Despite evidence suggesting that wine has been produced in Anatolia for thousands of years, Turkey is not exactly a destination for wine drinkers. Yet over the past decade the country’s wine industry has improved by leaps and bounds, and likewise the wines produced in Turkey – made from both local and foreign varietals – have grown in stature.
Wine is produced in five main regions, each of which has a slightly different climate. A majority are produced in the Aegean coastal region, and in Marmara and Thrace, all of which have hot and dry summers with mild winters.
One winery of note in the Gallipoli peninsula is Sarafin, which produces a delectable Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. A more recent addition to the wine growers in this region is Büyülübağ, located on Avşa Island in the Sea of Marmara. Both its Öküzgözü–Boğazkere blend, a fruity red made from two of the most popular local varietals, and its Iris Rose, a light-bodied rosé made from a local red grape called Adakarası, are well-regarded.
There are also a large number of wineries in Cappadocia, where the summers are hot and the winters are harsher and wetter than those on the coast. Kocabağ is known for its Kalecik Karası, a local red varietal whose unique aroma and taste – it is a dark and brooding wine with a rich palate – has won it international acclaim. Another varietal local to the region is Emir, a bold white grape that often results in a citrusy white wine with a clean, fresh flavour. Turasan, a winery that was established in the region in 1943, has gotten especially rave reviews for its Emir.
Finally, there are some wines are produced in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. The latter is particularly well-known for its Narince varietal. These white grapes are often blended and aged in oak, producing citrusy notes that are sure to please those who like their white wine with aromatic, fruity flavors.
Sadly, the local wine served in most restaurants and bars is not exactly the creme of the crop; it’s often mediocre at best. If you’re interested in tasting the full range of wines that Turkey has to offer, we recommend visiting one of these wine bars that stock some of the best wine to be found in the country:
Mere steps from the Galata Tower and tucked away in the basement of the Anemon Galata Hotel, Sensus is a cavernous sanctuary for wine lovers on dark and cold Istanbul nights. The focus at this cosy, chic wine bar is on local Turkish wines, and their selection is outstanding. While not all wines are available by the glass, Sensus also sells bottles. With over 300 types of wine in stock, you’re sure to find something that you like. Ask the knowledgeable waiters for a recommendation, and then sit back, relax and drink up. www.sensuswine.com
Solera Winery is a relaxed spot just off Istiklal Caddesi, the main pedestrian thoroughfare running through Beyoğlu. You should come for the wine – it’s owner, Süleyman Er, has worked in the wine industry for years and has impeccable taste – but stay for the food. The bar has surprisingly good mezes that pair well with the wine. Like at Sensus, if you’re unsure what wine to order, the incredibly helpful waiters will be able to point you in the right direction. www.facebook.com/solerawinery
This spacious wine bar is both modern and stylish, with long wooden tables and a lush outdoor seating area. More than the decor, though, İncirli Şaraphane’s wine selection is its main attraction. You can sample by the glass almost 100 boutique Turkish wines in the bar. Or, if you’re looking to take home a bottle, the bar has over 500 varieties on offer. It shares a building with two other restaurants, so you won’t have to go far if you fancy something more than a cheese plate. incirlisaraphane.com/en