BULGARIA…the most ancient land of the Thracians and winemaking…

Viticulture in Bulgaria dates back to ancient times and the traditions in wine production and wine culture on the Bulgarian territory are older than the Bulgarian country itself, formed in the year 681 AC. Bulgaria occupies a very special place in European history of wine. Wine was produced even 5,000 years ago in what is now the territory of Bulgaria.

It is a historical fact that on the lands of the ancient Thracians, which populated the territory of contemporary Bulgaria, wine was a great part of the every-day life and pagan rituals of the tribes. They are considered some of the best winemakers in antiquity. The first vines were brought by them from the Middle East in what is now southern Bulgaria. Initially wine was produced along the Maritsa and around the seaports.

According to Greek mythology, Semele is a Thracian god, mother of Dionysus, god of wine and merriment. The name is associated with the Phrygian earthly “mother earth” and the old Bulgarian Zemlia. In one version of the story of Semele, the goddess became pregnant by Zeus. Hera calls representatives of the Thracian tribe to extract the baby from her womb and burn it. From the ashes grew vineyards.

There are other myths and legends that point to the Thracians. According to Homer, the most popular wine was the aromatic and serious wine from Maroneia, a city in Thrace, where Odysseus used to sedate Cyclops before thrusting a spear in the eye of ogres.

Homer describes how the Thracian priest Maron gave Odysseus “… twelve amphorae sweet, undiluted wine, divine drink … when they wanted to drink this red wine, sweet as honey, he filled a glass of it, mixing it with twenty times as much water and enjoyable divine fragrance wafted from the vessel. Then it was very difficult to refrain from it … “. This information about the dilution of the wine may have been exaggerated. In ancient Greece and Rome usually adding its three parts of water. For “barbarian” was considered the custom of the Thracians to drink wine undiluted and in one breath. Here we must clarify that the ancient wines were extremely dense and strong.

Another Thracian legend tells of Orestiy and his dog Sirius. According to it, the dog miraculously gave birth to a piece of wood, which Orestiy buried in the ground and next spring from it grew the first vineyard. Orestiy is the son of Deucalion, which is something like a Greek version of Noah. And according to the Bible, Noah planted the first vine after the flood. Coincidences are many and are intended to show that the wine invariably accompanies the history of humanity, and is an integral part of the history of Bulgarian lands.

Thracians worshiped wine and the most striking example is Dionysus. They had well developed viticulture, and the Slavs and Bulgars continued highly developed tradition ofter coming to the Balkan Peninsula. For Thracians, wine was a magical drink. They drew inspiration and strength. Consumption has been an integral part of rituals that are practiced. Precisely wine was that elixir that uplifted the spirit of the enlightened and allowed it to leave the body and enter into the world of the gods, to get their advice and guidance. For the Thracians, wine was associated with joy and bliss, with pledge and divination. For the Thracians everything was shared, except for two things – the sword and the glass.

Traditions and methods of winemaking were inherited and sustained and because of all this, many Bulgarian traditions, legends and other folk-style manifestations are related to the vines. The national songs also praise the wines and the grapes and evidence for the great development of viticulture during the time of the Thracians can be found all over Bulgaria’s territory.

There are numerous monuments and archeological excavations in the form of amphoras, rhytons, and jugs used for serving wine. Nevertheless, the greatest interest has been placed on the Panagyurishte golden treasure, comprising of golden dishes for drinking wine.