion, of owning one’s own vineyard, exists in the future. But, until that time comes, the winery’s current formula will have brought it success and recognition. As a result, the new cellar will not be a risky investment, and, more importantly for connoisseurs, it will not become a reason for quality compromises. . The capacity will be slightly higher than the current one, but with “a lot of space for everyone,” and the plan has been in place since the establishment of the winery, which is named after the village of Dragomir where the mansion will be built – in case any doubts arise about some improvised plans inspired by rapid success.
The more one looks at Natalia Gadzheva and Konstantin Stoev’s work, the more one notices that it flows like a monolithic thought. As if it were a pre-drawn plan. “These are two people who are clear about what they want and where they want to go. And they will certainly get there because they work hard,” says Georgi Tashev, owner of the Plovdiv-based restaurant Hebros.
Natalia and Konstantin may not have seen things the same way. They, like everyone else, must have been hesitating and searching. However, they appear to have made consistent decisions, as both of their career paths appear to have been directed towards the same, common goal since time immemorial. Natalia worked at Vetren, Brestnik, and Zagrey before starting their own winery. In turn, Konstantin worked at Perushtitsa, Brestnik, Menada, Sakar, and Katarzhina. They have already had experience with various varieties and volumes by the time they begin their project. They have already had experience with various varieties and volumes by the time they begin their project. They have gained professionalism, which, according to Enoteka Uno’s oenologist Ventsislav Lyubenov, is why they “have not reached the point of friction between owners who want a quick profit and technologists trying to do their job but being under constant pressure to give fast results.” They both clearly understand two things: how much attention and effort good quality requires, and that you can’t be a mass producer and consistently maintain good quality.
“We chose the massif after we had already experimented with it, growing different varieties,” Konstantin Stoev explains. With the series’ exceptional limitations, microvinification allows for a great deal of attention to detail. In the case of grapes, it means that the cellar separates the branches of the varieties and uses them for the various wines. It pairs well with the internationally popular Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tempranillo, as well as the Bulgarian Rubin and Mavrud and Chardonnay for white wines.
Technologically, the entire manufacturing process is made up of small, precise operations. “We know from the harvest what we will use the specific amount of grapes for and what treatment scheme it will be subjected to,” Konstantin Stoev explains. The first selection is made in the vineyard, and the grapes are delivered to the cellar by a refrigerator truck. The grapes for Rosè are harvested 15 days before the expected date of the main harvest, to ensure better quality of the raw material for this type of wine. The main harvest date is determined by the vintage, with the Mavrud being harvested the latest (at the end of November) for dessert wine.
Outlining and presenting the image of new Bulgarian wine is a lofty and difficult goal. According to Natalia Gadzeva, three styles are currently recognized. According to Natalia Gadzeva, three styles are currently recognized. “One is more massive and unpretentious – wine that everyone would drink without being impressed, but also without making any comments.” The other approach is to seek a manifestation of terroir characteristics through Bulgarian varieties – from a broad Melnik vine, from Rubin, and, in the case of some new wineries, from Mavrud. The third goal is to make wines with character – not so much terroir as much as an appearance that lasts with each vintage.
Despite the fact that the Dragomir team’s main goal is to always work for connoisseurs, it believes that they create wines in all three directions. The guiding principle is always to preserve the majority of the character of the grapes in the wine. “We try to make the fruit accents in the aroma clearly distinguishable, and the oak to be an additional helper for the wine’s complexity, which should reflect well on the structure.” The goal is always to produce fruit wine with a grape character and a balanced taste.”On its way to this goal, the winery, on the one hand, makes “commercial”, “for consumers”, wines, as described by Konstantin Stoev, which both partners hope to reduce at the expense of more complex and valuable, with more identity – “for people who understand”.
Amritta is the winery’s young wine; the 2010 vintage is a blend of Merlot, Rubin, Syrah, and Tempranillo, and represents one of Dragomir’s four types of red wines.
Next come the lighter, fruitier wines, that have matured in barrels for 9 to 12 months: Sarva and All in One. They are both b lends. Red Sarva, vintage 2008, is an excellent example of the winery’s talent – with a middle-class wine price (BGN 16.70) and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, it has the restrained elegance that one would expect from a good Bordeaux wine of the same class. According to Ventsislav Lyubenov, Sarva Rosè is “one of the best on the Bulgarian market. .” He also describes the style of All in One, particularly the white one, as “elegant and progressive”.
