Bunhill: A case of wide Boyar

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The Independent Online
THE Bulgarians seem to be learning the black arts of capitalism with almost indecent speed. This has thoroughly upset David Gill of Bulgarian Vintners, the company which, in theory at least, is responsible for all the imports (now worth pounds 30m annually) of what imbibers call 'the Vulgar Bulgar'.

The upset is the greater because Mr Gill, unlike most importers, is having an excellent year, with sales up 10 per cent on 1991, which was itself a record year. But he is now having to cope with a plague of what capitalists call 'parallel imports', wines from his suppliers being sold by a rival firm with the splendid name of Domaine Boyar.

The upstart's particular strength is wines from the Suhindol winery, the now- privatised concern that boasts it is Bulgaria's biggest co- operative.

Mr Gill's complaints find an echo in the Bulgarian equivalent of the British Department of Trade, which is conducting an 'independent investigation' into Suhindol and, in particular, its international activities. The affair could have a traumatic effect on sales here.

A number of large chains, including Tesco and Sainsbury's, offer a range of Suhindol wines under their own labels, although - so far - only Oddbins and, for a time, Majestic Wine Warehouses have succumbed to the wiles of the Boyars.

But Mr Gill has a secret weapon. Many of the wines sold by Suhindol come from grapes or wines purchased from other wineries, including Sliven, the country's largest.

While he is not revealing his future plans, he could easily offer what might be described as 'estate-bottled' wines imported directly from Sliven and other wineries. And, to be honest, if the wine is the same, only the most deep-dyed wine fanatics will question a label that reads Sliven rather than Suhindol.