Wine specialists predicting a boom after Bulgaria joins EU

Bulgaria 'needs to sharpen up its act if it wants to be considered part of club'

Bulgarian wine specialists are predicting a UK sales boost as a result of the country joining the EU.

Bulgaria, which became a member on Jan 1 with Romania, will benefit from eased trading conditions with the UK and could also see an increase in sales as new immigrants seek out familiar products.

The price of Bulgarian wine is also set to decrease because bottles are no longer subject to a tax of 8p.

Bulgarian wine retailer Plamen Gueorguiev, who owns Wine Of Course in Highgate, north London, said: "I think there will be more interest now.

"We have already had some enquiries and I think Bulgaria's inclusion in the EU will make a difference to how Bulgarian wines are perceived."

Marianne Fillon, trade marketing executive at Boyar Estates supplier Ehrmanns, said it was an exciting time for Bulgarian wines.

However, Ehrmann s' director of buying Hugo Campbell warned that Bulgarian wine producers would have to improve standards if they were to be considered real players in the UK wine market.

He said the lowering of trade barriers between Bulgaria and the UK would have little effect if the quality of Bulgarian wine fluctuated.

"The difficulty is with vintages. Eastern Europe has suffered inconsistencies over the years and that's something we would focus on.

"With Bulgaria joining the EU, wine producers are now in a trading scene and that is a positive benefit, but they need to sharpen up their act if they want to be considered part of the club."

Douglas Harrison, managing director of Harrison Vintners, added: "There is a drive, particularly in Bulgaria for quality, but as the dust settles I can't see why sales shouldn't increase."

Suppliers and drinks shops are showing a lukewarm response to stocking Romanian and Bulgarian beer.

A spokeswoman for the Co-op said it was "way too early" to see if there would be increased demand for Bulgarian and Romanian products.

Chris Brown of independent retailer Bitter Virtue in Southampton said he had not been impressed with the quality of beers from either country, but would stock them if there was enough demand.

A spokesman for supplier Pierhead Purchasing said the company was in talks with Bulgarian and Romanian beer suppliers.

Demand for Polish beer brands has risen sharply since the country's EU accession in 2004, as a result of Polish immigrants' loyalty to familiar brands.

Romanian lager brands

Ursus Premium (SAB Miller)

Ciucas (SAB Miller)

Timisoreana (SAB Miller)

Bulgarian lager brands

Kamenitza (InBev)

Zagorka (Heineken)