Natalia Gadzheva and Konstantin Stoev distinguish perhaps the winery’s most popular wine, Karizma, and Pitos as the next group. Between 80 and 100 percent of the wine has been aged in oak barrels. They are also blends, with a focus on the local Rubin variety.
The Special Reserve is the highest class. It is made up of 1500 bottles of Cabernet and Merlot that have been aged for 18 months in new oak barrels and matured in bottles for a year (for BGN 45 in the cellar and the specialised shops).
Except for Amritta, which is meant to be consumed young, all of Dragomir’s wines are aged in bottles for a year. To achieve a complete match of quality in the batches, the red blends are mixed only when they are determined and ready for bottling, which is done on the same day.
The policy for all brands is for the blends – both their varieties and proportions – to vary so that the wine’s style is maintained.
And, while the winery’s work thus far has emphasized the character of the wine, the terroir has also piqued their interest. A varietal wine, Rubin from old vines, aged in barrels for 18 months and is expected to hit the market in a year, is in the works.
At the moment, the late harvest Mavrud – a digestive in which the winery strives to highlight a preserved fruitiness, a sense of maturity – is the most recent product.
The variety of memorable wines, supported by extremely elegant labels, the serious work behind each brand that reflects professionalism and taste, the limited batches and the higher prices thereof – whatever you choose, Dragomir Winery Estate is in practice already working primarily for connoisseurs in practice. “People who buy their wines are the ones who are familiar with them and know something about them,” says Ivan Manahilov of Casavino. After several harvests, he claims, we can already talk about “stability, continuity, and recognizability of the Dragomir brand.”. According to him, the high prices prevent a significant increase in the number of customers, but these are not wines for everyday consumption; they are “nice, interesting, serious,” “Sunday” wines “for special occasions,” he concludes. The kind of wines that every winemaker who is serious about the arts aspires to produce.
Natalia Gadzheva earned a degree in “Wine and Spirits Technology” from the Higher Institute of Food and Flavour Industries. She has been working in Bulgaria’s wine industry since 1993, at wineries such as Vetren, Brestnik, and Zagrei. . She and her husband Konstantin Stoev, as well as their friend Valeri Mektupchiyan, have been the driving force behind the Dragomir Winery Estate since 2007.
Natalia was the chairman of the Bulgarian Union of Oenologists from 2003 to 2009. She was part of the tasting committee at the competitions “Winery,” “Wine Index,” and “Wine Grail,” as well as the Regional Vine and Wine Chamber and the wine magazine Bacchus. She is a lecturer in thematic master classes and works in all aspects of winemaking, including winery design, vineyard and wine creation, trade, and marketing. As a consumer, she enjoys experimenting with wines of various varieties and from various countries; her passion is vertical tasting (tasting a single wine produced from various vintages – ed. note). Among the European wineries that inspire her are those in Spain’s Douro Valley and Italy’s Tuscany. She hopes that her two sons, Dimitar and Mihail, will carry on their parents’ legacy. Dimitar is already a member of Dragomir’s team.
What does wine mean to you?
I owe everything I am to the wine and the circumstances that have shaped me as a person. It is the source of my friendships, smiles, pleasures, and travels. It provides me with expectations as well as new opportunities, so that if I make a mistake, I can fix it during the next harvest.
Why wine and not, say, coffee, whiskey, or gin?
Coffee is my other favorite drink, but no matter how much I want it to happen, it can never replace wine. Wine has a long journey ahead of it before it reaches your glass and begins to tell its story. The thought of someone passing through a field and imagining a future beautiful vineyard on it, gathering pieces of land to plant them, the first grape harvest, the first wine, the first satisfied smile from tasting it, and the first sharing of joy. As a result, each year, they tremble in anticipation of the new harvest. Such stories can only be told with a drink like wine, which is why I chose It.
Who found whom: you found the wine, or it found you?
