Turkish Wines

Turkish Wine

Turkey grows a lot of grapes. It’s a country with well over a million acres of vineyards, and yet only about 3% of that is destined for making wine.

It’s a figure that belies the nation’s historical importance to the world of winemaking. The Caucasus region in the north east of the country stretching through into Armenia and Georgia has long been considered as the homeland of Vitis vinifera – the genus of grapevine most suitable for quality wine production. Archaeological evidence from these areas suggests that grape cultivation and subsequent vinification began in earnest around 6000 BC – several millennia before wine production reached those parts of Italy and Greece that the modern imagination associates so closely with ancient wine culture.

And yet, to be fair to the Greeks, it was they who really championed winegrowing in ancient Turkey. Greek and Thracian colonies on the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts were important trading posts for Anatolian wines for several centuries, and an enthusiastic wine culture developed around them. It’s notable that the remains of one of the largest temples to Dionysus (the infamous Greek god of wine, revelry and theatre) can be found in the ancient city of Izmir.

So why isn’t Turkish wine better known? Alcohol’s collision course with Islam is one reason, and wine production has suffered several prohibitions over the centuries (and is currently in the grip of one now, to some extent). Difficulties in the domestic market and a degree of religious suppression has made it difficult for growers and producers to innovate and invest, and as such Turkish wine has suffered from historic variations in quality.

The country is home to perhaps some 600 indigenous grape varieties (approximately 60 cultivars are grown today for commercial use) and as global trends have tended towards the classic international (mostly French) grape varieties the market for local Anatolian wines has remained small. However, the resurgent modern fascination for locally produced, geographically expressive wines and food has meant that interest in native Turkish wines has increased in recent years, and high quality wines made from such grapes as Öküzgözü, BoÄŸazkere and Narince have proved to be successful exports in foreign markets.

Such demand has sprung both from greater interest in wines from roads less travelled but also from tourists and visitors to the country returning home impressed by the local wines they’d enjoyed on their holidays – wines that are a fine match for much of the country’s rich, Mediterranean inflected cuisine. Medium-bodied, fruity, and richly scented wines produced from the widely grown Öküzgözü grape can match well with a plethora of meat and vegetable dishes. One of the best we’ve tried at Wineman is the Kayra Versus Öküzgözü, sourced from the Kayra Wines estate in Elazig in Eastern Anatalia, a modern, forward looking operation informed by the advice of leading Californian consultant winemaker, Daniel O’Donnell. With a palate of powerful black fruits supported by a touch of vanilla and chocolate scented oak, it can hold its own with a fillet steak as much as it can with a creamy, tomato-rich moussaka.

It's not just the native grapes that thrive in the local climate however, and the country has seen expansive planting of the so-called international cultivars in recent decades. Our favourite at Wineman is the Kayra Vintage Chardonnay, a considered multi-vineyard blend vinified in a modern French fashion. A long growing season and cool night time temperatures yield expressive grapes at full phenolic ripeness that nonetheless retain acidity and freshness, and these optimum climatic conditions are demonstrated by the balance of the Kayra Chardonnay. The wine was barrel fermented and aged in 50% new oak for a period of 16 months, lending a buttery, toasty edge to the ripe, fruity core. Other international grape varieties grown widely in Anatolia include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah on the hotter plains, while Sauvignon Blanc can produce aromatically vibrant and refreshing wines when grown at altitude.

The future for Turkish wine looks set to be a mixed one. The aforementioned leaps made in quality and style in recent years look set to continue, with much of the industry in the hands of quality-conscious and diligent family winemakers. Increased private investment in the more serious wineries (such as Kayra) will continue to lure overseas winemaking talent and consultancy to the country, keen to experiment with and refine the plethora of distinctive and promising native cultivars unique to Anatolia. This potential for expansion must be levelled against the measures taken by the incumbent Justice and Development Party to curb the sale and consumption of alcohol within an increasingly orthodox religious framework. In the meantime though, exports are still rising, awards are being won and plaudits earned from a number of popular wine and hospitality journalists, and the availability of these wines in the UK is greater than ever. Here at Wineman, we’re big fans of Turkish wines, and we’d urge you to try them too.

