Northwest Bulgaria – A Worthy Wine Struggle

Northwest Bulgaria is one of the most ruggedly beautiful places I have ever seen in the world. It is truly a forgotten place – even by Bulgarians. Supposedly it’s the poorest region of the European Union – it certainly strikes me as the most abandoned, yet I find myself fantasizing about living here. Thorny, hissing bushes overtake the foundations of the massive red rocks that mark these plains. These colossal rocks bulge out from the grainy soil – chalky red, lonely, random – without any pretense for the natural wonders they obviously are.
People say that great wine isn’t grown easily – that remarkable wines are produced from vineyards that find a constant, balanced struggle between warm days and cold nights, sunshine and altitude, seasons of drought and cold.
Looking around I find it hard to imagine the work that went into cultivating the vines which gave birth to the champagne I am drinking. The hostess has brought cake too – it’s the winemaker’s birthday. I can’t believe it survived the bumpy ride here – at least 20 minutes of intense up-and-down in a beat up van suspiciously posing as an off-road vehicle.
They tell me it took over thirty people over twelve hours a day for over a month just to plow the field and plant the fines. No machinery could make it up there.
It was stupid to wear shorts – the surface of my ankles is torn up with slick, tingling scratches. But it feels good – like I too, did my due ‘suffering’ to enjoy these sips.