Turkey has more than 800 varieties of indigenous grapes, and in fact, is thought to be the place where grapevine domestication and wine-making first took place.
While there are dozens of Turkish wine grape varieties that are used for wine, some are very uncommon (think Patkara, grown in only 1 vineyard in the mountains above Mersin, but if you find the wine, grab it, is quite enjoyable). The list I present below is the most common varieties you will find at markets, restaurants, and wineries. The lists present wines from lighter to more full-bodied.
Below you’ll find the most popular Turkish native grape varieties for wine-making. Read more about my recommendations for the best labels and wines to choose for each of these grapes.
Turkish White Wine Grapes
Narince: The best ones come from north of Ankara. This is a light refreshing and crisp wine.
Emir: Find any that come from Cappadocia - the best place to grow this full-bodied grape.
Emir/Narince Blend: This takes the best of these two grapes above and marries them into an excellent white wine with floral aroma, acidity, body, and flavor.
Bornova Misketi: This is an ancient varietal from around Izmir. Most wineries in the region make excellent varieties. This is often a semi-sweet wine as well. But the dry styles are very fragrant and unique. A literal potpourri in the nose and palate.
Vasilaki: A unique grape that is only grown on Bozcaada in Thrace, acidic and full-bodied, almost but not quite like a Chardonnay.
Turkish Blush and Rosé Recommendations
There is a lot of fun experimentation with blush wines in Turkey, so always worth being adventurous here. Also, many producers will use higher quality red wine grapes that don’t meet their red wine standard to make above-average blush wines.
Turkish Red Wine Grapes
Kuntra: A unique wine grape left from Greek winemakers of 100 or more years ago this is one of the few varietals that was not lost during the early 1900s in Turkey. Light fruity with low acidity and minerality from wind-swept Bozcaada define this grape.
Karalahna: The grape, too, comes only from Bozcaada. Some archaeologists say this is the grape mentioned and drunk by Homer from his Illiad.
Kalecik Karasi: (or any thing ending with Karasi like Cal Karasi, Papazkarasi, Adakarasi). Kara means dark or black in old Turkish, and they use this ending to name many of the local varieties. While unique they are all similar in that they are lighter more fruity reds with good body and acidity, somewhat akin to a Pinot Noir. These are often used for Rosé as well.
Öküzgözü: Growing in a region further north than Boğazkere below, near the city of Elazig where the mountains fall onto the Anatolian plain, this grape literally means ‘bull’s eye’ as they are large, spherical, and dark. The grape is sweeter and more fruity than Boğazkere but far more pleasant alone, but sometimes lacking body for an excellent red. With advances in production, there are now many Öküzgözü single varietals that are excellent.
Boğazkere: This grape comes from the Tigris river region near Diyarbakir and south of there. The name means ‘throat burner’ since it is high in acid, tannin and very full-bodied, in the past rarely used on its own, I now find many varietal Boğazkere wines are excellent.
Boğazkere/Öküzgözü blend: This is the most Turkish of blends in red, and is highly recommended. If you enjoy reds don’t miss drinking a few of these. They are unlike wines anywhere with their body, acidity, flavor profile, and minerality.
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