Parallel 43: Bulgarian Wine

When a six-foot four-inch, fuzzy-faced Irishman walks through your door offering samples of his family’s Mavrud, an ageworthy wine grape native to Bulgaria, how can you possibly decline? A few minutes into my first encounter with Parallel 43’s affable Rhys Davies, I wondered if Bulgarian born Orlin Marintchev felt the same when Rhys came asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

In 2013, Rhys, a bar business veteran, and his in-laws set up their Alexandria based import shop with an ambitious first shipment of 20,000 bottles from Bulgaria’s prime growing regions. The name of the company, and the name featured on every label they offer, is inspired by Bulgaria’s global position along the viticulturally-friendly 43rd parallel north. Their vineyard sources are located in two distinct areas: One in the north called Borovitza and the other in the southern village of Melnic, a region whose eponymous wines critic Jancis Robinson calls an “impressive specialty”.

In talking with Rhys, I was reminded of a few things about the geography and history of Bulgaria. (Neither subject my best in school.) Neighboring wine producing countries include Serbia, Romania, Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia and wine has been produced in this part of the world since Thracian times. Unfortunately, political and economic hurdles over the years have taken a toll on modern markets, negatively impacting production domestically, and availability overseas.

Of the twenty+ selections in the Parallel 43 portfolio, we tasted nine wines over two meetings. Our first impressions favored the indigenous red grapes grown in the Danubian Plain and a Reserve Cabernet Franc from the Thracian Valley.

Two wines arriving this week at both Unwined locations:

2012 Triangulus Bouquet – Bouquet is an autochthonous variety/ cross between Mavrud and Pinot Noir that offers up vibrant red and tangy black berry fruit with dried brush and earthy notes that warrant comparison to traditional, lighter weight Cotes du Rhone. This wine is aged for two years in neutral barrel before release. $18

2011 Quadratus Cabernet Franc – The most complex and appealing of the Parallel 43 offerings, this bordeaux like red is 100% Cab Franc and spends almost 3 years aging in barrel. Denser, dark red fruit, and roasted earth and spice aromas add an attractive silhouette to this medium-bodied canvas. Aromatic and inviting. Pair with a mixed grill of meat and vegetables. $20