In Bulgaria's south-central province of Plovdid, farmers cultivate an ancient grape known as mavrud. Named after the Greek word for "black," these fruits produce dry, deep ruby–colored wines. Winemakers age the grape must in oak barrels, which creates a finished product resembling a lightly-oaked malbec. Fans describe the flavor as medium-bodied and tannic, evoking crushed cherry, mulberry, prune, and notes of chocolate.
But mavrud wine has gained little fame beyond its native Bulgaria, as its export has been limited. During the 1970s and '80s, the small nation sent 90 percent of its product to the Soviet Union. After its collapse in 1989, the state-run wine industry also fell apart. Wineries transitioned back to the private sector, causing a compromise in quality as businesses struggled to reestablish themselves.
Today, Bulgarians take pride in indigenous mavrud, despite the fact that the grape is rather rare: It composes less than 2 percent of local vineyards. Quality continues to vary, so check the bottle for tasting notes before buying.