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Bienvenue, wine routes: eight newly-created circuits, covering anywhere from one to nine days, advise tourists as to the must-visit wineries and cultural sites around the country. Wine tourism is still a new concept in Bulgaria, and its potential is huge, French wine specialists say.

It gives a new meaning to drinking and driving. Eight newly plotted routes for wine tourism in Bulgaria were presented on July 212009 at a news conference, where project devisors Anelia Kroushkova, the chairperson of the State Agency for Tourism, French penologist Claude Samson and French wine marketing specialist Pascale Tetot talked about the country's must-see sites, and how to enjoy them while visiting local wineries.

Held at Bulgarian news agency BTA, the meeting was the official announcement of this project's completion, the harvest of an idea that was born in 2008 while Kroushkova was in France. Wine tourism, she said, was something new for Bulgaria, and, in some sense, for Europe as a whole, with France itself only really having jumped on board about two years ago. On the other hand, New World wine-producing countries like Argentina, Chile and South Africa had already accumulated years of experience in the field.

The goal of this wine-route project was to allow tourists--both Bulgarian and foreign--to get to know what a given region of the country held, as concerned both wine and cultural landmarks, Samson said, while having a path for interesting stop-offs already mapped out, and recommendations on how to plans the days accordingly.

Eight circuits had been drawn up, with four of being considered long, two medium and two short. Samson noted that Bulgaria was "lucky" to have a "very long" cultural history, something that benefited the long-term success of the programmes.

Routes start from different points in the country with, for example, route B (a long one) starting in Sofia, proceeding across the country to Varna, then heading back west on a southern route, and, nine days later, finishing up back in Sofia, after having visited 12 wineries and 12 sites of cultural interest. Conversely, route H (a short one) starts in Varna, Bourgas or Nessebur, all cities on the Black Sea, and spends three days touring local sites and four local wine cellars.

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At the moment, there is no organised offering of these tours. Kroushkova said that she expected tour operators to take up the programmes that the State Agency for Tourism had laid out, and put them into use. It was unclear if a brochure or booklet listing the eight routes was going to be made available for public use.

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Investments in the project totalled 15 000 euro, Kroushkova said.

Sites figuring into the various routes include Rila Monastery, the Thracian tomb at Starosel, Old Plovdiv, the Salt Museum in Pomorie, the Euxinograd palace near Varna, the Museum of Wine and the Panorama in Pleven, a cliff monastery near Rousse, Tsarevets in Veliko Turnovo, Melnik and the Valley of the Roses.

The participating wineries, selected following in-depth evaluation and visits, fulfil various categories that the project creators deemed necessary. These are:

* For hotel and restaurant facilities in addition to the winery: Vinprom Karnobat, Katarzyna Estate, Bessa Valley Winery, Edoardo Miroglio;

* For restaurant facilities: The cellar at the Wine Museum in Pleven;

* For restaurant and craftsmanship: Medovo Winery and the accompanying ethnographic complex;

* For historical significance: Rose Valley Winery and its facilities, the winery at Euxinograd, Starosel Winery and the nearby Thracian burial mound;

* For spa and wellness: The city of Sandanski and the nearby Damianitza Winery, the town of Pomories and the winery Black Sea Gold;

* For wine and horseback riding: Rainov and Sons Winery in Nisovo;

* Because of their massive size: Domaine Boyar, Lovico-Suhindol;

* Because of their intimate atmosphere: Villa Vinifera, Stara Izba 1924 in Yambol; and

* Because of memories of the old regime: The wine cellar at Vinprom Lyaskovets.
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Author:Rahn, Magdalena
Publication:The Sofia Echo (Sofia, Bulgaria)
Geographic Code:4EXBU
Date:Jul 31, 2009
Words:598
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