travel weekend escape

Weekend escape to the land of grapes

The story behind grape cultivation in Thrace is the story of the individuals behind it. Legendary for its high quality of grapevines since historic occasions, the region was blessed with a primary surroundings and often known as the birthplace of the Previous World’s biggest winemakers. Here, we discover the modern incarnations of some of the greatest vintners in the world.

By Marzena Romanowska

The traditional region of Thrace extends throughout the borders of immediately’s Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. Birthplace of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, the space was praised for its distinctive winemaking qualities by the brightest minds of the historical period, including Herodotus, Aristotle and Homeros. Thracians have been the ones who introduced the tradition of wine tasting before consuming their ambrosial creations. Taking advantage of the distinctive terroir of the land they lived in, they made Thracian wine a model before even the time period “brand” was invented.

Geographical location is vital to the region’s general agricultural success. Nevertheless, grapevine cultivation in Thrace confronted a short lived decline after the inhabitants change of the 1920s when the winemaking Greek minority was resettled, taking their expertise and know-how with them. Native, family-owned productions both disappeared as properly or, due to lack of shoppers within a Muslim majority, switched to a special sort of product.

A household enterprise

Nobody tells the historical past of winemaking in Thrace higher than Cem Çetintaş, the thoughts behind Melen Winery. His pure interest in native tradition is comprehensible. The Çetintaş family was one of the first Turkish households to settle in Hoşköy, and has been producing grapes since before the Republic was founded. Çetintaş’s grandfather, together together with his Greek neighbor, have been in the ouzo-making business, although the venture got here to an end in 1923. “Our family was the only one left in the village,” says Çetintaş, commenting on the population trade.

Grape tasting at Gülor vineyards

When his grandfather’s vineyard started to operate as a Tekel subsidiary producing for a state-owned producer, Çetintaş jokes that it was as straightforward as the work might have gotten: “You plant the grapes and after one and a half to two months, when the harvest is over, you can go fishing.” Nevertheless, when the next era (which means Cem Çetintaş himself) took over, the enterprise took its first step in the direction of what Melen is immediately. The corporate began to bottle its personal product with the help of benevolent individuals met along the method. Their first wine filtering machine was a gift from a beneficiant one that noticed the potential behind Çetintaş’s concept. When modernizing his manufacturing website a number of years later, Çetintaş handed the good deed along, donating the unique gear to one other one that would put it to good use.

Cem Çetintaş’s wife Funda says that Melen wines are a reflection of her husband’s spirits. “When we first started going out, all his wines turned to vinegar,” she laughs. “I was based in Istanbul, so he was traveling back and forth. Things weren’t looking good for the wine, so seven months later we decided to get married.” Their daughter was named Shiraz, after the dark-skinned grape believed to have origins in Persia.

Laying the vines

In the Turkish part of Thrace, direct exposure to winds from the three surrounding seas, excessive temperature fluctuations between daytime and night time, in addition to different varieties of soil, is what attracted a new-generation of vintners to revive the previous traditions in the area. “We’re on the land that the first wine, first manufacturer and first drinker came from,” says Adnan Erem, Basic Supervisor of Gülor. This company opened a brand new chapter in modern winemaking history as Turkey’s first boutique winemaker to introduce international grape varieties to the nation. Its story dates back to 1993, however as is the case of grapes cultivation, another five years of in depth research followed the firm’s founding earlier than any wine was made.

In time, Gülor’s blends of local and overseas grapes, similar to öküzgözü-malbec, turned the company’s signatures. “There are still only a few people who know öküzgözü well, so turning it into a blend with another popular grape, for example with cabernet, makes the new aroma more familiar,” explains Erem. Gülor can also be liable for the Turkish premiere of Italian varieties, corresponding to sangiovese and montepulciano, or petit verdot, a Bordeaux-style grape selection. A hanging dark purple, almost black shade, it makes its debut on the market this yr as Turkey’s first petit verdot mono cepage.

Arcadia vineyard

At the Arcadia vineyard, cultivating methods come from years of theoretical analysis carried out by its founders, Zeynep Arca Salliel and her father Özcan. These are the first fields in Turkey to make use of the V-trellis training system for their vines to separate the branches, offering them with higher access to daylight. For the vintners, this technique additionally makes it easier to assess whether something is going improper with the vines. For a vineyard that uses no chemical compounds, taking early action in the face of illness or other issues is crucial.

Nice consideration has also been given to the selection of land the vines have been planted on. “The parcel where we grow cabernet sauvignon hasn’t been penetrated by any other vines before,” explains Kadir Bora, production supervisor at Arcadia, whereas displaying us around. “Layered soil structure and presence of groundwater enables the root to go deep in the ground and feed on a variety of microelements which affect the aroma of the grape,” he says. After tasting the ultimate product, it’s inconceivable to disagree with him that those grapes have been used to make some of the highest quality wines in Arcadia’s collection.

