Thrace Wine Route - an immense wine region right next to Istanbul

Updated: Apr 6

The Thrace Wine Route (Trakya Bağ Rotası in Turkish) is the oldest wine route in the country that actually unites 4 separate wine routes spread around the European part of Turkey all perfectly suitable for a day tour from Istanbul being just a short drive away. The following 12 boutique wineries are the closest to reach from Istanbul for a city escape to the vineyards. Join our Thrace wine route & Bozcaada wine tour in June 2022.

I'm listing the 4 routes below from closest to farthest from Istanbul as I can imagine many of you would love to visit a Turkish winery over a weekend trip to Istanbul.

  • Tekirdag region - Umurbey, Chateau Nuzun, Barbare, Barrel Vineyards

  • Kırklareli region - Chamlija, Arcadia, Vino Dessera

  • Şarköy region - Melen winery, Chateau Kalpak, Gülor winery

  • Gelibolu - Chateau Gali, Suvla

map of the Thrace Wine Route that shows the closest to Istanbul wineries to visit
the official map of the Thrace Wine Route

4 Routes rather that 1 - the so different members of the Thrace Wine Route

Even though they’re united in one route, the terroir, the geology, age of soils, climate is so different that you won’t get bored by visiting at least a couple of them at a time. In fact in this region there’s a tremendous focus on international grape varieties and especially the Bordeaux blends.

For example, in Chateau Kalpak - one of the most award-winning Turkish wineries, you’ll find a classical left-bank Bordeaux blend true to the one estate one wine concept. They do have a second wine though, it is actually a father and son blend created by the owner Bulent and his son Berk Kalpaklioglu. You’ll recognise it by the BBK label. They have an impressive terrace overlooking their vineyards and the Marmara sea. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are enjoying the daytime heat and are cooled by high altitude diurnal range, sea breeze and proximity of the pine forests. Chateau Kalpak has a 3 star rating from AWC Vienna (similar to Michelin stars) and plenty of gold medals from the Concours Mondial Bruxelles.

Climate and geology wise it’s a kaleidoscope of wine terroirs.

On the other hand, in Kırklareli we see a completely different story. Climate and geology wise it’s a kaleidoscope of terroirs. All of it thanks to the Strandja Massif mountain range that creates an endless combination of altitudes, exposures, soil types. Chamlija has 90 hectares under vineyards - every neighbouring vineyard of theirs that I saw was so dramatically different from the other. Some plots resemble twins like the Grand Cru sites of Chablis, they’re generously covered with limestone rocks with petrified oysters - here you’ll find their finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Others are ancient riverbeds with quartz rocks and pebbles - some of these are dedicated to the Bordeaux varieties, others to local grapes that prefer similar soil composition like Papaskarası.

The mountain range creates a tough continental climate with lots of wind, rain, snow and often late frosts. The growing season and harvest are the latest in Turkey. Chamlija became the Best National Producer of Turkey according to AWC Vienna in 2021 for the fourth consecutive time and in 2019 they brought home the highest number of medals from the prestigious Concours International des Cabernets organized by the best French sommeliers. They’re certified as a sustainable producer under the local Iyi Tarim Uygulamalari program - high density planting, no pesticides, no herbicides here. All their red wines are suitable for vegans - they’re unfined and unfiltered. Chamlija even has a natural orange wine - skin contact unfiltered amber wine made from the local Narince grape. My favourite wine out of all their generous range!

We can observe a very different terroir in Gelibolu - at Chateau Gali Merlot is the main hero. 48 hectares of vineyards on top of the barely reachable even on a powerful SUV hills. From the top a heavenly view opens - Dardanelles (the Canakkale channel), Marmara Sea and Saros Channel unite in front of your eyes. Clay soils, full of magnesium and iron on a limestone bedrock. Very red coloured soils, extremely hot weather especially if you consider the sunlight being mirrored from the nearby sea. However, all vineyards have no irrigation and no herbicides are being used in order to protect this special terroir.

Almost all land is given to Merlot with the rest going to some Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Viognier. Following the owner’s passion for Bordeaux right bank, even the winery resembles Saint-Emilion. It’s made of local limestone extracted from the land, just like in Saint-Emilion. It’s not only esthetic but also provides natural cooling and retains humidity (important if you barrel age as you don’t want to evaporate too much wine!). Nevertheless when it comes to portfolio, Chateau Gali is much more generous than any Bordeaux estate. Their Eternity wine is a late harvest Merlot that reminded me of Amarone della Valpolicella. They have a dark fruit driven and super tannic Merlot & Cabernet Franc wine called the Saros Blend, a 100% Merlot called Pure Merlot. And then many more combinations plus their only white wine - Viognier.

Now let’s navigate to Tekirdag in case you’re visiting Istanbul and want to join a wine tasting at a local winery in no time. In just 1,5 hours you’ll be at the doorstep of Barbare Vineyards - an organic winery certified by Ecocert and a Turkish-French venture with a well-known chateau consultant Xavier Vignon creating their best blends. The main motto here is the French belief that winemaking begins in the vineyard, therefore low yield production, organic viticulture, perfect grape maturity and then gentle oak ageing wherever it’s necessary. The winery and vineyards are located on a hilltop overlooking the Marmara sea - hot weather and cooling sea breeze the combination of which creates a perfect diurnal range and quite chilly nights. They have blends to satisfy a very diverse range of tastes. A typical Bordeaux blend - Barbare Prestige - a marriage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend - with Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, some monocepage wines and their only white - Sauvignon Blanc.

Turkish winery tours from Istanbul with a WSET guide

Ready to explore Trakya, the Thrace wine route and its’ wines?

I’m organizing two wine tours to Turkey both in June 2022. Join the waiting list to be the first one to get updates on the timing, cost and the details of the wine route.

(You can join the tour regardless of your departure location. We’ll meet in Istanbul, where the continents meet :)

P.S.: Don't judge Turkish wineries by their absent, inactive or blocked websites. According to Turkish law (the one that is the biggest enemy of Turkish viticulture and wine tourism) you may not advertise wines to consumers. So since almost 10 years all the websites been blocked. That doesn't mean that the wineries seized existence, actually, it's the other way round!

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