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Exploring Turkey's Island of Wine

The last few years have seen some very positive and exciting developments in the world of Turkish wine, one of the most significant ones being the return of the small Aegean island of Bozcaada as a producer of quality wines. Known as Tenedos in ancient times, the island has been a wine-making center since antiquity, but -- like much of the Turkish wine industry -- went through a rather rough and uninspired patch for most of the 20th century. Today, though, Bozcaada is home to Corvus, perhaps Turkey's most respected upscale winery, and to a number of new wineries that are hoping to tap into the island's wine-friendly terroir.

In a wonderful piece for the New York Times, Rome-based travel writer Katie Parla takes a look at the latest developments on Bozcaada, which one winemaker describes as a place where "the earth was made to produce wine." From her article:

An image can call to mind a place, and occasionally a sound does, too. And, of course, so do scents.

One enduring memory of my trip last summer to Bozcaada, an island off the western coast of Turkey, is the aroma of maturing figs, lavender and rosemary carried by persistent winds that locals say help shape the island’s character. Funneled through the Dardanelles, which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean, the winds repel all but the most committed travelers in the winter and attract small numbers of them in the spring and summer. And they help create an environment far different from the mainland: breezy, pleasantly warm and dry, ideal for cultivating grapes.

That means that this 15-square-mile island — a seven-hour trip from Istanbul by bus and ferry — offers solitude with a dash of culture in its only town, also called Bozcaada, and vineyards, whose output has helped make this one of Turkey’s most promising wine destinations.

“It is the special climate on the island that makes a great red wine,” said Hermann Gareis, who started the newest vineyard on the island, Amadeus, just west of the town in 2010.

His is one of many vineyards that undulate from the edge of town to the coasts, interrupted by occasional clusters of houses or a hotel. Most residents produce their own wine in small batches and, despite obstacles to commercial production — a dearth of labor, high taxes on alcohol and distant wine-drinking cities — several producers are turning out excellent wines.

The full article can be found here. For those visiting or living in Turkey but who can't make it to Bozcaada to try some of the its wines, there are a few wine bars in Istanbul -- including one that's run by Corvus -- where you can try the latest offerings from the island's producers. An article of mine about those spots can be found here.

Exploring Turkey's Island of Wine

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