Tucked away down a rather dark, narrow, well-hidden back street, Grape Central was just the place for straggling Digital Wine Communicators Conference 2015 participants to while away a final, at least for most, evening in Bulgaria. Indeed, it was so well hidden, that it took one of our party a rather long walk and two taxi rides to find, although his hotel was not that far away.
Grape Central, a cosy, atmospheric wine bar, which, despite the above, is located relatively close to Sofia’s main shopping street and is probably rather easy to find if you approach it from that direction. Housed in a former bakery, with its carefully restored bare brick walls lined with racks of wine bottles and thoughtfully chosen lighting, it manages to retain the warmth of its former profession. The greeting was warm and friendly too. That evening, a free tasting of four wines was also on offer. Even though we were keen to carry on our Bulgarian wine odyssey, we gave in and tried the Italian wines before continuing on our journey.
There are more than 300 wines on the menu, a wide range from all around Bulgaria and indeed the world, and they always have at least ten wines by the glass on offer. We were particularly taken with the names of the wines from the Angelus Estate – White Stallion, Young Stallion and Stallion Classic – although we did not go so far as to try them! We were happy to see the wines of some of the wineries we had visited on the list and pleased to have the chance to try Edoardo Miroglio’s delicious Brut Rosé again and some Better Half One Red, a GSM blend, lately served at the conference’s walkaround tasting by a small boy, who presented the wines in careful English, with just the right patter.
The wine bar’s team comprises a freelance writer and taster, Efrosia Blagoeva, and Bulgaria’s only WSET Diploma holder, at least for the time being, also co-founder of Bulgaria’s Wine Writers Club, Yana Petkova. And where would wine be without food, so of course, the chef, Ivailo Ignatov, has crafted a varied menu which changes with the seasons. Although my neighbour and I had declared we were not really hungry after the light four-course lunch we had consumed at midday courtesy of Domaine Boyar, we gave in to temptation and ordered the home-made tagliatelle with beef and truffle sauce. We were not disappointed. The other members of the group sampled various dips and sausages. They seemed pretty satisfied too.
The place was packed and more people kept squeezing in, in fact half the DWCC seemed to be here, around the tables and at the bar, a clear indication of its success, despite only having been in business since 2013. A large gaggle of smokers, de rigour in Eastern Europe, were also gathered outside around the door, bumping up the numbers even further.