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Chamlija - the winery of the Thracians

When you're visiting a winery the last thing you do is actually tasting wines. First of all (at least for me) it's meeting the people behind the label. In this case, it was meeting the people of the Strandja - the mountain massif that literally decides the weather in this continental yet surrounded by seas area called Kirklareli. Mustafa Camlica, owner of the Chamlija winery, not only showed us their vineyards and poured their wine, he also opened up the door to the world of the Thracian people - their land and terroir, their traditions and values. Visiting a winery in Turkey is never boring but always something else then what you expect, and isn't it wonderful?

Visiting wineries in Turkey on the Thracian wine route and wine tasting and vineyard tour at Chamlija winery in Kirklareli
Mustafa Camlica leading our way through their Papaskarasi vineyards in Poyrali

What are the values you are looking for when picking a winery to visit? An interesting region, an unknown part of the viticultural world is a must, of course. Besides that, family run wineries are always a top priority as I believe that wineries that pass on land, knowledge, reputation from generation to generation tend to be much more careful in their vineyards, cellars and whole ecosystems of their regions. The Chamlija winery is founded by the Camlica (it reads as 'Chamlija') family. Mustafa Camlica, the founder, runs the winery along with his wife. He is actually the advocate of the wines of Thracia. His brother takes care of the vineyards, his daughter, Irem Camlica, is responsible for marketing and social media. She is an artist and the creator of the super stylish labels of Chamlija.

Chamlija wine tasting and winery visit in Kirklareli on the Trakya wine route in Turkey.
Labels by Irem Camlica

During my visit I tried to understand what is that core characteristic that could describe their winery and it turned out to be precision. Precision down to tiniest detail. Something that reminded me my beloved where it's so normal to know every corner of your vineyard, what's 60, 120, 180 cm under the surface. ⠀ This is why Burgundy became Burgundy because locals from generation to generation were aiming to know everything about their vineyards, recording the data and creating wine libraries with all the vintages - to open every now and then to examine what’s going on in the wine.

Precision down to the tiniest detail.

And this is why it’s so natural that a winery that aims for precision created their R&D project to collect data on so diverse yet so unknown terroirs of Thrace region. Most of the wines are kept for the Chamlija library to learn and draw conclusions for the next generations about the viticultural heritage of their native land. When I first saw the Chamlija Terroir Serisi in a wine shop I thought what a great name, simple and to the point describing perfectly well what's in the bottle. Their Terroir Series is what made me ask for a visit.

Sustainable viticulture in Turkey

Narince vineyard of Chamlija in Kirklareli on the Thracian wine route in Turkey
Nothing artificial goes into the soil here and the grass cover remains intact being a home to huge biodiversity

Caring about the terroir expression automatically means keeping the land healthy. It just can't be done any other way as conventional viticulture exhausts the soil, kills all the microbial life in it and poisons the whole ecosystem around. Theoretically, Chamlija could have been certified organic, practically - as a new winery with young vineyards they don't have the resources to dive into a certification. They're not using any synthetical fertilizers or pesticides, and don't use any herbicides at all - the beautiful grass cover remains intact on their vineyards and helps achieving plenty of things:

  • good drainage - grass thrives on rain, grapevines - not.

  • home to countless insects - nature loves balance, and if there's a diversity of insects on your vineyard it's less likely that the harmful pests will multiply in a quantity that can affect the vines.

  • feeding the soil - some types of weed enrich the soil with valuable compounds, for example, mustard and beans fill the soil with nitrogen.

  • creating humus in soil - humus is the organic matter formed by leaf litter (dead plants), it helps avoid natural compression of soil and increases aeration (which is so good for wine roots!).