Need five reasons to drink Turkish wine on your next visit to Turkey? The country’s wines are quickly growing in prominence worldwide, and it’s no wonder why. First, the world’s very first wines were likely made in the region. Second, Turkey ranks sixth in the world in total grape production. Third, the only countries that have more land dedicated to vineyards than Turkey are France, Italy, and Spain. Fourth, the country has over 800 indigenous grape varieties. And fifth? Well, that’s simple: Turkish wine is delicious.
The fact that Turkey may have the oldest winemaking history in the world shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, since the area is widely recognized as the birthplace of agriculture. That said, this agricultural history has led to a fascinating selection of domesticated grape varieties that you won’t find anywhere else. When you pull up a seat at a winebar in Istanbul, whether Rouge Wine House or Sensus Winebar, you receive exclusive access to wines by small Turkish wineries.
Turkish winemakers use plenty of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and other well-known grapes, but the country’s unique grapes give a taste of Turkish soils, seas, and winds. For red-wine lovers, keep an eye out for the Kalecik Karas?, Karalahna, and Öküzgözü grapes. I recently tried Diren Winery’s 2012 Öküzgözü, and with juicy, dark-fruit flavors with cracked pepper on the finish, it reminded me of some California zinfandels. Further, there was something more: an herbal, almost tarragon quality reminiscent of Barolos.
During the summer months, white-wine lovers will find something very special in Turkey: the combination of a warm Mediterranean climate with crisp, refreshing white wines that pair excellently with olive-oil-drenched local delicacies, from octopus salad to dolma. Turkey’s most important white wine grape is Emir, and Turasan winery’s 2013 Emir is a glass of crisp Mediterranean flavors unto itself, smelling of lemon and wild flowers and leaving the palate refreshed.
If you want to go wine tasting in Turkey, begin by researching the Thrace region, where many wineries are just one-to-two hours from Istanbul. The Thrace Wine Route tour company is a reliable operator. It offers tours along four winery-studded routes as well as personalized tours.
When shopping for a bottle of Turkish wine to bring home, keep these reputed producers in mind: Kayra, Likya, Diren, Kavaklidere, Vinkara, Büyülüba?, Corvus, Sevilen, Doluca, Pamukkale, Turasan, and Selendi. You can find some Turkish wines in the United States, too, in case you want to relive your time in Turkey through them.
Turkey’s Muslim heritage may curb the use of alcohol among some of its citizens, but small wineries are currently experiencing a resurgence. On your next trip, don’t miss out on one of Turkey’s most exciting culinary offerings.
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com