Exploring the Thracian Valley Wine Region

The Thracian Valley includes three countries where wine is produced: Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. In fact, I was surprised to learn that the Bulgarian Thracian Valley was named a Top 10 wine destination by Wine Enthusiast in 2017, read that article here.

My discovery of this region began with a mystery bottle from Wine Spies. For every case you purchase through them, you can choose a mystery wine for $20. I was blown away when a 2012 bottle of Turkish wine arrived. I placed the bottle in my wine fridge next to an $8 bottle of wine from Bulgaria, because they were close together in geographic location. I had no idea at the time that both wines fall under the Thracian Valley wine growing region. Researching this article, I learned Greece’s smallest wine producing region is also the Thracian Valley.

Graphics were hard to come by, and this image from Wikipedia proved to be the best one I could find that shows all three countries in relation to the Thracian Valley. The region is sometimes just called Thrace. In Turkey it can also be referred to as Marmara, a named shared by the sea that separates it from the rest of the country.

Photo from Wikipedia

The Turkish and Greek portions of the Thracian Valley are considered Mediterranean grape growing climates, while Bulgaria is a continental climate. Although Turkey is credited as the birthplace of viticulture, predating Roman and Greek winemaking, today it is a rather obscure region. It is hard to find both wine and information from Turkey. Bulgarian and even Greek wines seems easier to find.

Nearly 90% of Turkey’s population is Muslim, which presumably puts a damper on demand. The part of Turkey that is the Thoracian Valley, north of the Marmaran Sea and bordering Bulgaria and Greece is considered to be more European in culture. This is where the majority of Turkish wineries are located, but grapes are grown throughout country. Historically red wines have taken the lead, but in recent years white grape varieties have become more common.

Let’s take a closer look at two wines from this region.

Xavier Vignon & Barbare Estate|2012|Cuvee XL Premier|15% ABV|$20

Renowned Rhone Valley winemaker, Xavier Vignon is the consulting winemaking for Barbare Estate and this wine was made in the Chateauneuf du Pape style, with a composition of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 10% Mouvedre.

Barbare Estate was founded in 2000 by a man named Cap Topsakal. After completing University in France, he was left with a passion for creating his own winery in Turkey. He searched the entire country before landing on the land they now call home. There are currently about 60 acres of vines growing along the Maramara Sea. The winery has a mission of giving back to the earth what it takes from it, so that organic, biodynamic and sustainable growing practices are employed.

I love when information about a label is made available.. The graphic on the label is a nazar – the Turkish charm created to ward off evil looks and thoughts. Maybe I’ll just carry a bottle of this wine around with me for safety’s sake.

Xavier Vignon is a prolific winemaker in the Rhone Valley and Chateauneuf du Pape in particular. He still manages to travel to Barbare Estate winery about once a month from France. The result is a really impressive wine. The grapes undergo fermentation until the the wines are at .5 g/L of residual sugar or less. This happens over a period of 2 to 6 weeks in stainless steel vats. Followed by malolactic fermentation, and then the wine then goes into French oak, about one quarter of which is new, for anywhere from 18 to 48 months.

Very expressive, the wine gave me notes of black fruit, cedar and I was able to pick up a floral note which I am almost always blind to. There was smoky note, in the best possible sense, as well. On the palate this wine was so silky and lush. It had fantastic acidity and had a medium bodied mouthfeel. I am always enamored with a wine that comes across as being big, yet somehow is light on its feet – it’s a beautiful balance. I got mineral notes, baking spice, and that meaty savory-ness that lets you know this wine is over a decade old.

I think any Mediterranean food would be a great paring with this wine: olives, lamb, hummus, pita, any roasted meat. I ended up with a bit of an serendipity pairing. I had purchased some frozen food items from Costco prior to a surgery I was having so that my husband would have easy emergency food if need be. I grabbed these flatbread things that looked like that couldn’t be too bad. We didn’t end up needing them and it wasn’t until a couple of months after the surgery that I decided we need to try these things. It was then that I realized these flatbreads are traditional Turkish street food! What? Honey, grab that Turkish bottle of wine out of the fridge!

Called Pide, they are merely stuffed bread, in this case stuffed with cheese and spinach. We tried one just as they are out of the box and I have to say they were just so-so, with not a lot of flavor. A little research let me know that I should add my own things to “zhuzh” them up a bit. I added chopped tomato to one and olive tapenade to the other – much better! I probably will never purchase these again, but what a fun surprise to find in my freezer and pair with this wine.

Rough Day|2019|Cabernet Sauvignon|13.5% ABV|$7.99

First things first – $7.99! I mean seriously, if it is even mildly drinkable this is win, but it is more than drinkable, so it is a bonafide score. I’m not saying its an outstanding show stopping wine, its not. But it is delicious and perfectly quaffable.

We opened this Bulgarian bottle following the Turkish wine and I am still a little stunned at how good this wine was for the price. The QPR of the year here for sure. I did purchase this at Costco so it might be a couple of dollars higher at other retail locations.

Great aromas of black cherry and maybe a slight green pepper note. On the palate this comes across as a nice medium bodied wine with great acidity. I got notes of milk chocolate and the black cherry came through as well. This is not a complex wine and I wouldn’t expect it to be at this price.

Two things I really appreciate about this bottle – the 13.5% ABV on a Cabernet Sauvignon and the nutritional information on the back label. I’m not a zealot about that, I personally don’t care too much about how many calories or carbs my glass of red wine has, but I do appreciate informative labels.

The label. I love a cute label and the tagline “when you just can’t” is fun way to market this wine. There is nothing to get upset about here. This wine isn’t trying to be anything its not. Its simple. Its probably highly manipulated. Its $7.99 with a cute label and relatable name and tagline. Wine Enthusiast put it at #23 of the Top 100 Best Buy wines of 2021.You don’t see Bulgarian wine everyday and that is another win for this wine in my opinion. I always love an off the beaten path bottle.

Have you had a Thracian Valley wine? I’d love to hear about it.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Wayne Thomas says:

    We adore reading your blog! Your unconventional perspective and authentic voice are game-changers in the world. Keep writing, because your thoughts make a difference. Thank you for being who you are!

    Thanks – TheDogGod


    1. Thanks so much Wayne!


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