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Turkish Wines

Turkish Wine

Turkey grows a lot of grapes. It’s a country with well over a million acres of vineyards, and yet only about 3% of that is destined for making wine.

It’s a figure that belies the nation’s historical importance to the world of winemaking. The Caucasus region in the north east of the country stretching through into Armenia and Georgia has long been considered as the homeland of Vitis vinifera – the genus of grapevine most suitable for quality wine production. Archaeological evidence from these areas suggests that grape cultivation and subsequent vinification began in earnest around 6000 BC – several millennia before wine production reached those parts of Italy and Greece that the modern imagination associates so closely with ancient wine culture.

And yet, to be fair to the Greeks, it was they who really championed winegrowing in ancient Turkey. Greek and Thracian colonies on the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts were important trading posts for Anatolian wines for several centuries, and an enthusiastic wine culture developed around them. It’s notable that the remains of one of the largest temples to Dionysus (the infamous Greek god of wine, revelry and theatre) can be found in the ancient city of Izmir.

So why isn’t Turkish wine better known? Alcohol’s collision course with Islam is one reason, and wine production has suffered several prohibitions over the centuries (and is currently in the grip of one now, to some extent). Difficulties in the domestic market and a degree of religious suppression has made it difficult for growers and producers to innovate and invest, and as such Turkish wine has suffered from historic variations in quality.

The country is home to perhaps some 600 indigenous grape varieties (approximately 60 cultivars are grown today for commercial use) and as global trends have tended towards the classic international (mostly French) grape varieties the market for local Anatolian wines has remained small. However, the resurgent modern fascination for locally produced, geographically expressive wines and food has meant that interest in native Turkish wines has increased in recent years, and high quality wines made from such grapes as Öküzgözü, BoÄŸazkere and Narince have proved to be successful exports in foreign markets.

Such demand has sprung both from greater interest in wines from roads less travelled but also from tourists and visitors to the country returning home impressed by the local wines they’d enjoyed on their holidays – wines that are a fine match for much of the country’s rich, Mediterranean inflected cuisine. Medium-bodied, fruity, and richly scented wines produced from the widely grown Öküzgözü grape can match well with a plethora of meat and vegetable dishes. One of the best we’ve tried at Wineman is the Kayra Versus Öküzgözü, sourced from the Kayra Wines estate in Elazig in Eastern Anatalia, a modern, forward looking operation informed by the advice of leading Californian consultant winemaker, Daniel O’Donnell. With a palate of powerful black fruits supported by a touch of vanilla and chocolate scented oak, it can hold its own with a fillet steak as much as it can with a creamy, tomato-rich moussaka.

It's not just the native grapes that thrive in the local climate however, and the country has seen expansive planting of the so-called international cultivars in recent decades. Our favourite at Wineman is the Kayra Vintage Chardonnay, a considered multi-vineyard blend vinified in a modern French fashion. A long growing season and cool night time temperatures yield expressive grapes at full phenolic ripeness that nonetheless retain acidity and freshness, and these optimum climatic conditions are demonstrated by the balance of the Kayra Chardonnay. The wine was barrel fermented and aged in 50% new oak for a period of 16 months, lending a buttery, toasty edge to the ripe, fruity core. Other international grape varieties grown widely in Anatolia include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah on the hotter plains, while Sauvignon Blanc can produce aromatically vibrant and refreshing wines when grown at altitude.

The future for Turkish wine looks set to be a mixed one. The aforementioned leaps made in quality and style in recent years look set to continue, with much of the industry in the hands of quality-conscious and diligent family winemakers. Increased private investment in the more serious wineries (such as Kayra) will continue to lure overseas winemaking talent and consultancy to the country, keen to experiment with and refine the plethora of distinctive and promising native cultivars unique to Anatolia. This potential for expansion must be levelled against the measures taken by the incumbent Justice and Development Party to curb the sale and consumption of alcohol within an increasingly orthodox religious framework. In the meantime though, exports are still rising, awards are being won and plaudits earned from a number of popular wine and hospitality journalists, and the availability of these wines in the UK is greater than ever. Here at Wineman, we’re big fans of Turkish wines, and we’d urge you to try them too.

Sort by:
Showing 1 to 8 of 8
view: per page
Sort by:
Showing 1 to 8 of 8
view: per page