In the world of winemaking, Turkey’s potential is not quite yet realized. Despite being the sixth-largest grape producer, Turkey is only the 43rd largest producer of wine. It’s a shame that, with 70 million liters of wine being produced, only about 2% of its grapes become wine. It’s a sad statistic considering the number of grapes being grown in Turkey that is unavailable in other regions. Not to mention the Turkish wine industry is being incredibly creative so as to win an astonishing number of international awards.
Cappadocia, Aegean, Thrace, Central, and Eastern Anatolia are Turkey’s major grape-growing and wine production areas where you can find numerous industrial and boutique vineyards.
If you are a wine connoisseur, or if you know a sommelier, you may wish to be introduced into a whole new world. We have the ten best-rated Turkish wines below. We have also included a brief introduction to some of the grapes that Turkish wineries use. However, these are only a sample of majestic grapes of the wonderous world of wine that Turkey has to offer.
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Turkish wine grapes
Kalecik Karası (Kal-eh-jik Kah-rah-see)
Named after the Anatolian town Kalecik of Ankara, this grape translates as the “black of the small castle.” Almost facing extinction, this grape is now Turkey’s 3rd most popular grape, and it may be because of the strong candy flavor.
A versatile grape, Kalecik Karası can make anything from sparkling reds to rose to a blanc de noir. Capable of producing a medium-bodied red wine with crisp acidity, this is a candy, red fruits-heavy (cherry, strawberry, raspberry), and spicy grape. This fresh and lively grape makes the kind of wine that is perfect for aging. It’s highly fruity, has low tannin, and has medium-high acidity.
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Named as the “black of the city Çal,” these red grapes have a strong strawberry, ripe white fruit, peachy, rosy, and thyme vibe. Fresh, fruity yet floral with high acidity, these grapes make a light-medium body, low tannin wine. Its versatility in making dark and light roses, reds, and blanc de noir mean that it can be paired with various foods. This grape may even become your new favorite.
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Originating in Eastern Anatolia, this difficult to pronounce grape is now planted everywhere. Named ‘bull’s eye’ for its deep, dark appearance, Öküzgözü grape is capable of creating a medium-bodied, low-medium tannin yet highly acidic wine.
It is highly fruity with its raspberry, cherry, sour cherry, plum, and pomegranate flavors. You’ll also find a minty eucalyptus flavor with spicy cloves and cardamon touch. These create a wine nearly black in color and can produce a dry rose or deep, rich red yet can pair perfectly with a variety of dishes.
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These are the daddy of the Turkish red grapes. The name translates to throat burner due to its high tannin. Usually blended, this wine has medium acidity and a high body.
The medium-high fruits include black cherry, raspberry, and dark mulberry. However, this complex grape also contains darker flavors like dark chocolate, licorice, leather, tobacco, cloves, and an herby pine forest with a minty eucalyptus flavor.
A sultan, this audacious grape pairs well with bold dishes and spices like strong cheese, dried figs, garlic, meats, and stuffed peppers.
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These white grapes are grown in the Thrace region. They’re incredibly aromatic with notes of lemon, green apple, pear, and wet stone. With low alcohol, this is the grape to produce a highly fruity, highly acidic, yet light-bodied wine. This elegant, refreshing grape has a strong mineral and floral note.
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Named after its copper spots, this small, white grape has a thin skin that makes it perfect for a light-medium-bodied wine. Low in alcohol – around 12% – this zesty, refreshing grape produces an aromatic, citrusy wine. You won’t have any problems tasting the lemon, orange, or even clementine notes. Alongside citrus, there are strong notes of yellow fruits such as apple, pear, or quince. Add a touch of acacia and vanilla for a highly acidic, low tannin creamy wine.
Usually oak-aged, this would work wonderfully as a still or sparkling white wine. The aromatic wines created from this grape may be a little rare as it is a difficult grape that is hard to grow. Despite that, it is an absolute must in the cabinet of a true wine fanatic.
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The 10 Best Turkish Wines to Drink
1. Paşaeli K2 Red, Aegean
This majestic, ruby-colored wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The 2011 vintage was awarded bronze from The TEXSOM International Wine Awards; this successful wine is one of the most sought-after wines from this region.
Aged successfully in an oak barrel, this chewy, medium-bodied wine is rich without the fruity aromas overpowering the palate. However, you may still capture a taste of dark fruits such as blackberry, mulberry, and cherry. Though there is a hint of sweetness in this bold wine, it’s very well balanced with silky tannins and has a slightly dry aftertaste. It’s long-lasting, a little on the heavy side, and would pair very nicely with fatty meats such as lamb, shank, or tandoori.
2. Paşaeli Çalkarası Rosé, Aegean
Made from the uniquely Turkish Çalkarası grapes, which are known for powerful fruit flavors with good acidity. A lovely caramel pink, this fruity wine has the gorgeous aromas of strawberries and raspberries. There’s a brilliant taste of watermelon and thistle in addition to the strawberries. These are followed by a hint of orange peel complementing the texture of light tannins. Perhaps the fantastic acidity in this juicy wine is why Jancis Robinson rated it highly.
This delicious wine can be enjoyed on its own as an aperitif or part of a cocktail. However, it pairs well with roasted root vegetables, spicy food, Asian food, fish, chicken, and brunch.
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3. Kayra Öküzgözü, Mid-Eastern Anatolia
This wonderful red wine is often described as light and perfumed. However, the freshness and brightness of Kayra’s wine almost hide some of the weight. One of the higher-priced wines from the Anatolian region, there’s a reason why this delight has won award after award.
