A Snapshot of Turkey’s Wine Market

Turkish winemakers have to contend with strict prohibitions and high costs. But, as Irem Eren, DipWSET reports, it hasn’t stopped the growth of a small but enthusiastic sector.

Reading time: 7m 30s

The Çal Vineyard Route
The Çal Vineyard Route

Turkey's winemaking heritage is one of the oldest in the world, tracing back 8,000 years through ancient civilizations such as the Hittites, Phrygians, and Byzantines, who were responsible for cultivating a variety of grapes and refining winemaking techniques. The Ottoman rule (1299-1922) brought significant restrictions but also resilience in some regions.
 

How the Turkish wine industry developed

In modern times, Turkey's wine industry has evolved through Republic era changes post-1923, focusing on modernisation and improved quality. On the other hand, the forced population exchange with Greece, resulting from The Treaty of Lausanne, led to a significant impact on the wine industry, causing a setback due to the displacement of Greek communities in regions such as Anatolia and Thrace, causing the abandonment of many vineyards that had been cultivated for centuries.

The privatisation of the state monopoly Tekel in 2003 resulted in the emergence of numerous boutique wineries across the country. Today there are about 150 registered producers. New production techniques, vineyard practices and alignment with EU standards have elevated the industry and enhanced quality. Additionally, political and social changes have impacted wine production and consumption in Turkey, adding to the industry's complexity.

Today, Turkey ranks fifth globally, in vineyard area with 410,000 hectares, of which 15% are dedicated to wine grapes​​.
 

Turkey’s wine market

According to recent data from Turkey’s Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority, Turkey’s alcoholic beverage market saw a 7% growth in 2023. Beer led the growth at 9%, making up 86% of the market, followed by whisky (26%) and gin (15%).

In contrast, the Turkish wine market experienced a 14% decline in 2023, totaling 725,675 hl, representing 5.5% of the overall domestic alcoholic beverage market. Local wine consumption dropped by 16%, while imported wine rose by 25%, making up 8% of the total wine market. The challenges of high inflation and a weakening Turkish Lira have notably impacted local wine production and consumption.

France, Italy, and Spain are the leading wine-supplying countries by volume and value, followed by Moldova and Chile. Prices differ significantly by origin, with France having the highest price at $12.2/L, while Moldova's price is among the lowest at $1.9/L, according to IndexBox.

Despite economic challenges, the Turkish market is a resilient one. Wine consumption in Turkey is approximately 1.3 litres per capita, lower than the European average. In 2022, Turkey exported $13.6m worth of wine, ranking as the 51st largest wine exporter worldwide. Major export destinations include Germany, the UK, Cyprus, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

Wine imports by country
Wine imports by country

The financial situation

The current economic situation in Turkey characterised by high inflation and a depreciating Turkish lira, creating financial challenges for producers and consumers. Government figures report that annual inflation is running at 75.45%. The Turkish lira's volatility and economic instability have had a significant impact on production costs and the competitiveness of Turkish wine exports in international markets

As well, the regulatory environment in Turkey is stringent. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry oversees the wine industry, enforcing strict advertising restrictions and requiring numerous licenses and permits. Promotion of alcohol has been prohibited since 2013, encompassing everything from advertising to wine tastings. This has stalled the wine industry’s domestic growth, leading many producers to pursue opportunities in international markets​​.

High excise taxes also pose a challenge, with special consumption taxes (ÖTV)  on alcohol, first established in 2002 and then dramatically increased in 2010 by the government of the Justice and Development Party. As of 2024, consumption taxes range from 63% to 220%, as well as the 20% VAT.

Additionally, a recent regulation stipulates that producers need financial collateral to cover any tax or administrative fines that the producer may face in the future, which increases the regulatory burden on the producers.

Asli Kuzu from Kuzubağ Winery and Burak Özkan from Likya highlight various challenges — Kuzu points out the difficulty of being unable to share their wine label on social media, while Özkan highlights the impact of new financial collateral requirements, which impose hefty deposits, burdening in particular small producers and deterring new entrants to the market.

Despite these hurdles, Turkey’s wine industry is ripe with potential. Wineries are focusing on quality and innovation, crafting premium and boutique wines that appeal to the increasingly sophisticated tastes of modern consumers. The rich cultural heritage and native grape varieties of Turkey are attracting growing international attention, creating exciting opportunities as the demand for diverse wine offerings continues to rise.

Pioneers of the wine sector

The Turkish wine scene features several prominent figures and wineries, who play a crucial role in promoting and preserving Turkey's rich viticultural heritage.

Notable names such as Kavaklıdere, Doluca, Sevilen, Diren, and Kayra are recognized for their commitment to quality and tradition in both domestic and international markets.

Kavaklidere, which owns two châteaux in Bordeaux under the name Maison Kavaklidere, aims to establish itself as a prestigious brand by producing premium Bordeaux wines, according to board member Cevza Başman. Maison Kavaklidere thus serves as a gateway for advancing Turkish wines globally.

Paşaeli, Likya focus on revitalising indigenous grape varieties. Suvla, Urla and Pamukkale, although larger, still maintain a boutique approach. Arcadia Vineyards prioritizes sustainable energy. Bilge Yaman of 7Bilgeler is recognised for his experimental winemaking approach, drawing from his background in medicine. Kuzubağ and Asmadan are newcomers emphasising terroir-focused techniques, the latter also holding the distinction of having founded Turkey's first historical viticulture museum.

Micro-wineries like Buradan, Asarcik, Tafali, and Mesashuna produce between 2000-8000 Litres annually. Alongside these artisanal producers, many traditional retail chains have affiliated themselves with import companies responsible for sourcing wines for their stores, making them major importers in the market. Notable importers include ADCO and Baron, while some producers like Kavaklidere and Kayra also actively engage in import activities to diversify their portfolios.

“Heritage Vines of Turkey” Founding Team; Levon Bağış, Umay Çeviker, Sabiha Apaydin, Gözdem Gürbüzatik (from left to right)
“Heritage Vines of Turkey” Founding Team; Levon Bağış, Umay Çeviker, Sabiha Apaydin, Gözdem Gürbüzatik (from left to right)

A plethora of local varieties

Turkey boasts an extensive diversity of over 1,200 native grape varieties, as well as international ones. Among these, approximately 34 are widely cultivated. Notable indigenous varieties include Öküzgözü, Boğazkere, Çal Karası, Kalecik Karası, and Papaskarası for red wines, and Narince, Emir, and Sultaniye for whites. This diversity represents a rich reservoir of potential for Turkish wines in the global market.

Yaban Kolektif, spearheaded by Levon Bağış, a wine expert, along with Umay Çeviker, an advocate for Turkey’s ancient wine culture, aims to revive endangered ancestral grape varieties, produce wines from them that best reflect the character of the grapes for commercial viability. Rediscovered varieties include Erciş Karası, Sungurlu Beyazı, and Beylerce.

Paşaeli has successfully revived three nearly-extinct varieties: Kolorko and Çakal, which are exclusive to the winery, and Aşıkara, currently in early stages of development before its commercial release.

The non-profit Heritage Vines of Turkey initiative, established in 2021 aims to reveal, record and increase awareness of old vineyards in Turkey that are on the verge of extinction.

What consumers are drinking

Despite a long history of viticulture and winemaking, wine consumption in Turkey is still relatively young.

The palate of Turkish wine consumer is evolving. While robust, oak-aged wines once dominated, there is a growing preference for fresher, lighter wines with nuanced flavours. Indigenous varieties such as Kalecik Karası, Karasakız, Çal Karası and Narince, Emir are gaining traction alongside international favorites like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay.

Sparkling wines are on the rise, with a 14% increase in volume in 2023, reflecting a broader global trend. Rosé wines, particularly in the “blush” style, are also becoming a year-round favourite. The interest in natural, organic, and biodynamic wines is growing, driven by a global shift towards sustainability and authenticity in winemaking.
 

Growing wine tourism

Turkey stands out as one of the top 10 global tourism destinations, boasting a rich history, diverse climate, vibrant culture, and delectable cuisine. Few places beyond select European countries can match Turkey's unique blend of UNESCO World Heritage-listed archaeological sites and flourishing wine regions.

Wine tourism is thriving in Turkey, particularly in regions like Thrace, Urla, and Cappadocia, which have emerged as popular spots for wine lovers. Wineries organize tastings, vineyard visits, and cultural events to cater to guests. The Çal Vineyard Route in Denizli Province highlights this upward trend, shedding light on Turkey's extensive wine heritage.

The Oenotourism Guide to Turkey, co-written by Murat Yankı and Göknur Gündoğan, serves as a valuable asset for wine enthusiasts. This bilingual guide aims to introduce Turkey's diverse wine culture to a global audience, providing insights into the country's rich oenological landscape.

Turkey has increasingly become a sought-after destination for culinary tourism, notably since the introduction of the Michelin Guide. Noteworthy establishments such as Od Urla, Urla Vino Locale, Yeni Lokanta, Cuma, Karaköy Lokantası, Mürver, Roka, Ulus29, Neolokal, and Michelin-starred Arkestra have been making waves.

The evolution of restaurant wine lists is also remarkable, with venues like Foxy, 316 Wine&Meze, Wayana, Beyoğlu Şaraphanesi, Amanda Bravo, Nazende, Basta Neo Bistro catering to wine enthusiasts with diverse selections. Levon Bağış, co-owner of Foxy, emphasised their vision to pair local delicacies with premium Turkish wines, offering a rotating selection of 30 wines by the glass.

For wine aficionados, boutique wine shops like LaCave Cihangir, Sante Wine & More, Kiffe, Comedus, and Biblioteca stand out for their collections.
 

Key figures in the wine industry

Süray Cingöz Atış and Doğuhan Atış, Sante, Istanbul
Süray Cingöz Atış and Doğuhan Atış, Sante, Istanbul

Seray Kumbasar, sommelier and co-founder of Urla Vino Locale, champions sustainability and has earned the Michelin Guide Sommelier Award. Nebiye Kaya, Head Sommelier of The Peninsula Hotels Istanbul, planning to embark on a winemaking project in her homeland of Kastamonu.

Sabiha Apaydın, wine educator and founder of Root Origin Soil conference, continues to drive conversations on soil topics, with its latest edition in June 2024.

Ayça and Taner Öğütoğlu, co-founders of Gustobar, play a pivotal role in advancing the wine culture and industry in Turkey. Through events like CMC and Sommeliers' Selection, Gustobar collaborates with distinguished figures such as Oz Clarke, Caro Maurer MW and Madeleine Stenwreth MW.

Seray Kocaemre, from FABULATOR Vino-Marketing & Enotourism Consultancy, is committed to crafting compelling brand narratives in the wine industry, bridging the gap between producers and consumers. Seray is also one of the uniting forces behind Çal Vineyard Route.

A complicated, but bright, future

Despite economic difficulties, growth opportunities lie in prioritizing quality and leveraging the tourism sector. Maintaining a balance between international and domestic markets is crucial, particularly in the face of currency fluctuation. However, Turkey's wine industry has the potential to grow by continuing to embrace its historical roots while adapting to contemporary trends to enhance quality and competitiveness on the global stage.

Insights

Wine producers have relied on tourism for sales, but conditions in the country are pushing them to rethink exports. Barnaby Eales reports.

Reading time: 5m 30s

 

 

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