Turkey’s viticultural history goes back beyond Biblical times. According to historical data the cultivation of vineyards in Anatolia started 7.000 years ago. Anatolia has been an important centre of wineries and viniculture, and that wine has been used for several different purposes such as medicine and/or religious ceremonies throughout the ages. Homer (BC – 800) express his admiration, in particular the wines from the region of Thrace in his epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Excavations showed that some of the earliest systematic wine-growing activities were done in Anatolia.
Wine consumption in the Ottoman Empire was quite low. The production continued under the patronage of the religious minorities settled in the empire. During that period, some international factors proved to have a positive effect on the wine production. In particular, the “phylloxera” epidemic towards the end of the 19th century destroyed most of the European vineyards leaving the Ottoman wine producers as the main exporters to Europe. Moreover, due to opening up to the west, 70 million litres of wine exported in late 19th century and in 1890 some wine won medals in the French wine fairs.
The wine industry was controlled by the non-Muslim religious minorities until the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Under the new administration, wine image as a source of income became more acceptable. With the establishment of Tekel (government monopoly) in 1929, wine making became a profession among Muslim Turks too. The first winery was opened in Tekirdag in 1931, followed by Izmir (1935), Tokat, Urgup, Gaziantep and Ankara (1943).
Turkey is not well known as a ‘wine country’ in the international arena. First of all, wine consuming is low in the country. Secodnly, the prices of the product are comperatively high for the average income. Nevertheless, in recent past, interest in wine is rapidly increasing in Turkey as it has seen in other countries. Helped by the increasing travelling trends, the improved quality of wine and the image of wine drinker has been positively transformed to one of sophistication.
Turkey’s mild climate and fertile land makes it ideal for viniculture and the following wine production. This has attracted foreign investors as parts of consortiums that bought Tekel. Moreover, some foreign investors started to buy land and set up their own wineries.