Wine In Turkey
From the ancient land of wine
Being one of the most ancient lands that produced wine, Turkey has still lots of flavors for wine lovers.
Wine is being produced on these lands as early as 3200 BC. And in our culture, we can trace the influence of wine. For example, the Ottoman poets wrote lots of poems on wine.
You don't often see Turkish wines all around the world. And the total wine brands in Turkey is no more than the local brands of a single small French town.
I was 22 when I first tasted a foreign wine. I love the rather bitter taste of Turkish wines.
History of Wine in Anatolia
History of wine making on this land starts 2000 years ago, the age of Hittites. The historical origin of wine is a matter of dispute. Some researchers point Caucasian region, and some others ancient Persia. But it's almost certain that Anatolia is the region where wine had spread all over the world.
In Byzantine times, especially Thrace and Cappadocia were major wine producing areas.
In Ottoman era, the Muslim community did not deal with producing wine. This was largely carried through by Greeks and Armenians. But the Muslim Turks were enthusiastic wine consumers.
At that time, the wines from Ankara, Erdek, Gallipoli, Crete and Cyprus were the favorites of the taverns of Istanbul.
The Sultan Mohammad II who conquered Istanbul was also a wine lover. He himself wrote some poems for wine.
Sultan Murad 4th, banned all types of alcohol, tobacco and coffee. But he himself was a great wine lover.
Attitude to Alcohol in General
Muslim countries generally have mixed attribute to alcohol. Even in most extreme cases like Iran and Saudi Arabia, (although forbidden by law) alcohol consumption is rather common.
Turkey's situation is somewhere between Muslim countries and Europe.
As an interesting figure, 28% of the total population does not drink alcohol because of the religious reasons.
You see, alcohol consumption is not so low, but the major choice of the consumers is not wine. Turkish people prefer "beer" and "raki" (our traditional high-alcohol beverage).
It's very interesting that while Turkey is 4th major grape producer of the world, she is number 41 in producing wine, just behind Turkmenistan and Tunisia. And also, some important portion of the Turkish wine is consumed by foreign tourists.
The Only 16% of Turkish people drink wine.
There are virtually no limitation over alcohol by the state. But the attitude of the "extremely conservative government " is negative. The special tax on wine and other beverages are so high that it's the main threat to Turkish wines.
By February 2008, the government had to reduce the special tax on table wine, but still the special tax is over 360% (it was over 600% before - yes six hundred percent).
(Figures are taken from a research made by ProCon GfK)
Wine Regions of Turkey
|Thrace||Semillon, Cinsault, Papazkarasi, Gamay, Adakarasi|
|Izmir||Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Merlot|
|Denizli||Shiraz, Calkarasi, Sultaniye|
|Manisa||Carignan, Sultaniye, Alicante Bouchet|
|Marmara||Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc|
Carignan, Alicante, Okuzgozu, Bogazkere
I think, it's the most price effective product available in Turkey.
Emir, Narince, Sultaniye
It's the optimum white wine for its price.
Kalecik Karasi, Okuzgozu, Bogazkere
It's a good quality, full flavored red wine.
Cinsault, Gamay, Alicante
Very cheap, yet drinkable red wine.
Major Wine Producers
Especially in Western Turkey, all provinces have their own local brands (not so successful as local producers of Europe), but there are only a few nationwide wine producers. Some of them export their products to some degree.
Kavaklidere and Doluca are my favorite wine brands.
Jancis Robinson's Views
In May 2009, famous wine expert Jancis Robinson visited Turkey for a serious wine tasting event. She evaluated some 50 of selected Turkish wines. Her evaluation seems to yield more optimistic results than I expected.
Here's her article about these 50 selected Turkish wines: