Turkey’s wine history is a reflection of the political and social climate of each period.
The first evidence of viticulture and wine making in Anatolia (central Turkey) dates back 7,000 years, when it was a custom to celebrate each vintage with a holiday.
Phrygians from Anatolia introduced wine to the Greeks, and by the 6th century BC, Turkish wine was being exported as far abroad as France and Italy.
One of the early Anatolian grape vines to be exported, Misket, became known as Muscat in Europe.
Wine production continued even after Islam began to dominate the region. During the era of the Ottoman Empire (1299–1923), the production and trade of wine were carried out exclusively by non-Muslim.
Turkish wine production reached record levels when European vineyards were devastated by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800’s. In order to meet the resultant surge in European demand, the Ottoman Empire’s wine exports increased substantially reaching 340 million liters in 1904.
In 1927, the production of all alcoholic beverages went under the control of government monopoly, with the exception of wine. Private producers stayed in the market throughout this period, but remained relatively small in size.
By the late 1980s, the Turkish economy began to integrate with other global economies and deregulation became possible. Rising tourism boosted wine sales. This was the impetus for the wineries to invest in the latest wine making technologies and raise the bar on production volumes.
Today, Turkey is experiencing a wine renaissance with rising quality, production capacity and export capability. And just at the time when Turkey’s wine industry is blossoming, the current government is imposing major limitations on marketing and selling wine in the domestic market.
Wine makers in Turkey continue to discover new indigenous varietals and focus on reviving those that are nearly extinct. They are still learning about the possibilities of what these grapes can do.