We found each other. I found it first, believing that a curious and interesting life path awaited me, and it later found me, when it realized that I am a devoted and serious promoter. I can make even the most adamant non-wine drinkers fall in love with it and notice it on store shelves and restaurant tables. This is my mission, and I will defend it with a smile, knowledge, and professionalism.
Do you believe there is a double standard in Bulgaria when it comes to wages and opportunities for women?
I don’t know much about this, but I believe there is still selectivity if a man and a woman apply for the same job. For example, if a woman is young and about to become a mother, they would prefer a man. As our company’s manager, I would prefer a woman for certain positions because we are more detailed, precise, and responsible. I would not harm a woman with a lower wage simply because she is female; on the contrary, I would encourage her.
What does this mean for the wine industry?
There are already many well-known female experts in our field. Actually, when I think about it, most of our country’s successful businesses are led by women. This demonstrates that winemaking is not solely a male domain. Yes, some production operations are physically impossible for women, but there are others, such as winetastings, where women have been proven to perform better. There are already many female wine writers, as well as marketing experts – after all, wine is more than just a product.
How was the idea for Dragomir born and where is the winery now in terms of its ideological development? Tell us also about the new cellar, the opening of which coincided with the quarantine. Architecturally ambitious wineries are uncommon in Bulgaria; what makes it unique?
Our new home has been a long-awaited place! The idea was born a long time ago, but it wasn’t until 2006 that we registered the company and began planning for the future. Konstantin, Valeri, and I decided it was time to strike out on our own and create our own wine style. We’d put in a lot of effort, from harvesting to precise vinification and maturation to the wine’s visual appearance. Kosi and I already had fifteen harvests under our belts, as well as knowledge and prestige.
We chose the village of Dragomir because of the soil type and climate conditions. I wandered around the houses in the village for months looking for the owners of the properties we chose for the new winery’s location. We were able to create a suitable terrain and began the design. We knew it would take time, but we were eager to make our own wine (there were plenty of good grapes), so we decided to find a temporary location – so the first two vintages were vinified on an open site in the village of Bratya Daskalovi. Meanwhile, the project had been completed, and we were awaiting funding from European programs in order to begin construction. Unfortunately, it took nearly two years, during which we were already producing our own wine and attempting to market it, for us to realize that we needed to reduce production and focus on what we do best: providing a personal approach to our customers. We focused even more on wine tastings. We needed a place that could help us create a vision for our wines without being too pompous. So we relocated to Plovdiv and vinified ten harvests in sport. This was the time when the name DRAGOMIR became a symbol of high quality and professionalism, and we demonstrated that good wine is made not only in a gleaming chateau.
In 2014, we abandoned (at least for the time being) the construction in Dragomir and began planning our new location in Brestnik. We opened the doors to the old wine cellar with a sense of nostalgia, because Konstantin and I had both worked here as young technologists during several harvests. We designed the new winery on a site that allowed for modern vision and vinification technology, as well as the option of winetastings at various points throughout the production process. We worked in Plovdiv while also building in Brestnik.
And so it went until this year, when we had to hold the grand opening of our new home in May, but the scenario changed. We fell into a state of weightlessness for a while, like the other winemakers, because something so long awaited was on the verge of not happening, and we as a winery are directly affected by the operation of restaurants, hotels, and wine shops, and when they are closed, there is no way we can feel good.
We had reserved winetasting dates in the new winery over a year ago because this is another thing we want to develop: successful presentations, dinners prepared by guest chefs, and culinary meetings between friends. Now we’re looking forward to unleashing our creativity in the way that only we know. Or, as we joked with our friend and label designer Yordan Zhelev when rebranding two of our main wine series, PITOS and SARVA, we closed the circle and put our fingerprint on it. We are now more confident that we have taken the right but slow steps, and all we have to do now is take another step forward with a smile. Because the wine business is one for the patient people.
Our vineyards: 240 decares planted in the village of Svirkovo in 2017 and 130 decares in Belashtitsa, are our other powerful weapon. The predominant Bulgarian grape varieties Rubin and Mavrud, as well as our skillful work with them over the years, make us feel even more at ease on our journey.
Are there any other ladies in the Dragomir team and what are their roles?
