The wine industry began to develop in the 1980s as a result of economic reforms put in place by Prime Minister Turgut Özal, who significantly liberalized the economy. The biggest factor in that growth was the increase of tourism at the time. As tourists started to visit Turkey on holiday, they wanted to drink wine, which solidly promoted the growth of the industry. Until the 1990s, wineries were investing in increasing their capacity to meet growing demand. However, toward the end of the 1990s, more wineries started to move into investing in quality as production grew to meet demand. Wineries began to invest in their own vineyards because quality became more important. Because grapes are native to this region, we have over 800 varieties, around 300 of which are suitable for winemaking. This compares to just two or three in many New World wine countries. Turkey has now reached a very high-quality level of wine production. In 2011 and 2012, Turkey received over 500 medals at international wine challenges. However, our wine export totals are still low. Total wine production in Turkey is estimated at between 75 million and 100 million liters. Of that production, only around 3 million liters is exported, worth around $8 million. However, I do believe that exports will be the main driver of growth for Turkish wine production over the medium term.
Director, Wines of Turkey
Chairperson, Vinkara Wines
Kalecik karası is a grape that comes from Kalecik, where our vineyard is located. The importance of this region and the particular grape lies in the soil and the microclimate of the area. It is considered one of the most ideal regions for producing wine; identical to that of other premium world-class wine-growing terrains. The most important feature of the Kalecik region is the vicinity of the surrounding mountains of the vineyards. It is about 700 meters above sea level, therefore the temperature difference between day and night is considerable. This difference is an important factor with regard to the quality of the grapes. With the Kalecik karası grape, besides our young and reserved wine, we have also managed to produce the first and only Turkish sparkling wine using the classical method. This grape has a huge potential. We have focused on Turkish grapes, and we want to become an international brand and introduce wine drinkers around the world to Turkish grapes. In spite of wine's long history in Anatolia, neither Turkish grapes nor the wines are known in today's world. Only in the 1990s Turkish wine rapidly expanded following the world market, and our mission is to introduce and build awareness for these indigenous grapes. Most people are eager to taste something different as they are tired of the same kind of wine, and this is to our advantage.
Owner, Chamlija Wine
Turkey's low-end wines are looking for new markets. The solution may be to enter the UK market, which is currently having problems with suppliers. The low-end wine suppliers of yesterday, such as Australia and New Zealand, are pulling back from the UK market. They are selling to more profitable markets such as the US, Japan, and China. These markets are much more profitable for low-end wine sellers. Turkey may enter external markets at this lower level, especially in the UK, Germany, and maybe even the US market. Turkish wine will play the role previously played by Australian wine producers. Competition will come from Eastern European countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, which have also renovated their wine industries. Sooner or later, people will realize Chamlija is a seriously good-quality wine, and the prejudice will diminish. Blind tastings reflect that the quality of this wine can compete favorably with any of the world's top wines. However, the rest of the Turkish market will be slow to achieve the standards of Chamlija. When you aim for the very top, it is a long journey. In Turkey, investors and producers are not aiming for the top because of the amount of time and the many sacrifices it takes. Turkey's wine production, in most cases, does not have the capacity to wait 10 years to build an exceptional reputation.