The start of September is the time of the yr that retains many Thracians extremely busy.
After weeks of sampling the fruits as they ripen, one after the other, numerous grape varieties begin to display their full, flavor-packed potential. While labs verify alcohol and sugar ranges in the grapes, the winemakers also conduct their very own analysis, checking on the colour of the pores and skin, inside of the grape, in addition to situation of the seeds. “We rely very much on what the lab tells us, but we also rely on our own taste,” Bora says.

Arcadia’s wine cellar

Taking root

“You can eat as many grapes as you want,” says Necdet Uzun whereas displaying us round the Chateau Nuzun property, the place he lives and works together with his wife Nazan. Following him, we be sure that to style a fruit from every row of vines, however after a short time we start to really feel we’ve had enough. The candy taste of the fruit is overpowering, and Uzun begin to snicker. Apparently, many first time guests to their winery get overly excited by the abundance they see.

Chateau Nuzun is a superb instance of a sustainable operation. Here, power is delivered to the facility from photo voltaic batteries and wind turbines, no excessive irrigation is used both at the winery or in the garden, landscaping has been made with reused picket blocks, and the organic remains from wine manufacturing function compost for the fields. “Some people say that, because of all the weeds, our vineyard looks like it isn’t well-maintained,” says Necdet Uzun, “But we like our weeds. Especially ayrık otu (common couch), because it keeps the soil together.”

Necdet Uzun

The Uzuns are each engineers and, as Nazan says, they used as a lot know-how as they might in the chateau, together with a meteorological station which wirelessly sends collected knowledge to their computer systems to analyze which date is the greatest for harvesting.

Comparable to different vineyards, here too harvest starts at dusk when the grapes are nonetheless chilled from the night time breeze, and continues until midday the newest. Nazan Uzun helps in the area, which, as she jokes, is the greatest time to sing songs and make amends for the local gossip. At the similar time, Necdet Uzun takes care of the vineyard, where all the grapes have to get to lower than one hour after being picked.

Nazan Uzun

Fruits of labor

“To us, harvest is like a celebration,” says Pınar Ellialtı, proprietor of Suvla. “We have been working with the same people for 13 years. They are happy to see us, and we are happy to see them coming back every season. At the beginning of harvest we organize a big fete so that it’s not only hard work, but also a bit of fun.”

Pınar and Selim Ellialtı began their Suvla venture in 2003 as a type of retirement plan. Since they didn’t have youngsters at the time, the concept was to make the funding their baby. The analysis they carried out showed that the Gallipoli Peninsula had the terroir they have been in search of to develop wonderful grapes and olives, and so the choice was made. Seven years handed before Suvla made its first bottle of wine, and one other few before it turned the model with nationwide attain, as it is at the moment. Though the “baby” seems fairly grown up right now, the Ellialtıs take great care of it, and the results present. “In terms of brand perception, product portfolio and quality, I think we’re doing just fine,” says Selim Ellialtı. “We penetrated the market and our labels are appreciated. On the other hand, we are facing many challenges and restrictions just as the rest of the winemaking and gastronomic industry are. However, this situation has some advantages: we had to develop our marketing muscles and be very creative. Our consumers are also sensitive to the situation, and supportive. They appreciate what we do even more.”

Pınar and Selim Ellialtı, house owners of Suvla

Suvla’s plan from the beginning was to emphasize the significance of local grapes. “This is why we’re here,” says Ellialtı. “We’re trying to promote the local terroir, the town of Eceabat, the Peninsula. This is why we use local names for our blends: Kabatepe [local harbor where ferries to Gokceada depart from], Bigali and Berhamli [villages near Eceabat], and of course Suvla. Our umbrella brand is a name of a bay which, because of history, is very well known in the UK or Australia, but we hope that thanks to us, it will become famous in Turkey as well.”

There’s very little awareness in Turkey of the native grapes that Suvla places ahead. The truth is, they have been typically bought as table grapes, since many didn’t know what else might have been accomplished with them. Making an attempt to show that a high quality wine might be made out of indigenous vines, the technique was to make some wonderful classics, similar to cabernet or merlot first in order to prove some extent later. And so they did. Suvla’s Grand Reserve Karasakiz was named the greatest indigenous grape wine in all of the Balkans.

Nevertheless, there is a much greater image behind what Suvla does each day. “Our strategy is to reinvent the historical, agricultural product first. This is why we invested in olives, sesame and tomatoes, which the area used to be famous for,” Selim Ellialtı explains. “In terms of lifestyle, we believe that people should eat well, and Kilye [the company’s sub-brand focusing on production of natural foods] is the brand that represents the tradition of serving pure products, containing no additives and no chemicals, planted from local seeds.”

