On Bozcaada, Turkey’s third largest island, winds are so strong that only a limited variety of vegetation can withstand them. Olive trees look gnarled and bent and appear to be forever hunched over in an attempt to protect themselves from the battering winds. Poppies, one of the island’s biggest crops, survive only due to their proximity to the ground. And yet it is from this inhospitable and windswept environment that Turkish island wines are born.
Perhaps you know Bozcaada by its old name, Tenedos. Under this moniker, the island (and its wines!) rated mentions in both the Iliad and the Aeneid. It is, after all, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Troy. Outside of classical Greek literature, the island holds a strategic military importance located as it is at the entrance of the Dardanelles. Because of this, it has been fought over and held by a number of administrations and powers throughout history. From the Achaemenid Persian Empire, the empire of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Venice, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Greece, then finally, the Republic of Turkey.
Known more for its beaches than its wines, the island is nonetheless historically famous for wine production. Tenedos was linked with the cult of Dionysus and its wine was once known as being the best in the Eastern Mediterranean. Vineyards have existed on the island since antiquity and today occupy the bulk of its agricultural land.
While the island does not produce the quantities of wines it did historically, Bozcaada still shelters several wineries from the strong winds that sweep across the island. Traditional goblet (or bush) vines help protect the grapes from the winds. Wineries also use natural windbreakers on the island, such as lines of pine trees, that allow them to train vines on trellises for easier care and harvesting. A mix of native and international grapes grow here. Grapes like Çavuş, Vasilaki, and Karalahna grow only here. Another Bozcaada native, Kuntra, emigrated to the Turkish mainland and can also be found on the Gallipoli Peninsula where it is known as Karasakız. International grapes have gained a great deal of popularity here as well. Among those cultivated are Amadei, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grillo, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Zinfandel, and Zlahtina.
Visitors to Bozcaada will find a warm welcome at the wineries. Some of them, like Talay and Çamlıbağ, owned by different branches of the same family, have a long history on the island. Others, like Corvus and Amadeus MMX are newcomers.
If the winery name strikes you as anything but Turkish OR Greek, you’re not far off. The winery was founded by Oliver Gareis, a Turkey-born Austrian. The Gareis family arrived in Turkey in 1962 and have made this country their home. Oliver, who speaks Turkish as easily as he does German, feels more Turkish than he does Austrian. Despite this, his Austrian roots are still deep and after the family moved to Bozcaada in the late 90s then established their winery, he named it Amadeus MMX (2010) to honor both the great Austrian composer and the year the winery was officially founded.
Amadeus cultivates one of the more interesting mixes of grapes in Turkey. The only local variety in the winery’s vineyards is the white island grape, Vasilaki. In addition to other international varieties, Amadeus’s vineyards boast Amadei, Gelber Muskateller, Grillo, and Zlahtina grapes; all of which are unique to Amadeus in Turkey.
Unfortunately, none of Amadeus’ wines are exported. They can be found in some shops in Istanbul and other large cities in Turkey but the best place to drink them is at the winery’s Mozart Cafe on Bozcaada.
Established in 1927, the family-run Ataol winery is in the hands of the family’s third generation. Despite its long history, Ataol never “struck it big” and its wines, generally of a bulk quality level, mostly remain on the island. The winery sits in Bozcaada town center and is the only winery that isn’t open regularly to visitors.
In 1925, Haşim Yunatçı, from a Turkey-born Greek family, bought an old winery (Panayi Dimo) and began the transformation of a family winemaking history into one of Bozcaada’s most recognizable commercial wineries. Now, with the third generation in control and the fourth poised to take over, Çamlıbağ Şarapları comprises 30 hectares of vines around the island planted to a variety of native and international grapes including Vasilaki, Kuntra, Karalahna, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.
Çamlıbağ has a lovely restaurant/bar tucked away in Bozcaada town where visitors can enjoy all their wines with snacks and yummy pizzas. For those looking to purchase wines, they have a shop just around the corner from the restaurant.
Corvus Vineyards, named for the many crows that make Bozcaada their home, is the brainchild of successful former architect Reşit Söley. Horrified at seeing how the island vineyards were disintegrating and even being ripped up, Söley founded his vineyards and winery in 2002 to “…bring renewed respect for the vineyards that originally gave life to Bozcaada, as islanders owe both their pasts and futures to them. The idea was to combine tradition and innovation, with the help of 25 years’ experience in design.”
Corvus wines blend local, native Turkish, and international grapes in a variety of wines and wine styles including whites, rosés, reds, and even a sweet passito. Corvus is a widely recognized brand in Turkey and the wines can be found across the country. Of course the best place to enjoy them is at the Corvus Wine & Bite bar and shop located steps from the winery. Here you can select wines by the bottle, glass, and flight (unusual in Turkey) and try the winery’s wide range of wines.
Ahmet Güler, patriarch of an old Bozcaada family, established his winery in 2008. Already well-known on the island for their jams and grape molasses, the family expanded into wine with a variety of white, rosé, and reds. Available only on the island, the wines are made from a combination of local, native Turkish, and international grapes.
In 1948, three brothers, Necati, Hayati, and Sebati Talay established a small family winery on the island. They began with the island’s native grapes; cultivating Çavuş,Vasilaki, Karalahna, and Kuntra (Karasakız). By the late 90s they expanded their vineyards to include other indigenous Turkish varieties as well as a complement of international varieties.
Today, Talay has small vineyard plots scattered across the island and multiple restaurants, and storefronts in Bozcaada town. The very first winery is now the 1948 Wine House while the current winery maintains a prominent location, covering several blocks in the town center. In addition to the 1948 Wine House, Talay is behind popular island restaurant Asma6 and has several stand alone storefronts.
Getting to and from Bozcaada is not the easiest endeavour but it is worth the effort. There are a variety of routes via land and air but they all wind up in either Çanakkale or Geyikli. Both locations offer ferry boats to the island with those from the Geyikli Yükyeri Ferryboat Pier (about an hour south of Çanakkale) running far more frequently.