06 Jul Exciting New Developments in Turkish Wine: a Visit to the Source

We, at VinoRai, just returned from our annual trip to meet the producers, and this time we brought our customer with us. Andrew Stover from Washington DC, represents Siema Wines, who distribute VinoRai’s portfolio in DC, VA and MD markets, was already an advocate for Turkish wines in his market. We wanted to introduce our customer to the producers and vice versa. As we visited the wineries we already know and explored some new ones, several things struck me. Here is a summary from our trip:

1. Turkish producers continue to innovate

Turkey has been making wine for 7,000 years, yet in the last ten years we’re seeing a renaissance, a whole new chapter. Producers are reaching out, experimenting, expanding in all directions.
· They continue to plant new varietals. We’ve seen producers working with Albarino, Viognier, Nero d’Avola, Tannat. One producer is even experimenting with Mavrud and Assyrtiko….all in Turkey!

· They’re also reviving indigenous varietals. Producers are searching out and propagating indigenous varietals that have been rare or almost extinct—Have you heard of Foca Karasi, or Karalahna? They are experimenting, discovering what some of these rare varietals can do (for example, Let’s try this Karalahna as a rose. It’s never been done before – better yet!). We’re also seeing some Anatolian varietals, such as Narince, now being planted in Thrace, the European side of Turkey.

2. Export is king

On this trip, it was encouraging to see serious commitment to export, especially to the US market. We found that the producers are willing and eager to listen to our market needs. As their desire for export grows, so is the willingness to accommodate our market demands. It takes serious commitment from the producers to support an effective export strategy….everything from creating approachable (western-friendly) labels, upgraded packaging and standardizing case sizes, to producing wines to fill some market gaps. You’ll be seeing more of Turkish wines in various formats, as well as sparkling, dessert and of course, more indigenous varietals, we discovered on our last trip.

3. Improved and consistent quality across the board

Across all price tiers and producers, the quality of Turkish wines continues to improve year after year. On this trip it was exciting to see consistent quality across the board, very much worthy and ready to compete for the consumer’s attention at the international levels.

4. Collaborative effort

While producers compete within Turkey, they have formed an export alliance to better promote the overall category of Turkish wine. We’ve seen and heard producers discuss various joint efforts that signal the major systemic shift, a whole new way of thinking. We were thrilled to see this change. This is moving in the right direction.

5. Turkish hospitality is contagious

The producers went out of their way to ensure that Andrew and I had the best experience in Turkey. From making the logistics easy to memorable meals, we were taken care of in every way. The most special of all, however, were the stories and conversations we shared over a glass of Turkish wine…authentic, honest, true to self (and terroir) and meaningful…just like the wines!

My overall impression of the trip was that the producers continue to invest in the category, experiment, innovate, and expand. With emphasis now on export, we were excited to see that the changes required by this new strategy are right on track.