Turkey: where Europe meets Asia, subtle balance between Orient and Occident…and 6000 years of viticultural tradition and unknown wines.
One does not easily come across a Turkish wine. The country being primarily Muslim, the consumption and production of alcohol is therefore very limited; and although Turkey is the sixth largest country in terms of grape production, only a few percentage is made into wine – the majority being used to produce raisins. Yes, Turkey has an extensive history of viticulture, but its wine industry only really dates back to World War I. With close to 1,000 distinct grape varieties, significant climate variation, and more than 300 different wineries across the country, Turkey is a wine region on a roll!
Turkey and its grapes
Turkish winemaking involves a mixture of local traditional varietals as well as international ones. Reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah and whites including Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are used to produce Turkish wines.
Some of Turkey’s best whites can be found on the western part of the country, along the Aegean coast. That is where some very promising white grape varieties are grown: the main ones being Emir and Narince. The former produces distinctive crisp and mineral dry whites, while the latter makes rich, age-worthy wines.
But Turkish reds are truly the ones where flavor seems to stick to your palate, with strong and distinctive characters. Aside from some international varietals, the wines produced from indigenous grapes include: the light-bodied Kalecik Karasi, fruity and acidic Öküzgözü – often compared to a Zinfandel – and the hardly unforgettable Boğaskere, which literally translates to “throat-scrapper” because of its big tannins.
Where to taste?
Kavaklidere Winery – the winery’s reputation is already firmly established, since its creation in 1929. Located near the capital of Turkey, Ankara, the privately owned winery is home to more than 5000 hectares of vineyards, making it the largest winery in Turkey. Once there, try their white Kavaklidere Cankaya and the Kavaklidere Selection Red for the reds.
Doluca Winery – the third generation family winery has slowly made a name for itself since 1926, setting standards for Turkish wine. Doluca produces a variety of wines (over 40), focusing on native Turkish varietals. Don’t miss their Antik Red for a rich and full-bodied red.
Where to stay?
Another small winery is our recommendation for a wine-oriented stay in Turkey. Urla Winery’s property does not only include 40 hectares of vineyards – the boutique hotel is the perfect nest for a Turkish wine tour. Its proximity to a natural reserve and arboretum make it even more enchanting to explore. More importantly, it is less than an hour away from Izmir, one of Turkey’s wine capitals.