Mission “Bulgarian wines in the US”: Interview with Rachel Lipman

Rachel Lipman is a fourth generation winemaker at Loew Vineyards and a sales representative for Siema Wines, a company that specializes in importing and distributing wines, produced by the small and medium-sized wineries around the globe. Rachel’s wine heritage and clear passion for the business helped her establish her place in the dynamic Maryland wine scene quite quickly. Though she is known as “the baby of fine wine“, Rachel already has seven years of experience running wine and beer retail stores were she developed a supreme wine palette. She graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and Crop Production and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. She studied abroad in the Loire Valley and worked in organic vineyards in Saumur, France. Her next endeavor is completing her winemaking certification at Washington State University. 

Rachel is definitely one of the people who believe in “Mission Bulgarian wines in the US“. She visited Bulgaria earlier this year and here is what she had to say about her visit.

 

  Rachel at Bratanov Winery

Rachel at Bratanov Winery

 

1) Rachel, how did Bulgaria and its wines got on your radar?

They were introduced to the Siema portfolio at a sales meeting. The location and bringing them in made sense, with having just brought Turkish wines into our portfolio.

2) What makes Bulgaria a unique wine producing region in your experience? Which wines strike you as something you had never tasted before?

I find Bulgaria to be the best “in-between” of expression of new-world and old-world wines. Many of the red wines showcase the fruit a person would expect in a California red. However,  they don’t have the sweetness. It’s very refreshing. 

One of the most interesting wines that I’ve tried from Bulgaria are the aromatic white wines. They are extremely versatile and I love how there is such attention dedicated to different varieties of Misket.  Aromatic whites are on an upswing in the general market.

Oh! And I had the best Pét-Nat I’ve ever tried while in Bulgaria. It was made of Riesling. It was extremely similar to a cremant and lacked the funky quality—which I don’t mind. But this was so fine, it was superior to other Pét-Nats.

3) Tell us about your experience with the country's indigenous varietals?

I love that aromatic whites that are being grown and experimented with in Bulgaria. My favorite is definitely Misket. I truly believe they should replace Viognier in the market. They are more versatile and seem to have a less extreme terpene quality. I enjoy Melnik too, it has a stew-y quality that reminds me of southern Italian reds. 

4) Bulgaria is known for producing great Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Were there any other international varietals that captured your attention?

In general, I love Cabernet Franc. I’ve basically grown up with the grape. It was awesome seeing it being produced at such high quality level in Bulgaria. 

5) What was the biggest surprise you encountered in Bulgaria?

Outside of wine, I was most surprised with the buildings. Every time I travel, I always pay attention to the difference in the look of buildings in different countries and regions. It was interesting to see so many concrete buildings and styles. Some I had expected, others I had not.

6) What kind of wines would you be looking to see coming from Bulgaria in the next years?

I would expect to see international varieties flooding the US market. The noble varieties have already shown that they grow incredibly well and produce an awesome product. I would like to see those wines replace many brands we are used to seeing in the market. 

7) What are your expectations or predictions for the region’s development in the next several years?

I just expect the region to explode. Simply, the wines are great, with a ton of character. I expect that people will start noticing Bulgaria as a wine region - they already are, but I mean more for the general market.

8) What is your “go to” Bulgarian wine this summer?

I wish I could drink the Tsarev Brod Riesling Pét-Nat pretty much everyday. It is so clean and refreshing. I’ve actually had dreams about it!

9) What is your advice for anyone who is curious to try Bulgarian wines?

Just try them! It is good to be adventurous when trying wine. Most of the time you will be intrigued by Bulgarian wines. 

10) As a winemaker, would you be interested in a Bulgarian wine experiment? Which region would you choose for that?  

If I were to produce wine in Bulgaria, I would choose the Danubian Plain. It is incredibly versatile with the varieties that grow well there. Plus, I tend to really resonate with regions with a unique history (not saying the other regions don’t). I was really impressed with the Cabernet Franc there, as well as the ability to grow Pinot Noir of such a high caliber.

  Tsarev Brod Winery

Tsarev Brod Winery

  Salla Estate

Salla Estate

  Chateau Burgozone Winery in Oriahovo, Bulgaria

Chateau Burgozone Winery in Oriahovo, Bulgaria