Turkish wines ripe for action?

amed for its good-value package holidays, Turkey certainly doesn’t feature much on the radar of Brits for producing quality wine and is much better known for its aniseed spirit raki.

But the generic body for Turkey, which was set up just over a year ago and represents five wineries, has high hopes for pushing the country’s premium producers. It thinks it’s also able to overcome the image for only producing cheap wine supplied at all-inclusive holiday tourist resorts.

Director of Wines of Turkey Taner Ögütoglu also says £200,000 has been earmarked to “reach the trade and opinion leaders” in the UK.

So far, notable wine critics such as OLN’s Tim Atkin MW, Jancis Robinson MW, Oz Clarke and Charles Metcalfe have been singing the praises of some of the country’s new wave of wine producers following trips to Turkey.

Atkin says: “Turkish wines are enjoying a timely revival. This historic, but little- known wine-producing country has an exciting range of indigenous varieties that deserve to reach a wider audience. I am very impressed by the quality of the best wines, several of which won medals at this year’s International Wine Challenge.”?Commenting at this year’s London International Wine Fair, Clarke said: “Some of the most exciting Turkish native grapes are the scented but muscular reds, Öküzgözü and Bog?azkere, which come from the vineyards in the east and are made into sophisticated, fascinatingly different wines back in cosmopolitan Turkey to the west, while the vineyards of Cappadocia are awe-inspiring because of their age and history. Turkish wine is an exciting new world for us all.”?High praise indeed, but it remains to be seen how far this will be taken on board by the industry.

Michael Walker, of importer and distributor Tees, says he is “currently talking to a major supermarket, but to date Turkish wines aren’t available through the supermarket sector”.

Criticism in the past about the calibre of Turkish wine stems from a range of problems, including poor oak quality, high yields and the long distances some grapes are transported.

However, Walker argues there have been advancements in Turkish wines since Tees started bringing them into the country during the 1980s. “This is primarily due to the introduction of some flying winemakers, the style of wines being produced, and the raising of standards in viticulture, production and marketing.”?Walker says: “We are hoping the generic body will raise the profile of Turkish wines so potential buyers will be tempted to try some of the indigenous grape varieties Turkey has to offer, as well as the international grape varieties.”?Ögütoglu says: “The general plan is being finalised in the next couple of months. However, we will definitely be exhibiting at LIWF next year and we will hold our inaugural Wines of Turkey Trade & Consumer Wine Tasting on February 24-25.” Wineries on board with the generic are Doluca, Kavaklidere, Kayra, Kocabag? and Vinkara. Ög?ütog

u expects to have 10 signed up in the “near future”.

“Not all wineries in Turkey are focusing on exports, and we are a relatively new umbrella body which has not promoted itself widely as yet,” he says.

“However, the plan is to increase membership soon. Our strategy is to make the best wineries members of this platform. We have an ethical code for membership and will have procedures and quality controls for exports.” He admits the sticking point for some Turkish wineries was concerns about production capacity.

Gözdem Görbüzatik, business unit manager at Kayra, based in Elazig? in Eastern Anatolia, believes Turkey can offer something different to the rest of the world with its indigenous grape varieties.

“Our strength is definitely in reds – the pricing isn’t very competitive at the moment but we certainly focus on quality segments rather than high volume and low price economy segments,” he says.

Osman Karasoy, export manager at Vinkara winery, says the Turkish lira has been affected by the industry-wide problem of exchange rates. “Like all companies involved in export activities, we have some predetermined buffers in pricing but high volatility creates quite artificial outcomes.

“This results in questions about the stability and longevity of a partnership between a producer and a distributor or agent.” Karasoy thinks consumer and trade education is necessary: “Turkish grape types are currently unknown in the UK market. We will have to create the awareness for them with a long-term approach.”?Hakan Kefog

u, export manager for family-owned winery Doluca, says a lack of knowledge about Turkish wine is the “basic problem”. He adds: “Turkish wines are unknown to UK consumers, although we have high-quality products.” Ali Bas¸man, managing director of Ankara-based Kavaklidere, agrees: “The average UK wine consumer doesn’t have an objective idea about Turkish wine except for low quality table wine provided by all-inclusive hotels on the Mediterranean coast and a few Turkish restaurants with entry-level brands.

“Turkey needs to promote itself much more, not only with tourism but also with its food and wine. It needs to invest in wine marketing with campaigns and make an effort to convince people that we produce good wine.”?Görbüzatik says the main problems facing producers are “awareness, pricing and distribution and a differentiated offer”. Kayra’s wines grace the tables of the Fat Duck, Hakkasan, L’Etranger and speciality stores. Off-trade prices range from £7 to £16.

He says: “Turkey is not on the current wine world map and is perceived as having a religious culture without any relationship with alcohol production and consumption.

“But wine has been made from these lands for more than 5,000 years. We have to rebuild that link for our potential customers.”