Turkish Wine Heritage
Wine has had an essential role in the social lives of the oldest civilizations of Anatolia.
Turkish cuisine is rich and varied, from Aegean olive oil based vegetarian dishes, the famous spicy kebabs of south-eastern Anatolia, to pastries, yogurt and bulgur dishes that reflects the changing cultural tastes and flavors from one region to the next. To accompany this long history and great variety of old and new tastes, a good wine is important.
Wine has had an essential role in the social lives of the oldest civilizations of Anatolia. The first suggestions of viticulture and viniculture established in Anatolia date back 7,000 years. Evidence has suggested that wine was important to both ancient economies and ancient cultural practices. At that time, wine was the primary beverage offered to the gods during rituals attended by royalty and high governors. Protecting viticulture and vinicultural practices, and the custom of celebrating each important vintage with a holiday, demonstrates the significant of wine in Anatolia at this time. By the 6th Century BC wine was being exported as far as France and Italy from trading and production centres in Southern Aegean region and Ainos. The southwest Mediterranean coast, and the island of Rhodes were also leading centres for the wine trade.
Although Türkiye has traditionally specialized in producing table grapes and raisins, it also has 34 kinds of wine grapes, 22 of which are valuable native varieties. With its diverse range of soils conditions and climates, this has allowed wine producers to cultivate several varietals of grapes for producing different styles of wine. Turkish wine producers also use the native grapes in combination with international European varieties. At present Türkiye’s total wine exports are modest—approx $10 million annually (compared with $10 billion for France). Turkish wine producers have continually increased their wine production capacity and have continued to invest in modern technologies. Besides the large wine producing companies, there are also almost 300 small producers located in Central Anatolia, Marmara-Thrace and the Aegean region.
In the past, Turkish wines have been difficult to sell internationally, with names that are largely unrecognizable and difficult to pronounce.
Öküzgözü: Grown throughout Anatolia, high in acidity fine tannins. Strong characteristic taste and aroma, has comparisons with Pinot Noir.
Boğazkere: Found in central Anatolia, dark, thick skinned, harsh tannins and strong red grape, comparisons to Tannat.
Kalecik Karası: Produces smooth, easy to drink and fruity wines, aromas and tastes of fig, rose and strawberries. Occasionally likened to Pinot Noir
Narince: Produced throughout Türkiye, balanced acidity, moderate alcohol citrus flavors of pears, grapefruit, and especially orange. Blends with Chardonnay, not unlike Viognier
Emir: Light-skinned dry white wine, delicate aromas, refreshing flavor, high acidity and mineral qualities suitable for producing sparkling wine, intended for early consumption
Misket: Became known as Muscat in Europe. Grown in and around Izmir, quite aromatic, lively, light, easy drinking and dry to lusciously sweet wines.
Turkish wine varieties are widely diversified and have greatly improved in quality through good vine and canopy management, modern equipment and wine making techniques. The market for wine has expanded in Türkiye as more varieties and better-quality wines become available. As a consequence of this increase in the quality of wine, many Turkish brands have been awarded gold medals in international competitions. However, despite this dissevered recognition, the current export quantity of the Turkish wine sector is not at the level it deserves, considering the volume of grape production. Nevertheless, increasing production capacity and raising quality of Turkish wine through good quality control and modern wine making methods will be the tools for competing in the international markets in the near future.