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.