It is not common knowledge that Turkey, grows more grapes than almost any country on the planet, however as a predominantly Muslim nation only a small proportion of it is turned into wine. This is somewhat of an irony as many wine historians believe winemaking originated in this part of the world some 6,000 years ago.
Even given this history the Turkish wine industry is young with wine production only resuming commercially in the 1920s with Ataturk establishing the country’s oldest surviving winery.
Turkey’s trans-continental location between its easterly neighbors and the seas of Eastern Europe give rise to significant climatic variations and hence huge variation in grapes grown. Turkish winemakers use a mix of traditional, local grapes and modern, imported varieties. The increasingly global wine portfolio of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah is present, as is the white-wines of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The French grapes of Cinsaut and Grenache are also used in specific Regions.
The Turkish wine culture will take time to shape, given that in the past wine was outlawed, and also the currently high level of tax and VAT on wine. However as is the case in what is now modern Turkey and is the Turkish way despite obstacles a wine culture is rapidly developing. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Turks who are signing up for wine courses and the number of new wineries opening up is also on the rise, providing wine tours, tastings and education into the alluring new world of Turkish wine. So fingers crossed it will not be long before Turkey produces a truly world class wine which may even be noted by Parker.
Seyla Ergenekons Guide to Turkish Wines (in English) is a good place to start to understand more about Turkish wine profiling a number of new and old wineries. But if tasting and sampling is your thing rather than reading then there are a host of excellent restaurants in Istanbul and other cities which are great a showcase for the top Turkish wines.
With a tendency towards the international grape variety portfolio, foreigners may still want to try local whites such as Emir and Narine and reds such as Kalecik Karası, Karalahna and Öküzgözü. Öküzgözü should be tried as it unusually doubles as a table grape due to its size; which for those of you who know a bit about wine know that size is normally a problem since flavor comes from the skins not the flesh. In most cases bigger is not better.
Kavaklidere one of the largest Turkish wine companies and an exponent of Öküzgözü who has received praise from overseas including the French in Bordeaux of the wines made with this grape. The other dominant producer in Turkey is Doluca and between them they play a key role in the Turkish market. Boutique producers are increasing however only time will tell how they fair.
So in summary exciting things are happening in the Turkish wine industry. So do continue sampling and if you have any recommendations, vineyards you have visited or thoughts on Turkish wine then please do share with our members.
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