Turkey’s Wine: A Journey Through History, Grapes, and Regions

Bridging eastern Europe and western Asia, Turkey is one of the world’s oldest wine countries. According to local mythology, Noah planted the first vines on those hillsides following the deluge when his ark grounded on Mount Ararat. Despite the lack of proof for Noah’s winemaking, archeological findings indicate that wine has been made in Turkey for more than 7,000 years.

Turkey’s extensive wine heritage has resulted in a varied grape gene pool comprising over 600 native varieties. Turkey has had a robust wine trade and was a significant exporter of wine to its colonies from the start of the 14th century and for the majority of the Ottoman Empire. But Turkey’s wine industry was disrupted for much of the 20th century by political instability following the fall of the empire at the end of World War I. The industry didn’t start to recover and modernize until the Turkish economy was liberalized in the 1980s.

Turkey has a huge amount of land under vine—502,000 hectares, 10 percent more than the U. S. —but the vast majority of those vineyards produce table grapes. Turkey’s annual wine production comprises approximately 615,000 hectoliters, compared with 23 million hectoliters in the U. S. , and just 5 percent of that is exported. However, over the past 20 years, an increasing number of premium producers have attempted to alter that by putting a greater focus on exports.

According to Lillian Lai, vice president of House of Burgundy, a fine wine importer in New York City that added Turkish wine to its international portfolio in 1995 and currently carries 60 Turkish labels, “a number of very notable boutique wineries have been making their mark in the industry since the 2000s.” When we first started, the only places where Turkish wines could be found were ethnic restaurants. Currently, we import 15,000 cases of Turkish wines every year and sell them in 21 states. ”.

Taner Öğütoğlu established Wines of Turkey, a Turkish wine trade association, and Gustobar, an events company in Istanbul that helps regional wineries export and brings foreign journalists to Turkey, just over ten years ago. He claims that interest in Turkish wines has grown significantly over the past ten years, particularly in the U S. , U. K. , Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia. ” Lai adds that at the moment, consumers are eager to discover new indigenous grapes. “And I think the interest in Turkish wine will continue to grow,” she says. “It’s high time that wine enthusiasts discover the bold personalities and pleasure Turkish wines offer. ”.

Turkey, a land where East meets West, boasts a rich winemaking heritage dating back thousands of years. With a diverse landscape and a treasure trove of indigenous grape varieties, Turkish wine is poised to captivate the world. Let’s embark on a journey to explore this fascinating world of Turkish wine, from its ancient roots to its modern-day innovations.

A Legacy of Winemaking

Nestled in the heart of the ancient world, Turkey has witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, each leaving their mark on its viticultural landscape Legend has it that Noah planted the first vines on Mount Ararat after the Great Flood, a testament to the country’s deep connection with wine. Archaeological evidence confirms that winemaking flourished in Anatolia as early as 7,000 years ago, making Turkey one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world.

A Land of Diverse Grapes

Turkey is home to a staggering 600-1200 indigenous grape varieties a testament to its rich viticultural heritage. While only about 60 of these varieties are commercially cultivated, they offer a unique and diverse flavor profile to Turkish wines. Some of the most notable indigenous grapes include:

  • Çalkarası: This Aegean grape produces elegant rosé wines with a refreshing acidity.
  • Karalahna: This full-bodied red grape is known for its rich, complex flavors.
  • Emir: This white grape from Central Anatolia produces crisp, aromatic wines with notes of citrus and blossom.
  • Narince: This versatile white grape is known for its elegant minerality and refreshing acidity.
  • Boğazkere: This highly tannic red grape from Eastern Anatolia produces bold, age-worthy wines.

A Mosaic of Wine Regions

Turkey’s diverse geography and climate give rise to a variety of wine regions, each with its own distinct character:

  • Aegean Region: This region, known for its Mediterranean climate, produces elegant and balanced wines. The sub-region of Thrace is particularly renowned for its crisp white wines and fine reds.
  • Marmara Region: This region, with its slight Mediterranean climate, produces nearly 40% of Turkey’s wine. The area is known for its elegant and balanced wines, with the sub-region of Kirklareli being particularly famous for its crisp white wines and fine reds.
  • Central Anatolia: This region, with its challenging climate, produces wines with a unique character. The vineyards are located at high altitudes, resulting in wines with intense flavors and aromas.
  • Eastern Anatolia: This region, with its ancient winemaking traditions, is known for its bold, full-bodied red wines. The area around Elazığ, Malatya, and Diyarbakır is particularly renowned for its Öküzgözü and Boğazkere grapes.

A Modern Renaissance

In recent years, Turkish wine has experienced a renaissance, with a growing number of premium producers embracing modern winemaking techniques and focusing on export markets. This has led to an increase in the quality and reputation of Turkish wines, attracting the attention of wine lovers worldwide.