Yes, Miroslava Delcheva – our colleague, doctor, francophone, person in charge of wine quality analysis, technological details, and my assistant in winetastings – has been a member of our team for a year. She is intelligent, cheerful, and inquisitive, and she is an excellent follower. I have a lot of faith in her and do everything I can to help her grow so that she will stay with us.
Is it difficult for a woman to work in this field? What are the most significant benefits and drawbacks?
It should be difficult, especially if the woman is also a mother, owing to the irregular working hours (as a young technologist, I had 17-19 hour day/night shifts) and the need to balance family obligations with the needs of grapes and wine, especially during harvest. But because I always had someone to turn to for the kids, I couldn’t wait to get back to work.
And the benefits outweigh the drawbacks: through wine, you meet new people, form friendships, and earn smiles when the person is pleased with what you pour into their glass.
Is wine a reserved area? For whom? What are your thoughts on women’s performance on the Bulgarian wine stage?
Anyone who is interested in wine can reserve it. But this is especially true for those who are patient, curious, and hardworking, and who are willing to follow it as it grows step by step.
Is wine culture prevalent in Bulgaria? Is it difficult for women to pass on their knowledge of wine?
When I first started making wine, it was divided into two categories: white and red. Things appear to have changed. People like me who have made wine a mission have gained followers and expanded their knowledge over the years. This is most noticeable at wine exhibitions, where there are more appropriate questions, even detailed questions about wine research and tasting. There is a knowledge upgrade available. The process is slow, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and for winemakers, a knowledgeable and demanding customer is far more difficult than an average wine drinker. I am grateful to all of my colleagues who have contributed to this growth, including producers, sommeliers, marketers, traders, and wine writers.
It is difficult for both men and women to pass on their wine knowledge. But there is one very important condition: the individual must be sufficiently prepared and a skilled teacher.
What was the most challenging event in the last ten years?
We went through many ups and downs, drank a lot of wine, and traveled a long distance to show our wine. But it seemed as if I was having the most difficulty when we decided not to carry out our project in the village of Dragomir, because we had created a perfect project. But, as the saying goes, everything happens for a reason. And now, on the eve of our new winery’s opening, I am even more grateful that we relocated and are so close to Plovdiv.
Who is Natalia outside the wine world?
Here I chose to see myself through the eyes of three people:
Miroslava Delcheva – part of the Dragomir team: “She is a unique combination of iron will, unbreakable energy, and elegance. Discoverer and creator of beauty. Unwaveringly striving for perfection in all that surrounds her. A whirlwind of ideas, projects, and dreams. A fighter with a feminine care and sensitivity. A patient instructor and a fascinating interlocutor.”
Dora Genova – a friend, owner of Geslin: “Natalie is a hurricane who, with her incredible energy and desire for perfection, attracts and motivates everyone around her, pushes, drags, and pulls those who can’t keep up, and achieves the perfection for which she strives.”
She is maniacally precise in her profession, and she is constantly evolving, because wine is a lifelong development that infects everyone around it with the desire to consume it not only with pleasure, but also with insight. She never ceases to astound me with her eagerness to invent, to create beautiful things, and to express herself as a singer, an artist in any situation. She radiates positivity and quickly becomes the life of the party. She arranges and transforms the space around her in unexpected ways, decorates every corner and brings change. She could turn even a barn into a cozy retreat.”
Malin Valchinov – partner and owner of Artistico: “The Iron Lady. She is a client who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. I’m captivated by her impeccable planning and the swing with which she moves. Her strength enables her to be extremely tolerant and to never pass hasty judgment on others. The enthusiasm with which she discusses wine is contagious. She is one of the professionals in this world from whom much can be learned.
Who or what inspires you?
Positive people who smile even when things are difficult, who go through a problem and come out stronger. My sons’ successes, as well as my meetings with friends, inspire me. Traveling recharges me greatly, as do colors and flowers (I am known to have made my first steps when Dad came home with a bouquet for Mom, and I proceeded to catch it). I am inspired by nature; I adore clouds, sunrises, and sunsets… If you see me pull over, it’s probably because I’m staring at a cloud or a flower.
The phrase “this can’t happen” always throws me off balance. My moment has arrived: as a typical Capricorn, I must demonstrate that nothing is impossible. Grumbling and whining people who don’t know what they want irritate me, as does carelessness, dirt, and irresponsibility.
