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The Thracian terroir through Chamlija's Teruar Serisi

What fascinates us the most in wine? For me it's the ability of a grapevine to tell us the story of the land, the year and the men and women behind the label. I had an opportunity to look at the Thracian terroirs and the Chamlija winery through their wines. Their "Teruar Serisi" wines are telling us the story of the vineyards of Thrace - the European part of Turkey which has long history in the wine craft. We discovered their terroir by tasting the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon single vineyard series coming from small plots all with distinctive characteristics.

Cabernet Franc Chamlija vineyard photo from a winery trip in Turkey

The Chamlija winery

Founded by Mustafa Camlica and run by the whole Camlica family. Their ancestors immigrated to this area of Turkey from Bulgaria in 1936 and been in farming for many years. The core of the Chamlija project is Thrace - the region native to this family, the land which they know so well and the local people with their customs and traditions being the soul of this winery.

In 2019 Chamlija won the highest number of medals on the prestigious Concours International des Cabernets - the international Cabernet tasting by top French sommeliers. The winery won 1 gold and 3 silver medals, while in total only 62 medals were awarded. This was obviously a sensation for a Turkish winery as many people in the world are still surprised to hear that Turkey makes wine at all. Apparently, it does make wine and when it does, it sometimes turns out to be one of the best wines in the world.

Mustafa Camlica holding Asticus Mons Cabernet Franc during a wine tasting at Chamlija winery on a winery visit
Mustafa Camlica holding the award-winning Asticus Mons Cabernet Franc

The winners (in case you were planing to stock up) were their Cabernet Sauvignon, The Thracian, Nev'i Sahsina Munhasir (a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot blend, now try to pronounce the name!) and Asticus Mons Cabernet Franc.

Obviously, I'm waiting for the times when the native varieties of Turkey will be well known enough in the world and earn not less medals then the beloved in Turkey Bordeaux varietals. However, the reality of Turkish winemaking is that you won't get international attention unless at least part of your production is of international grapes. Well, so be it, luckily Chamlija has plenty of wines based on local Turkish grape varieties which they make with the same hands that create those award-winning Cabernets :)

Actually, it does make wine and when it does, it sometimes turns out to be one of the best wines in the world.

The are plenty of other awards popping up for Chamlija and sometimes it involves their local varietals too! For example, in 2018 their Albarino & Narince blend won a double gold medal on the Belgrade International Wine Competition, that's two times better then a gold medal! Otherwise lots of 90+ ratings from world's most prestigious blind tastings and even world's best sommelier of 2007 Andreas Larsson. They became the Best National Producer - so the best winery in Turkey - according to AWC Vienna 2020 - I'd say a bright future for this Turkish winery, the advocate of the Strandja Massif terroirs.

The terroir of Strandja

All these award winning wines are born with one thing in mind - expressing the terroir of the Strandja Massif - a mountain belt that sets the border between Bulgaria and Turkey that literally sets the weather here. Despite being surrounded by three seas - Black Sea, Marmara Sea and the Aegean Sea - this is a tough continental climate with generous rainfall, frequent late spring frosts, strong winds. As a paradox of viticulture, the way to help vines thrive in these conditions is to help them as little as possible. Thus a no irrigation, dry farming is applied all over the vineyards, while the density of plantings reaches even 10 000 vines per hectare. Compare it with the super crowded vineyards of Champagne where the average is 8000 vines per hectare and you'll want to come and see these Thracian lands.