Turkish wine tourism is still in a nascent stage. A number of factors continue to hamper its development but the wineries are enthusiastically embracing it. In many areas, wineries are located in remote places far from anything else making visiting complicated. However, wineries are rapidly adding restaurants and hotels to facilitate visitors. Something else Turkish wineries have embraced to entice tourism: wine routes.
The Wine Routes of Turkey
Turkey is currently home to four wine routes. For the most part, these are loose associations of wineries within the same geographic area. Some, like the Trakya Bağ Rotası and the İç Ege Bağ Rotası cover huge areas. Of the three, really only the Urla Bağ Yolu is complete in the sense that all participating wineries accept visitors, the route is well marked, and the route covers a relatively small area.
Trakya Bağ Rotası, Thrace Vineyard Route, was the first of these corporations. Member wineries are all based in Turkish Thrace and span three growing regions: Trace, the Marmara, and the Aegean. The route covers a huge area. A really ambitious person could maybe do the whole shebang in three days. A sensible person would allow five. And someone without a wish for alcohol poisoning (or fear of driving off a cliff!) would take a full week. Luckily, many of the wineries along this route have restaurants and/or guest houses.
The easiest way to take this route is to break it up into overarching geographic chunks which include the cities/districts of: Edirne, Kırklareli, Tekirdağ, Şarköy, and Gelibolu.
? wineries with a hotel/guest rooms
? wineries with a restaurant
Edirne: Arda Bağları & Şarapçılık, Edirne Vineyards
Urla Bağ Yolu, the Urla Vineyard Road: About an hour south from the city of İzmir lies the city of Urla. What makes this such an easy route to follow is that the vineyards are all within a 15-minute or less drive from one another, there are signs along the route to not only mark the vineyards but to point you in the correct direction, and the participating members all paid to have the roads paved properly. Trust me when I say the latter is a real treat.
And while it is not a cooperating member of the route, one more winery should also be mentioned, Ayda Bağları & Şarapçılık which sites a short (if scary) drive up the mountain from MMG and has both guest rooms and a restaurant.
The İç Ege Bağ Rotası (literally: inner Aegean vineyard route) is a fairly recent invention. At least it is the newest of Turkey’s four wine routes. The route covers a large area; some 11,700 square kilometers. So says Google. It is 200 kilometers from the winery closest to the Aegean (Nif Bağları) to the farthest inland (Küp Şarapçılık) and another 200+ kilometers from Kastro Tireli in the north to Prodom in the farthest south part of the route. In between…a whole lot of open road.
Because this particular route covers such a large area, it is absolutely not navigable in one day. Or even two. Maybe three if you’re hardcore and don’t spend more than an hour and a half to two hours at each winery. Happily though, many of the wineries on this route have attached restaurants, guest houses, or hotels. In addition, they’re located in such a way as to enable one to take them in logical groups.
Upper İç Ege Bağ Rotası: Sevilen İsabey Bağ Evi, Nif Bağları, Selendi Şarapları, Kastro Tireli Wines, Kavaklidere Pendore, Yanık Ülke
Lower İç Ege Bağ Rotası: Sevilen İsabey Bağ Evi, LA Şarapçılık, Pamukkale, Küp Şarap, Prodom
Sevilen’s İsabey Bağ Evi is handily a five minute drive from İzmir’s Adnan Menderes airport making it easy to stop in, coming or going!
Güney İzmir Bağ Rotası, South İzmir Vineyard Route, is undeniably the smallest with only four members,two of which it shares with the İç Ege Bağ Rotası. Its small size in no way detracts from the joys to be found at each winery though.
Members include: Sevilen İsabey Bağ Evi, LA Şarapçılık, Yedi Bilgeler, Sevilen Magnesia
Planning a Visit to a Winery in Turkey
Especially because wine tourism is a new concept in Turkey, there are a few things you should check before rocking up at a winery here.
Where is the winery?
This seems like a really basic question but I promise you that the reality is often not so simple. Google Maps is pretty accurate in İstanbul, İzmir, Ankara, and other big cities. But that’s not where the wineries are. Wineries are often located on roads Google doesn’t think exist or in places you would least expect-like an industrial complex (this is true, several are). Make sure you have a good idea of where you’re going before you set out.
Do you need a reservation?
Almost always, yes. Not all wineries in Turkey, not even those part of the wine routes, regularly accept visitors. And the places that do are very popular so you might not get a table if you don’t book in advance.
Can visitors see the production rooms?
This depends a lot on the specific winery and how busy it is when you go. Not everyone has staff dedicated for tours of the production rooms and vineyards so it’s a good idea to ask this when you make a reservation.
Does the vineyard offer wine tasting?
Again this might seem like a silly question. Once again, the reality in Turkey does not always reflect the obvious. Many wineries do offer set tastings but not all. Again, ask when you make a reservation.
Are wine tastings free?
No, there is usually a fee.
Do you have the option to buy wine?
Yes, absolutely. And usually at a lower price than retail.
Does someone at the winery speak English?
Like the answer to most of these questions the answer is: it depends. Probably calling to try to make a reservation will be your first clue! When in doubt at the winery, smile. Turkish hospitality is famous and wine people will be happy for your visit whether or not you can communicate verbally!
Do wineries not part of one of these wine routes accept visitors?
Yes. The majority of wineries in Turkey accept visitors regardless of whether they’re part of an official wine route or not so it’s also worth looking into visiting wineries in other parts of the country like Cappadocia, Bodrum, Mardin, Elazığ, Bozcaada, and Ankara.
For more detailed information about the wine routes and participating wineries, you can read the four-part series about them on The Quirky Cork website.