What is your favorite wine that best describes your personality?
When I say PITOS, I don’t think anyone who knows Dragomir will be surprised. This is our very first brand. My younger son Mihail was only a few months old when I was digging through the museum in my hometown of Septemvri for a suitable name for our first wine with Konstantin. This is how the name PITOS came to be – it refers to the Thracian ceramic wine vessel in which our forefathers fermented and stored wine on these lands. Just as this vessel preserves the history of wine, each subsequent vintage brings our wine closer to what I’ve always wanted in my glass: a rich, captivating aroma that spreads with each subsequent rotation of the glass; wine aged long enough to fill your mouth with juiciness, maturity, energy, and joy. It gives the impression of a strict wine master, but it is tamed and open to love.
It is a blend of Rubin, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon – three dominant grape varieties that, when combined properly, are ready to reach their full potential. And so am I: when I find the right people to surround myself with and feel their support, I am ready for anything. I compare myself to this wine in terms of power, energy, but also elegance and warmth.
What wine projects do you plan for 2020?
If things settle down and we get back to normal, our plan is to hold the winery’s official opening – most likely in September – and invite people not only to a glass of wine but also to the grape harvest. We’ll try to organize cooking classes and dinners with friends. To conclude on a positive note, “After every night comes the day, and after every sunset comes the sunrise.” CHEERS, and we hope to see you at our place soon!
Dragomir Rubin Reserva 2012
This is a true Rubin – Dragomir won first place in the DiVino magazine competition for the best wine in Bulgaria with it in 2015.
Wines in small cellars are said to reflect not only the land from which they come, but also the personality of the people who made them. We believe that Dragomir wines are energetic, strong, and straightforward.
In wine, if you manage to combine elegance and power in a harmonious balance, it becomes memorable, intriguing, inspiring, and makes you think about it. Dragomir Rubin Reserva 2012 is a wine of this caliber – deep, noble, and long-lasting.
Back in 2006, Natalia Gadzheva and Konstantin Stoev, a family of talented wine technologists, laid the foundations of a small but very ambitious project – a boutique winery that would produce some of Bulgaria’s highest-quality wines. They named it Dragomir – after the same-named village in Plovdiv region, which was originally intended to be the home of the future winery due to the ideal conditions for wine production there. However, it took more than a decade and several failed attempts before the first sod was turned. And it was done not in the village of Dragomir, but in Brestnik, another wine village in Plovdiv region which, at the whim of fate, happened to be closely linked to the professions of the two technologists.
Meanwhile, Dragomir became part of the city life in Plovdiv and developed into one of Bulgaria’s most recognizable and uncompromising wineries, while Natalia Gadzheva and Konstantin Stoev solidified their position as two of the country’s most influential wine professionals.
Their long-awaited new home is now complete – the winery in Brestnik is one of the most modern in Bulgaria, impressing not only with its architecture and design, but also with its concept – to be a place dedicated not only to wine production but also to wine connoiseurs.
The investment totals BGN 3 million, which was financed primarily through a bank loan.
More than a winery
The project in Brestnik belongs to architects Todor Obreshkov and Teodora Aleksandrova from architectural studio Zoom, which was also part of other modern winery investments in Bulgaria. The space incorporates concrete, metal, and glass, and the cool industrial design is softened by beautiful wooden furniture and timber cladding. “Our project is driven by three things: modern architecture, design and technology; open and connected spaces; and the areas for winetasting and developing our guest’s wine knowledge”, Natalia Gadzheva explains. Her attention to detail and passion for beauty complete Dragomir’s comfortable atmosphere: elegant furniture, custom-designed glasses, artful accents, and thematically decorated toilets.
The building is divided into two levels: the lower level houses the technical rooms, the production area with the vessels, and the barrel aging hall, while the upper level houses the tasting room, the kitchen, and the offices. Glass partitions, resembling a panopticon, allow visibility between areas.
After years of working in a relatively small urban area, the new winery allows for increased production capacity: from 60 thousand to 90-100 thousand bottles, which is expected to be reached in the coming years.