A World of Flavors Awaits

Whether you’re a seasoned wine connoisseur or a curious newcomer, Turkish wine offers a world of flavors to explore. From the elegant whites of Thrace to the bold reds of Eastern Anatolia, each region and grape variety presents a unique and captivating experience. So, uncork a bottle of Turkish wine and embark on a journey of discovery, savoring the rich history, diverse flavors, and modern innovations that make Turkish wine truly exceptional.

Chief Wine Regions in Turkey

Since Turkey lacks an official appellation system, many in the business simply identify the Aegean Coast, Marmara, and Anatolia as the wine production zones.

The Aegean Coast region in western Turkey produces over half of the nation’s wine. It enjoys a moderate Mediterranean climate, but inland, higher altitude regions (up to 800 meters) get more continental. The Aegean Coast’s vineyards cultivate a wide variety of indigenous varieties in addition to international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. According to Lai, international wines with a strong fruit character without being unduly jammy are best from Western Turkey. ”.

The Marmara region is the other chief wine area in Turkey, home to more than a third of Turkey’s wine producers. “I can swear on my wine cellar that it is a magical place for wine,” says Nicole Hakli, the former beverage director at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York City. “The air is filled with the smell of tea—linden and jasmine, which are widely planted. On three sides, you can see water—Aegean, Black Sea, and the Sea of Marmara—although the vineyards feel more continental in influence.” The coastal influence not only helps define the character of the wines but also attracts a large number of wine-imbibing tourists, making this Turkey’s most-visited wine destination.

Varying microclimates allow producers here to make wines ranging from bright whites to rich reds. The coolest subregion of Marmara is Kırklareli, whose vineyards are planted at higher altitudes. The windy island of Bozcaada is home to some of Turkey’s oldest vineyards, where bush vines are widely grown.

Anatolia is a large region that can be divided into central, eastern, and southeastern zones. Growers in central Anatolia mostly plant grapes at elevations of up to 1,500 meters on the volcanic soils of Cappadocia, or along the Kızılırmak River, which tempers the otherwise harsh continental climate. While Cappadocia is better known for its white wines, the riverbank vineyards are best known for their delicate, fresh red wines.

Although they are planted along the Euphrates River in eastern Anatolia as well, the vineyards there are noticeably higher, at an elevation of about 1,000 meters above sea level. This area, which has a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters, is most known for producing high-quality Öküzgözü, a medium-bodied red wine with a strong fruit forward flavor and crisp acidity. The better vineyard sites are typically found on hillsides in southeast Anatolia, where the lower elevation offers a warmer climate with hot summers.

Wine Regions in Turkey


Does Turkey have good wine?

Not to mention the Turkish wine industry is being incredibly creative so as to win an astonishing number of international awards. Cappadocia, Aegean, Thrace, Central, and Eastern Anatolia are Turkey’s major grape-growing and wine production areas where you can find numerous industrial and boutique vineyards.

Is wine sold in Turkey?

Turkey has a long history of winemaking, dating back thousands of years, and it is now experiencing a resurgence. Local wineries are investing in modern technology and techniques to produce high-quality wines that can compete with international brands.

Are there vineyards in Turkey?

The Çal Vineyard Route is the most recently established wine trail of Turkey, encompassing four wine producers in the region of Çal, Denizli. This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK). There’s nothing like the first sip of a buttery Chardonnay after a long drive on a sunny day.

What wine do you get in Turkey?

For a good insight into the whole Turkish wine industry, you can read a good article at this link. Some of the grape sorts that are now popular and you will find in Turkey: Red wines: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah. White wines: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon.

Does Turkey still produce wine?

Although Turkey’s viticultural history is one of the most ancient in the world, the modern Turkish wine industry is very young. Turkey only resumed producing wine in 1925, as a symbol of the nation’s modernization and Westernization. The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, established the country’s oldest surviving winery.

How many wineries are there in Turkey?

Now nearly 300 wineries have opened throughout Turkey which make exceptional wines from both Turkish and International grape varieties. These wineries, most of which are open for wine tastings, are predominantly found in 2 areas – Thrace, west of Istanbul, and the south Aegean region around Ephesus.

Why is Turkish wine so popular?

Historians believe Turkey (as well as nearby countries like Iran) to be the home of the oldest winemaking cultures. From the ancient Romans to the Greeks, Turkey has cultivated a fascinating evolution that continues to this day. Are you considering dipping into Turkish wine?

Is Turkey a good place to buy wine?

Notable grapes and wine have been widely produced in Turkey for millennia, and still are.. From its ancient roots (Turkey is argued to be the oldest region for winemaking!) to its modern day rejuvenation, Turkey is an undiscovered wine gem. You can explore Turkish wine on a wine tasting and vineyard tour.

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