If you love wine and especially Bulgarian wine, we discovered a new place in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, that you will definitely adopt. Balaban Wine bar is the new way to discover Bulgaria, By The Glass. We are lucky to have met the wondeful family behind the project.
If you are still searching for an authentic place in Sofia center where you might make a break by tasting a variety of carefully selected wines ? We’re going to present you our new address in town : Balaban Wine bar. In France, this kind of places are successful, because French people like wine but mainly thanks to the owner who presents his wine with passion and truth and you can feel his spirit in the glass. You are not there just to take a drink, you are there to share a cultural moment with the place, where the owners who receive you with “open arms”, and tell you everything about their wines.
“Welcome to the Wine Bulgaria – Ancient and Novel Land”, this is the slogan of Balaban Wine, the new Bulgarian wine place in Sofia. And it seems rather promising. Because, like the Balaban family, we also truly believe in the potential of the Bulgarian wine, we could not wait anymore to meet them and discover their story.
Here everything happens with family : Kaloyan the son, Kalin the father and Maya the mother, are the 3 people behind the project. Very friendly, they welcomed us last saturday in their warm and authentic wine bar. Koloyan, the son, also very implicated on the project, was not here because he is also an airline pilot.
How did you get the idea to open a 100 % Bulgarian wine bar in Sofia ?
BW: Winemaking has been in our traditions and culture for many centuries ever since the Thracians. We decided to open our first Bulgarian wine bar in Sofia, because we truly believe in the quality and potential of the Bulgarian wine. Through those, as we like to call them – community centres, we aim to make Bulgarian wine popular among the wine lovers who live and visit our country and to get to know the unique Bulgarian wine varieties. Bulgaria has about 120 local varieties among the nearly 6000 known varieties in the world.
Where does “Balaban Wine” name come from ?
BW: This is actually our old family name of Maya, Kalin and Kaloyan. The etymology of the word “balaban” has several meanings, the most common being ‘tall, big, chatty’. In some parts of Bulgaria, “balaban” is associated also with a hunting falcon, the shepherd of the vine. Balaban means much more to us – family memory, continuity, return to the roots. We created this place with the idea of reviving the forgotten Bulgarian varieties such as Gamza, Dimyat, Rubin, Pamid, Gergana, Bouquet, Melnik, Ruen, Mavrud, etc.
How did your passion for the Bulgarian wine start ?
BW: It all simply started by travelling around the country and exploring the uniqueness of the Bulgarian wine varieties. We visited a lot of the wineries in the Donube Plain region, Melnik and Thracian Valley regions and we were astonished by the variety and character of the Bulgarian wine quality and the winemakers there.
In 2016, Bulgaria reported around 148,000 acres (60.000 hectares) of vineyards with a production size placing it 22nd in the world. The country receives around 2,200 to 2,500 sunlight hours per year, amaing terroir which is similar to Northern Italy, Southern France, and Northern Spain and Portugal (all areas with important red wine production).
Vineyard yields in Bulgaria are low (an average of 4.3 tons/acre compared to US average of 18 tons/acre), suggesting a quality focused future for Bulgarian wine. Learning this we became passionate to learn more and it became a mission for us to spread the word and to try and make it more popular for the Bulgarian wine lovers and enthusiasts from all over Europe and world we meet.
What is the particularity of Balaban Wine that makes your bar a unique place in Sofia ?
BW : We are located in the art heart of the city of Sofia where you can try Bulgarian wine by the glass in a cosy and warm atmosphere. All varieties are carefully chosen by us and enthusiasts are welcome to taste a large range of classic as well as more unusual local wines. One can also accompany the wine with a sampling of local cheese, cold meat cuts and bread. Furthermore, anything you liked you can buy to take home with you. We will make the experience more interesting by telling you more about the wine varieties you taste by the glass and how to combine with food.
“Here, you can purchase 90% of their 80 varieties of Bulgarian wine by the glass which is unusual in Sofia. I enjoyed talking with the owner, Kalin, and his wife, and learning about Bulgarian wines” (A tourist from the US, Tripadvisor)
If there was only a single word to describe “Balaban Wine” bar, what would it be ?
What kind of Bulgarian wine do you have on offer ?
BW: About 80 local wines. You can purchase 90% of them by the glass. There are also classic varieties such as : Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlo, Chardonnay etc. and blends with the local and classic varieties. They are all from small family artesian wineries.
Do you organize monthly tasting events ?
BW: We organise different tasting events on request. Usually – 4 local wines, cheese and bread (for 20 BGN).
Do you have already in mind the next places where Balaban Wine will be, in Bulgaria and abroad ?
BW: Our dream is to establish a chain of small wine bars & shops such as the first one in Sofia, in all big cities of the country. The next one we would like to be in Plovdiv in the Kapana area. We aim to open at first in the UK, Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic, Germany, France etc.
Why do not open a Balaban Wine bar in Paris or Lyon and start to conquer France ?
BW: It is part of our plans and dreams to reach the French wine lovers and we will do our best to fit in the wine market. We love Paris and would be a fantastic opportunity to have a business in such a cosmopolite city and in a country with great traditions in winemaking.
Thanks to Kaloyan, Kalin and Maya for their warm and friendly welcome. Balaban Wine is definitely a place to discover alone, with friends or family. We are convinced that you will have a wonderful time there.