Dragomir’s entire team is an active supporter of quality Bulgarian products and prioritizes local partners – for example, the stainless-steel vessels are from Rodina – Haskovo, the bottling machine is from Index 6, a Plovdiv-based company, and the furniture is from the creative company Artistico.
The Dragomir team, however, wishes is to make the place more than just a winery – a lively location, a center for wine (and other) experiences for connoisseurs, customers, fans, partners, and people with a taste for wine and gourmet culture. “We will organize events, dinners, exhibitions, wine tasting, courses, yoga, golf… The goal is to make the wine а part of a larger experience,” Natalia Gadzheva explains. That is why almost everything in the building is based on this concept.
The spacious tasting room is outfitted with presentation equipment, making it ideal for corporate events, and wine dinners prepared by guest chefs will also be held here – a tradition Dragomir established in Plovdiv years ago. Natalia Gadzheva believes that “culinary and combining wine and food play a significant role in wine knowledge.” Furthermore, when combined with food, the majority of Dragomir’s matured, deep, and complex wines reveal their full charm. Furthermore, when combined with food, the majority of Dragomir’s matured, deep, and complex wines reveal their full charm. And, depending on the number of guests, their wishes, and needs, winetastings will be available in multiple locations at the same time – for example, in the production area, among the barrels, in a more secluded room, in the shop next to the winery, or even in the grape reception area.
The Dragomir team hopes to actively develop private and corporate events that can be held both inside the winery and on the expansive outdoor terrace, or beneath the columns of the beautiful facade. And with the upcoming improvement of the adjacent terrains, the opportunities will grow significantly. During the non-harvest season, even the grape reception area will be adapted for the purpose. It is also equipped with a golf simulator for Plovdiv’s sports fans.
Not an easy start
The story of Dragomir is complex. The winery’s first two vintages were made literally under the open sky – in the yard of an old winery in the Chirpan region’s village of Bratya Daskalovi. Meanwhile, with the help of Valeri Mektupchiyan, their long-term partner, the couple purchased land in the village of Dragomir and began work on their dream winery with studio Zoom. “We created a spectacular and amazingly beautiful project consisting of guest rooms, a large tasting room, and so on. We were ready in 2010 and applied for EU funding through the Rural Development Program, but things slowed dramatically,” Natalia Gadzheva explains. It took nearly two years for the project to be approved. Meanwhile, Bulgaria was in the grip of a severe economic crisis, prompting Dragomir’s owners to realize that the project was too ambitious for boutique winemakers like them, and they abandoned it.
Thus, the city became home to Dragomir, and Natalia Gadzheva and Konstantin Stoev created their emblematic wines, welcomed their guests, organized winetastings and wine dinners, and earned the appellation “City Winemakers” on Plovdiv’s Kuklensko Shosse. They also demonstrated that quality wine can be made anywhere, not just in a chateau surrounded by vineyards.
The third project
In 2014, Dragomir received an offer to buy the land of an old winery in the nearby village of Brestnik and it was like a gift from fate for them because it was where both Konstantin and Natalia worked for several years as young technologists. “Despite our good intentions, we had some reservations because it was a large industrial building. However, we also liked the location, which was only a short detour from the road to Asenovgrad and Pamporovo and a few minutes from Plovdiv. We realized how important it is for people to be able to come to you easily while we were making wine in the city,” Natalia Gadzheva says.
So they bought the land, and a new project began in 2015, once again in collaboration with studio Zoom. The initial plan was to renovate the old cellar, but it quickly became clear that this would be too expensive. As a result, the third and final project was born: a plan for a completely new winery on the property, with the old building demolished to make way for a lovely yard. The underground wine cellar, on the other hand, would be preserved and, in the near future, would be linked to the new winery via an underground tunnel.
The Dragomir team decided to apply for EU funding under the measure for enterprise investments once more. In the meantime, changes have been made to keep wineries largely outside the scope of the program. “I don’t think it’s right for companies that create a product with such high value for the country, like quality wine, to be denied the opportunity to develop with public funds, but that’s the way it is,” Natalia Gadzheva says. The answer is to go to the banks.
Thus, construction began in May 2018, and Dragomir moved to its new home in February 2020, along with the wine and the entire ten-year history made in Plovdiv. However, while they were re-equipping and refurbishing, a new issue arose: COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.
