Should I Do a Turkish Winery Tour on My Own?
Given the fact that I’ve visited 60 or more of the 300 wineries in Turkey, I’m occasionally asked, ‘“Can I do a tour of Turkish wineries on my own, or should I do a guided tour?”
There’s a straightforward answer (jump to the end for the short version) but you’ll benefit either way from the input below. But in short, I’ll say Turkish wineries are excellent.
They are in amazing locations, have notable even amazing wines, and really know how to provide a great experience. There is one caveat though – Turkey has 80 million people and many enjoy wine, so the wineries are first and foremost providing a great wine tasting for Turks. This isn’t to say that foreigners don’t go to the wineries, but their biggest customer by far is locals. On the flip side, this also means that you’ll have an amazing local experience and get to really see what most tourists want – the insider view of how locals live and enjoy life.
I’ll try to give you a broad overview of the issues involved below based on my many years of traveling to Turkish wineries for wine tours, a Turkish wine tasting, and often a meal.
It’s important to know that generally Turkish wineries aren’t allowed to do wine tastings apart from having a restaurant which many do. This makes traveling on your own a bit complicated because you're not quite sure which have restaurants (and oh wait, some that don’t do restaurants) have figured out other ways to allow for wine tastings. So all in all, until you get there you’re not sure. That being said, the food at wineries is almost always above average and a few wineries have excellent kitchens and chefs. So in the food category, the winner is a guided tour, since they will know which winery does what and when. Which leads to the next point….
To travel on your own, you’ll need to do some serious planning. And you certainly use the internet, (you’re here at TurkeyTravelPlanner right?). Well, that’s a complication. Because of legal issues, wineries can’t really post websites that advertise alcohol, so information on openings and offerings is hard to come by. You can always take a chance and just show up (I’ve done it, but I live here and have time to waste) but I wouldn’t recommend wasting your valuable vacation time. Advantage: Guided tour. That’s exactly what you pay them for to plan and operate an amazing time for you.
This one falls in line with planning above. From opening times to figuring out which winery is located on the way to another one, scheduling is tricky. Because…
Location and Distance
Turkish wineries by necessity are located in rural, agricultural areas. So you have to have private transportation. They are literally spread out over the country, and even Google Maps is often wrong with the location. Combine this with the rules against advertising alcohol and it makes finding places hard. Some are at the end of rural village roads too. I was about 100 meters from turning back once from such a winery, but I persisted. Save yourself the trouble. Big advantage to guided tour. Especially when you consider….
Driving in Turkey is an adventure, but it is also expensive, when you consider rental car costs, gas costs (some of the highest in the world), and the potential for something to get dented in rural areas, this is another huge advantage to taking a guided tour. Save the hassle and enjoy your vacation.
In short, how’s your Turkish? Yok mu? (None?) Then go for a guided wine tour in Turkey. Almost every winery owner speaks English, but do you really think the wine owners are always around the wine tastings? Nope. Often, but not always. Most employees are locals who aren’t fluent speakers. (Remember they get tons of customers that DO speak Turkish)!
Lots of do-it-yourselfers (like me!) do it to save costs. This one is a toss-up. You might save a few dollars from a tour, but are you trying to save money or enjoy Turkish wine?
This one won’t even be close. Local guides have the insight. Yes, you know wine, and what you like, so do you go for a Kostevek, Narince, Kuntra or Calkarasi? All are Turkish varieties and all need to be tried, but where to start without some guidance. Wineries are often busy when open so a guided tour is the best way to get in deep with Turkish wines. Advantage: guided.
Unless like me you’ve been drinking Turkish wine and running around Turkey for the last 20 years, you’re not likely to know which vintages and which producers to focus on, or which wine at which winery to give your attention to. Guides will help you. Go guided.
Turkey has amazing hospitality, but it is also a cultural requirement to treat guests very well. Guides are personal friends of the wineries and can get you that extra nice Cabernet Sauvignon as a taste sample or permission to let you see the best part of a Turkish winery tour. Advantage, yep, guided.
If you want to learn more about wines in Turkey, consider booking a wine tour. I have also written a guide to help you choose a guided vs. a self-guided wine tour.
To find out more about the wine above, check out my over 300 recommendations at https://www.vivino.com/users/chris.vannoy/wines.
Visit my site: https://www.turkish-wine.com/
-By Christopher Vannoy, TTP Wine Expert