A TASTY TIPPLE

Turkey 2013 | AGRICULTURE | FOCUS: WINE

The domestic wine industry has blossomed since the 1980s, but it is now looking to branch out to foreign markets to create a stable and sustainable future.

Turkey has a long history of wine making and cultivation in the Anatolian region of the country dating back to 9,000 BC; however, it wasn't really until the Romans arrived in the 1st century AD that it started to spread across Europe. A further 1,500 years later, wine spread to what is now known as the New World producers of Chile, South Africa, and Australia, with California only actually beginning to export as little as 30 years ago. Turkey has 1,500 different grape varieties, of which 800 are genetically unique to Turkey and 300 suitable for wine making. Of all these grapes, 30 varieties have been picked out and are known to produce outstanding wine. Of the indigenous varieties, Sultaniye, Narince, Kalecik Karası, and Boğazkere are the most favored by the local wine industry.

For Turkey, it was not until the 1980s that the wine industry became commercially viable. Under economic reforms made by the then Prime Minister Turgut Özal, the economy was significantly liberalized. The main factor behind the boost in the wine trade was the influx of tourists after the liberalization. The new visitors were demanding wines with their meals, and so thegrowth began. Up until the 1990s, wineries were largely just investing to increase capacity to meet the growing demand; however, this trend has started to shift and a new focus on quality rather than quantity has emerged. In Turkey today, there are over 100 separate wineries producing between 75 million and 100 million liters of wine annually. This figure puts Turkey 35th in world production values compared to the top producer France, which makes over 46.5 billion liters of wine a year. The largest winery in Turkey is Kavaklıdere. It produces over 19.5 million liters annually and exports 20% to Europe, the US, and the Far East. The winery has over 550 hectares of vineyards spread over 10 different locations around the country and offers 49 different types of wine. The next largest producer is Pamukkale. Although it only has one vineyard and production facility in Denizli, it still manages to produce over 4 million liters of wine a year and exports over 30% of its production to Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, and Japan. Pamukkale has an 8% market share of domestic sales and is the third most recognized wine brand in the country. Another popular brand is Vinkara Winery. Even though it is a relatively new company, as it only began production in 2003-2004, it still bottles a little over 1 million liters per year and has won 33 Grand Gold medals for some of its wines. It is also the first vineyard to produce a Turkish sparkling wine using traditional methods.

Although the Turkish wine industry has seen a steady period of growth and an increase in domestic brand awareness, it is about to face some tough new challenges. On June 10, 2013, the government passed new alcohol regulations that will affect the whole alcoholic beverage industry. There are two parts of the regulation that are likely to affect wine makers the most, the first being that the advertising and promotion of alcoholic beverages will be completely banned, even down to the fact that bottles cannot be displayed in shop windows, and also that new restaurants will not be able to sell alcoholic beverages if they are within 100 meters of a mosque or educational institute. The second part is not likely to impact the wineries for a while as it only affects new restaurants and bars as well as those with non-permanent alcohol licenses. The first part could prove more tricky as a large part of selling wine is via promotions, reviews, and shows, which will all be banned as they are considered by the law to promote alcohol consumption. All of this means the Turkish wine industry will need to export more if it wishes to survive. At the moment, Turkey's per capita wine consumption is 1 liter, compared to the UK or the US where it is 15 liters per capita. Countries such as France and Italy go as high as 50 liters of wine consumption per capita. Currently, Turkey exports 3 million liters of wine, which is between 2% and 3% of its total wine production. Old World countries, such as France and Italy, maybe too difficult to break into at the moment due to a low international awareness of Turkish wine; however, the UK and Germany could prove more successful. “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," Mustafa Çamlica explained to TBY. Traditional suppliers are moving away from the UK to focus on more profitable markets. Turkey has the chance to move into the role previously played by Australian wine producers to increase international brand awareness before moving onto move profitable markets, such as the US, Japan, and China.