Inventive creations

Although Bulent Kalpaklioglu claims that “winemaking is first of all science, and then art,” his vineyard in Sarkoy from first sight appears like the order may need been reversed. The spectacular trendy chateau with a panoramic view of the sea and the vineyards is a real state-of-the-art facility incomparable to other wine producing properties in Thrace. Particulars have been designed by Kalpaklioglu himself, they usually say the whole lot about the proprietor. If there is a approach to do issues better than others, he should have already discovered it.

Bulent Kalpaklioglu in his state-of-the-art cellar

Kalpaklioglu’s meticulousness is especially visible round the vineyard. Whereas most producers use oak barrels dried 24-months, he goes for 48-months with mild toasting, to ensure minimal interference with the natural stability of the aged wine. In his first order, the rim end wasn’t up to his requirements, so he requested the producer to redo the complete order. “If I pay for the perfect barrel, why would I settle for less?” He asks. Every six months the barrels are emptied, cleaned and the entire cellar is about up from zero.

His interest in nice wining and dining peaked over 20 years when he labored as an funding banker in the US and France. “This is not what I was dreaming of,” he says of the actuality exceeding expectations at his vineyard. “I had a smaller goal and more reasonable budget but then it got out of control.”

2011 may be the greatest instance illustrating what he means. His two signature blends, Chateau Kalpak and BBK bought out in six and 9 months respectively. The identical yr Kalpaklioglu made another mix, Twin, which gained him a medal at AWC Vienna and a title of the greatest national producer in Turkey. When he ran out of wine that yr, a limited version of Twin was launched as nicely. All this keeps him extremely busy, but the similar place that takes up his time also helps him find stability. “In some half hour there will be shade over there,” he points out at a spot on his spacious patio. “I will sit there, kick off my shoes, play some music, and pour a glass of wine.”

Artworks in Bulent Kalpaklioglu’s vineyard

Growing generations

In Thrace, it appears the younger era takes nice care of grapes and the grapevines. The eagerness with which they speak about their work is contagious. Gül Kilicaslan, who has been taking care of Gülor vineyards for greater than two years, got here to Sarkoy after learning and working in Cappadocia. “We are very fortunate to be based here,” she says about her current location. “Whatever we need, the soil gives us plenty more of.”

Again and again, vinters in Thrace in contrast their grapes to youngsters, the personification revealing the emotional aspect of the enterprise. “The grape decides on the aromas,” says Kilicaslan explaining the fruity palate of Okuzgozu.

Separated from the water by simply olive gardens, Gülor grapevines also have the advantage of being exposed to the sea breezes, and the grape’s flavors change with the pure environment. “After starting to work, I became more aware of nature, herbs and fragrances,” says Kilicaslan about the capability to isolate single aromas. And while the talent might sound advanced at first, in the finish it turns out that on this case there are not any right or mistaken solutions.

Cihan Abay explains Barel’s first sauvignon blanc

Cihan Abay, who looks after Barel vineyards, brazenly admits that he wasn’t a fan of Turkish wines before choosing his university main but the program opened his eyes to an entire new world that had quite a bit of room for improvement. Concerned with Barel since its inception in 2011, he seems very proud of the outcomes they achieved in such a short while. “Every year, we’re making a different wine depending on what the soil gives us,” he says, emphasizing that every year they need to make the wine higher than earlier than.

Began by siblings, Barkin and Elif Akin, Barel is a natural continuation of their father Rasid’s wine growing enterprise. As an alternative of selling the fruit to some of Turkey’s largest producers, they determined to spend money on their own production facility, which at present gives five totally different purple varieties. New to the white ones, Barel will harvest their very own sauvignon blanc grapes for the first time this season. When requested about wine tradition in trendy Turkey, Rasid stated its improvement may additionally be a current phenomenon. In any case, individuals might begin buying good wines only once they have been made obtainable to them, and never before. With the rebirth of the Thracian vineyards, some of the greatest wine at the moment are at their fingertips.

Thrace travel itinerary

To discover Thracian wineries, you’ll undoubtedly need a automotive and an excellent plan. As soon as you allow Istanbul by way of the Silivri highway exit (which on weekends looks like the most time-consuming process), it will get a lot simpler and you will get all the means to Çanakkale in slightly below 4 hours. The primary roads are well-maintained, however so as to attain the vineyards you may want to call prematurely to ask for detailed instructions. If the location of your selection doesn’t supply overnight lodging, there are several boutique resorts and pensions in Şarköy and Eceabat, in addition to bigger resorts alongside the freeway between Keşan and Tekirdağ. For those who’re heading north, you might want to select various accommodation choice round Kırklareli or Edirne.