Those that like the Shiraz or Rioja may enjoy the jammy black fruit aromas of cherry, currant, and blackberry. Pair that with the menthol taste of eucalyptus, the exotic spices like aniseed and black pepper, and with the taste of the oak it was matured in. A dry wine with a supple tannic finish, you may need to wait a little while before enjoying. Pairs charmingly well with aged cheese, steak, or Lamb Ragu.
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4. Vinkara Yaşasın Brut, Central Anatolia
This pale gold wine may take you back to your childhood with its nose consisting of aromas like the Granny Smith apple and baking bread. The first sparkling wine in Turkey made from traditional champagne methods; this sparkling white wine will have a green apple, pear, grapefruit, orange blossom, and brioche dancing on your tastebuds. Rather than the usual grape varieties, Vinkara winery has elected to use the Kalecik Karası grapes native to Anatolia. This gives the warm blend complexity, body, and fulness as opposed to the crispness of the Pinot Blanc.
Unlike most champagnes, this fresh wine has vintage and long legs. The high acidity in the mouth is bliss, especially when followed by a creamy texture. This elegant wine is best served at 16-18 degrees and would match well with fish soups, poultry, veal, or pork.
5. Pamukkale Anfora Kalecik Karası, Aegean
Very typically like the grapes they use (Kalecik Karası), this fruity wine from Pamukkale winery may pleasantly surprise you. Starting out with bright red fruits like raspberries, cherries, crushed strawberries, and cotton candy, you may even detect a hint of banana. However, once the fruity flavors fade, you’ll have that wet leaves, forest, and herby flavor arising. Finishing with black pepper and vanilla taste, you may feel the oak in which this wine was aged. In short, this wine is far more interesting and complex than at first glance.
This medium-bodied wine is a balanced blend with a light tannin structure.
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6. Paşaeli Yapıncak, Aegean
Only a few winemakers have the skill to craft a wine out of the notoriously difficult-to-grow grape, Yapıncak. A rare yet versatile grape, anyone who considers themselves to be a connoisseur, needs to have this bottle in their cellar.
This medium-straw-colored drink is extremely fruity with a creamy butteriness to it. An aromatic, medium-bodied wine with low alcohol, the fruity flavors are washed away with the citrusy lemon curd taste and long-lasting floral notes. This tangy wine has a richness bestowed upon it by the quince, intense lemon, and velvety vanilla.
With images of bluefish on the label, this delicate wine would pair well with fish, oysters, and soft cheese. Those that aren’t a huge fan of the intensity of the citrus may with to let this sit for a little while to increase the floral smell and round the flavors.
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7. Paşaeli 6N Karasakız Merlot, Northern Aegean
Blended with 18% merlot and 82% of a black grape called Karasakız, which translates as black chewing gum, is it any wonder that this energetic wine requires a chewy dish?
This youthful wine is fermented with wild yeast and barrel-aged in French Oak for eight months. The result is a light-bodied, youthful summer wine with a juicy palate of fruits such as dried figs, sweet cherries, cranberries, and red currant. The sour flavors of the sour cherries with the crisp acidity give this burgundy-colored wine a marvelous complement to pizza or bolognese sauce. The medium-dry finish and low tannin make this a good start for easy drinkers and those new to the wine world.
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8. Sevilen Centum Syrah, Aegean
This brooding, Byronic wine is to your wine cellar what the Arabian Nights is to your bookshelf. The 2014 year is amongst the top 6% of all the wines in the world. A smoky, earthy wine with flavors like tobacco, oak, and chocolate to compliment the black fruits. This plummy, leathery wine has firm tannins with a long finish.
The inky purple wine has femme fatale-like long legs with tears at 14.5%. A full-bodied wine with a long, strong finish. This dry and somewhat sour wine has chewable, grippy tannins. Though it has a medium alcohol finish, this woodsy spiced is perhaps better as it ages: the bitter taste evolves into a rounded, earthy finish.
This is the superstar of the BBQ and is also perfectly paired with lamb chops.
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9. Paşaeli Sıdalan, Aegean
Brilliantly created by Sıdalan grapes, this pale straw wine has a lovely green glow. The light white wine has a distinctive flavor that’ll remind you of warm summer days and bonfires on the beach.
An elegant wine with a lower alcohol content – 12.5% – this creamy wine would work very well with salads and goat’s cheese. This floral, buttery wine has a Turkish approach to Chardonnay with green apple, honeysuckle, pear, honey, wet stone, citrusy lemon, and grapefruit notes.
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10. Vinkara Doruk Öküzgözü, Eastern Anatolia
A bright, vivacious wine blended from the indigenous öküzgözü and the sweet boğazkere grapes, this one is perfect for aging. Colored a deep, royal purple, this fruit-led wine is driven by its warm, baking spices with a herby finish. Superbly accompanying hard cheese, tomato-based dishes such as pasta, and stewed or barbecued meat; this is also the cooking wine that must have its place in your pantry.
The taste is very similar to the aroma: much like a light pinot but without the tar and smoky edge. The red fruits, from sour cherry to raspberry, combined with the black fruits, such as plum and blackberry, may fool you. The oaky, vanilla, spicy notes give this wine robustness that’s unexpected. It fades with a slightly herbal finish with grippy tannins. Slightly sour, you may wish to allow it to breathe before drinking.
With so many different varieties of wine to choose from, it can be hard to decide which Turkish wines are best. To help you narrow down your search, we’ve put together a list of the top ten Turkish wines that will leave you satisfied and wanting more! Whether you’re looking for an affordable white or red option, there’s something here for everyone.
If traveling in Turkey is on your radar this year, make sure to visit some local wineries while visiting as well. And if you ever find yourself in Istanbul, do not forget to book one of our award-winning food tours.
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