The COVID crisis and the plans for the future
“We primarily work in the Horeca market, and two months of closed restaurants was very bad news for us.” We were in a fine-tuning phase here, and I was focused on creating beauty, but the alarm went off in my head that it was time for the first payment of the loan, and we had no orders from restaurants,” Natalia Gadzheva says. They did, however, receive support from their private clients, for whom they produce limited quantities of wine. They also quickly renovated their website and launched an online store and promotions. They also received support from their loyal end customers in this manner.
Their efforts are now focused on opening the winery to visitors (which is already a reality) and increasing on-site sales. In the medium term, in addition to the project’s infrastructure development, Dragomir’s owners consider expanding the team by hiring the right people. The team currently consists of ten people, but in the new home, more people will be needed to assist with events and to welcome guests in the cellar.
And, even when times are tough, quality projects usually come out stronger than the crises. Dragomir appears to be of this type.
Bulgarian wine must establish an image
Is it difficult to produce good wine in Bulgaria?
It’s difficult because we make a high-end product that requires knowledge We are not aiming for the general public who enjoys homemade wine, beer, or brandy. We are persistent and we have done well for many years, despite the fact that our efforts are often appreciated more by foreigners than by the Bulgarian public. There appears to be widespread cynicism toward Bulgarian production. And a lot of high-quality things are being produced in Bulgaria, and I hope we will begin to value them more and give them a chance to grow.
What is the state of Bulgarian wine culture and the market?
Wine culture is definitely improving. On the one hand, many new, modern wineries with good vineyards have been built, and every producer strives for high quality. Bloggers, wine journalists, and trainers all contribute significantly by influencing at least their inner circle. As a result, the audience gained knowledge and developed a mindset toward the development of the so-called gourmet culture. This forces the market to demand higher quality wines while also requiring winemakers to be more precise in their production.
Are Bulgarian wines already of sufficient quality?
Certainly, yes. Of course, there are still some things to be desired, particularly in lower-class wines where imports are plentiful and an advantage is gained through a favorable quality/price ratio. But things are changing for the better, and I believe the next generation will be very different. Wineries have been developed over generations in the Old World wine countries for centuries, and we will not be able to achieve this overnight, but it will happen in time.
But why is it so difficult for good Bulgarian wines to enter foreign markets?
Because we fail to present Bulgaria as a location capable of producing high-quality goods. Whether it’s Bulgarian tourism or Bulgarian wine, the goal is always a massive and low-paying audience. This has been the policy for decades. When we send a price list abroad, we frequently get reactions of surprise because foreigners are used to seeing Bulgarian wine for euro cents and higher prices are associated with wines from Italy and France, not Bulgaria. However, these countries have earned a high level of respect over the years. It is necessary to work on image and marketing in order to change people’s perceptions of Bulgarian wine. We are currently attempting to reverse this trend, but we cannot do so alone, and there is no government policy in place to do so. The strategy that requires direction, trained personnel, and a concept, simply does not exist.
About Dragomir Winery Estate
Dragomir Winery Estate was founded in 2006 by the family of technologists Konstantin Stoev and Natalia Gadzheva, with Valeri Mektupchiyan (majority owner of the courier company Speedy and owner of Omnicar Auto – a Renault, Dacia, and Nissan representative for Bulgaria) as a partner and co-owner.
The boutique winery produces approximately 60 thousand bottles of wine per year and is positioned in the high-quality segment. Among its wine series are Sarva, Karizma, Pitos, and long-aged reserves of the highest class. Sales are almost entirely concentrated in the Bulgarian market, primarily in Horeca. . The limited production for private customers is also part of the business model.
Dragomir owns two vineyards: a 130-decare vineyard in the nearby village of Belashtitsa, primarily composed of Mavrud and Rubin, and a 240-decare vineyard in the Sakar village in the Svirkovo region, near Simeonovgrad, which is now in fruiting season.
The winery declared BGN 4.6 million in assets, BGN 1.16 million in revenues, and BGN 165 thousand in profit for the last fiscal year (2018). Dragomir is thus among the top 50 wineries in Bulgaria in terms of revenue.