7000 Years of Winemaking. Practical Guide to Turkish Wines

Most of the people are surprised to find out that Turkey makes wine at all. In fact, the cradle of winemaking is somewhere around here in the Caucasians - Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, well at those times neither borders nor vintage registers existed so all we know that it began around here. Let’s try to solve this puzzle bit by bit - I’ll guide you through the winemaking history of Turkey and then we’ll travel the current wine routes of this country learning about the best wineries Turkey has to offer, often sustainable, organic and natural wine producers with a focus on native grape varieties.

Turkey is very likely the country where grapevines were domesticated around 9000 years ago.
Trakya or the Thrace Wine Route - visiting Chamlija winery's vineyards in Kirklareli, Turkey.

History of Turkish winemaking

Turkish winemaking is officially 7000 years old with it’s origins in Central Anatolia (think of the area around Cappadocia), meanwhile Turkey is very likely the country where grapevines were domesticated around 9000 years ago. Turkey is home to 1200 native grape varieties and almost all of them are unique to this country and don’t exist anywhere else. Unfortunately, some of the grape varieties are considered to be extinct but there are wineries spending lots of resources on reviving them and researching the wild vines up in the hills and forests relying on the knowledge of the local population.

Ataturk was the founder of Turkey’s first commercial winery in 1925.

During the Ottoman Empire times wine wasn’t something that local muslim population would produce for their own consumption. However, this didn’t prevent Turkey from becoming the world’s largest wine producer and exporter in times when Europe was hit by phylloxera. Someone had to satisfy the thirst of the West while France and Italy were trying to find a solution for the deadly vine plague.

Under Ataturk’s rule, once Turkey became a republic, the country’s winemaking revival started. In fact, Ataturk was the founder of Turkey’s first commercial winery in 1925. Things didn’t go too smoothly after his death - winemaking was either favoured or diminished depending on who was taking the rule in the country. So today Turkish winemaking is still a very young industry that is however full of enthusiasts, winemakers who studied viticulture abroad or seasoned wine lovers that retired from their jobs and businesses and invested in amazingly looking wineries and world class quality vines.

The Turkish Wine Routes

Turkish Wine Routes Map - Thracian, Aegean and the Anatolia Wine Routes
the official Turkish Wine Map

The division on wine routes is very subjective as wine tourism (excluding the Thracian wine route and the Urla wine route) is at a state of an embryo - to say the least, the current government is not supporting the development of wine tourism.

So I prefer to divide Turkey on 3 big wine routes:

  • Thrace Wine Route or Trakya in Turkish - the most established and closest to Istanbul

  • Aegean Wine Route - with the Urla Wine Route being the most popular (and established) part of it

  • Anatolian Wine Route - here we combine all the wineries scattered across Central and South-Eastern Turkey.

Curios to learn more? Continue to my article on the Thrace Wine Route and join me on my upcoming Turkish Wine Tours in June 2022.

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