Maria Stoeva: Live is a living being art

We continue our series with inspirational women in the wine industry by featuring Maria Stoeva, an enologist who graduated from the University of Dijon. After three campaigns in Chablis, Burgundy, and Bordeaux, Maria chose to return to Bulgaria, where she now crafts the impressive wines of Bratanovi Winery. Discover more about her journey and passion below.


What does wine mean to you?

First and foremost, for me, wine is an art and a vocation – creating individual yet “living works” each time, each with its own character. Why living? Because wine is like a living being – it has its periods of birth, youth, maturity, and aging.


How did you enter the wine industry?

It all started with the French language, which I’ve been studying continuously since I was seven, including during my higher education. As early as high school, I developed a strong interest in French culture and customs, where wine is a fundamental part. My education in the Francophone section at UHT Plovdiv further fueled this interest, leading to a unique opportunity to study in France on a full scholarship and graduate with the highest master’s degree in oenology from one of the world’s most prestigious oenology universities, IUVV “Jules Guyot” in Dijon. In France, I conducted my first campaigns and gained invaluable experience at many prestigious wineries in Burgundy, Chablis, and Château Kirwan (Margaux Grand Cru Classé) in Bordeaux. After returning to Bulgaria, I strategically chose to first understand the wine market by working nearly a year in Sofia in the commercial department of a major Bulgarian producer. However, my drive to make wine prevailed, and my acquaintance with the Bratanov family led me to South Sakar, where I still make wines for Winery Bratanov, as well as for Ivo Varbanov, and since 2021, for Bogdaya Vineyard Estate (Struma Valley).


What is your philosophy in creating/marketing wine, and how is it reflected in your product?

My philosophy can be summed up with a terroir approach – to succeed in capturing the authenticity and character of what nature gives us from the vine in a specific region and to capture its specifics and varietal characteristics. Additionally, it’s important to me that the wine I make meets three main criteria: it should clearly reflect its varietal characteristics, be balanced and complex, and have a sufficiently long finish to leave a memorable impression. In short – wines with character.


What importance do you place on education and training in the wine industry, and are there special programs for women?

Education and training are essential parts of the development of the wine industry, but they are not everything. Personally, I find it very important to have a combination of theoretical knowledge, practical experience, and intuition/sense for winemaking. I think the latter is also aided by female nature. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any special programs for women in wine, but there are wine competitions like Féminalise in France, where I have been invited – the jury there consists entirely of women in the wine industry.


What advice would you give to young women who want to enter the wine business?

I would start by saying that female nature and intuition can create many beautiful things, including wine. If we talk about making it – they should not be discouraged by the tough periods and physical demands, especially during the campaign, because afterwards the result and the creation of something like a living being over time and enjoying watching its development is worth every effort, I would even say it’s like raising a child! In other areas of the wine business, there is much scope for a woman to excel, and as someone who has gone through many areas, I would say that the main thing is the passion for this drink and the desire not only to consume and present it but also to feel and understand wine. Undoubtedly, it requires diligence, effort, a lot of love, and ENThusiasm.