Bakucha Vineyard Lodge & Spa

Providing each tastings and accommodation in its new guesthouse, Vino Dessera, might sound to be situated off the crushed monitor however is in truth simply accessible by way of the worldwide freeway. The proprietor Doğan Dönmez oversees each detail from wine tastings to food. Ahmetçe Köyü No.75, Kırklareli; T: 0532 564 50 62;

Bakucha Vineyard Lodge & Spa is a picturesque property hooked up to Arcadia vineyard. The local cooperative supplies the kitchen with quality produce, which the restaurant turns into wonderful dishes paired with native wines. With 21 rooms and a spa, the place is assured not to disappoint. Hamitabat Köyü, Lüleburgaz, Kırklareli; T: (0288) 473 44 17-18, 0533 514 14 90;

Not each winery comes with a centuries-old Greek monastery, but that’s not the solely factor that makes Melen stand out from the crowd. Owned by a family with the longest tradition of winemaking in the area, this contemporary winery stays true to its local heritage. Sahil Yolu No.6, Hoşköy, Şarköy; T: (0282) 538 60 05;

Chateau Nuzun provides a hopeful outlook on the future of boutique production in Thrace, as they end up wonderful wines while paying nice attention to detail and incorporating good, sustainable practices. Properly value the journey! Çeşmeli Köyü, Marmara Ereğlisi, Tekirdağ; T: 0530 871 42 50,

Barel Restaurant is perhaps petite in measurement (for up to 40 individuals), however there’s nothing understated about the service it supplies. A scrumptious, simple all-day menu goes hand in hand with the wines on supply, making it a main selection for an off-the-cuff get-together. Karaevli Köyü Derince Mevkii, Tekirdağ; T: 0543 322 18 04

Merlot vines at Barel winery

By no means settling for second greatest, Chateau Kalpak supplies the final learning opportunity for native fanatics who would really like to take a sneak peek into the worldwide world of winemaking. Reflecting the proprietor’s ardour, dedication, and years of research, the place can also be the definition of cash nicely spent. Plus, a view to die for. Gelibolu Yolu, Sarkoy; T: 0532 277 11 37

In case you’re already a fan of Suvla’s location in Kanyon, you need to undoubtedly visit the source. Make enough time in your itinerary for a vineyard tour, lunch, and wine tasting, and don’t overlook the Eceabat-made, wooden-serving platter that you simply had your eye on for a while—it makes the good souvenir! Çinarlıdere No.11, Eceabat, Çanakkale; T: 0286 814 10 00

Barbaros Vineyard House Boutique Lodge is situated off the important highway near Tekirdağ. Its strategic location on a hill ensures some of the most memorable sunrises and sunsets in the area. Yazır Köyü Karaağaçlık Mevkii Tekirdağ; T: 0212 257 07 00;

In case you occur to be the designated driver, Thrace has something for you too. Made of grapes, mustard seeds, and sour cherry leaves, hardaliye is a non-alcoholic drink rooted in native culture, and greatest served ice-cold. Situated north of Edirne, Arda is one of the hottest producers.

Which cheeses go greatest with Thracian wine, you marvel? Eski kaşar, the regional signature, must be your main selection. There are dozens of producers in the northern part of Thrace, so don’t overlook to attempt your cheese first. Made in Vize by Vasıf Gürel, identical to the native wine it needs ageing before hitting selected charcuteries in Istanbul. For a full listing of sales points in the city go to

For all different native tastes, resembling olives, molasses, dried fruit, and lots of more there are two necessary addresses on both ends of the route. In the north it’s Palivor Çiftliği, recognized to Istanbulites via its Nişantaşı retailer and restaurant. In the south, look out for Kilye Pure Merchandise store in Eceabat.

Thrace grapes for learners

  • Karasakız and kınalı yapıncak are the two local grapes in Suvla’s repertoire. The primary one lends itself to delicate purple and rosé varieties, which have turn into the firm’s signatures. The latter is a white grape with reddish freckles, whose identify turned famous for a Turkish novel and a Yeşilçam movie beneath the similar title.
  • Kolorko is a really rare grape native to Thrace grown by Melen as well as the Izmir-based Paşaeli. White wine made out of it’s out there in very limited quantities, and an absolute must attempt.
  • Papazkarası is another mild local purple grape variety. Not often used in blends, it’s been appreciated by Thrace’s personal Melen and Chamlija.
  • Sauvignon gris and pinot gris are delicate French imports which were solely planted in Arcadia, and are the solely examples of their variety in Turkey up to now. Due to a thin pores and skin, their cultivation requires so much of additional effort and endurance.
  • When their vines have been affected by the widespread fungus Botrytis Cinarea, Arcadia turned disadvantage into alternative by producing a late harvest, sweet sauvignon blanc, greatest loved at the finish of a meal.
  • Gülor’s cabernet sauvignon/merlot 1998 is Thrace’s first Bordeaux-style wine ever bought. There are just some 100 bottles of this classic left at the moment.

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