Sip Your Way Along Türkiye’s Oldest Wine Route

A relatively unexplored wine route in Türkiye offers a variety of Indigenous grapes that are ready to take center stage.


Türkiye’s Thrace Vineyard Route is across the border from Bulgaria and Greece.

Courtesy of The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Editor’s note: On February 6, 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southeastern Türkiye and northwestern Syria, killing more than 50,000 people at time of writing. Many organizations are on the ground helping out in the aftermath and are accepting donations. Here’s some information on traveling to the country and how you can help. Per our sources in Türkiye, most of the rest of the country was not affected by the earthquake, and tourism remains an important industry for the entire nation’s economy. AFAR has resumed publishing stories that celebrate Türkiye as a whole.

I consider travel and wine to be the perfect pairing. The combination hits all the right notes to satiate both my palate and my curiosity of the world. In 2021, a dream trip through France’s Loire Valley and Burgundy deepened my interest in digging my hands into the soil of the world’s terroirs, so much so that I decided I’d attempt an annual wine trip as a new tradition. So, almost a year later, I found myself in a region I’d never guess I’d travel to for wine: Türkiye.

Istanbul, with its lively bazaars lined with rows of saffron and cumin, intricately adorned mosques dating back to the 16th century, and renowned hammams, had been on my travel wish list for some time. Turkish wine, however, was a subject I knew nothing about. That would change after a weeklong trip through the Thrace Vineyard Route, the country’s oldest wine route in its European portion bordering Greece and Bulgaria in the northwest. The route includes boutique wine producers located in four main areas: Kırklareli, Tekirdağ, Şarköy, and Gelibolu.


Visitors have raved about wine from Thrace since Homer’s days.

Courtesy of The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism

With a history of viticulture dating back more than 7,000 years, the fertile soil has produced wines that even the poet Homer mentioned in the Iliad. While many vineyards in the area offer foreign varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah, my true interest was in understanding the Indigenous grapes grown in Thracian soil, including red varietals like çalkarası, kalecik karası, and white varietals like emir, narince, sultaniye, and bornova misketi. Here’s what I learned along the way.

After a whirlwind 24 hours in Istanbul, including checking into city center Pera Palace Hotel, tours of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and a sensory-fueled trek through the Grand and Spice Bazaar’s stalls, I drove some four hours west to Hoşköy in Tekirdağ. The small village reveals itself against a backdrop of rolling hills covered in winding grapevines and ancient olive trees. Here, Chateau Kalpak winery sits on a vineyard between the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea and produces only red Bordeaux blends that spend up to 36 months in Hungarian barrels. My favorite bottle—a dark ruby-colored wine called BBK—consisted of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and petit verdot, all produced on a single vineyard of gravel and limestone. On the palate, it reminded me of a slice of warm berry pie, with oaky vanilla notes on the nose.

Tasting at Chateu Kalpak

Chateu Kalpak is a family affair.

Courtesy of The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism

My first taste of Indigenous grapes was during a visit to family-owned Suvla, located an hour drive south of Chateau Kalpak. The winery, founded in 2012 by Turkish couple Pınar and Selim Ellialtı and situated in the small village of Eceabat, features a spacious bistro for food and wine pairings, and a store lined with shelves of house-made olive oil, wines, and other sundries. Its organically grown wines feature varietals like narince (pronounced nar-een-jah)—the most widely grown white grape in Türkiye. Suvla’s take on the medium-bodied wine is zesty—with notes of honeysuckle and mango that would pair beautifully with a roasted chicken or grilled white fish. Another favorite bottle, called Sir, includes a blend of syrah, cinsault and karasakiz—a grape native to Thrace that produces fruity and spicy wines with low tannins.

Where to taste wine

In the evening, I checked into Hotel Caeli, a hotel surrounded by an art-filled landscape and vineyards. First opened in 2016, the 21-room luxury boutique hotel offers daily winetastings of its red blends. Outside its restaurant, diners gather on a large veranda to sip wine and gaze into a starry night above grapevines.

Later in the trip I stopped at Chamlija, a boutique winery that came highly recommended from a sommelier friend. I got lucky, as they opened their doors and allowed me to take a few bottles to go despite being closed. Both the wine shop and vineyards are located in Kırklareli, about 2.5 hours from Porta Caeli and near the border of Bulgaria. Chamijla’s wines are well-recognized in the region because of the art on each bottle—which can range from a penguin decked out in sunglasses to a psychedelic silhouette of a woman’s face. The wines are also popular because of their quality, thanks to founder Mustafa Camlica and his team, who grow the grapes in a region in Thrace near the Black Sea in gravel and limestone. My favorite bottle is the Thracian 2013, a peppery blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc that would hold up well with any juicy rib-eye steak or lamb.

The final tasting for the day was only an hour away at Dessera Vineyard House, also located in Kırklareli on 300 acres. I checked into the 33-room boutique hotel on the premises before being whisked into a winetasting of about 20 different varietals, including merlot, sangiovese, shiraz, and kalecik karasi. The family-owned winery has been planting grapes at the foot of the Istranca Mountains in Kırklarel since 2004.

An hour’s drive from Dessera sits Arda—a family-run winery located near Erdine on the northwest tip of Türkiye. The soil here is loamy, with gravel and clay strata in some parts that allow for grape varieties of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, sauvignon blanc, semillon, gamay, narince and papazkarasi, the latter of which is featured in a series of bottles. This native grape dates back some 1,500 years and produces fruit-forward blanc de noirs, rosés, and medium-bodied red blends. Arda’s roze papazkarasi gamay planted waves of thyme and pomegranate on my palate—a nice change from the more strawberry forward and zippy rosés I’ve relied on from Provence in the past.

The final tasting of the trip was at Arcadia Vineyards, known for its low-intervention terroir wines. I met with Zeynep Arca Şallie, who cofounded the winery with her father Ozcan Arca. Her enthusiasm about Turkish wines during my tasting would make even those who travel to vineyards around the world stop at Arcadia to learn of the deep history of the land. Here, grapes are sorted by hand then fermented separately in stainless steel tanks. This allows the characteristics of each varietal—from sangiovese to narince—to really shine through each sip. The continental climate in this region allows for wines with good acidity, and Arcadia is the first winery in Turkey to cultivate the rare sauvignon gris—one of the oldest grape varieties.

I checked into Arcadia’s 18-room Bakucha Vineyard Hotel, located between the vines and orchards just outside our tasting for the evening. Though I’d been surrounded by vineyards and wineglasses for the past week, it felt as though I’d just touched the surface of what Turkey’s terroir has to offer—giving me the perfect excuse to return one day.

How to get there

Turkish Airlines offers nonstop flights from major airports, including Los Angeles’s LAX airport and New York City’s JFK. An added bonus is that many Turkish wines, including Suvla, are available on board, setting the perfect precursor for a wine-fueled trip.

Kristin Braswell is a travel journalist and founder of Crush Global Travel. She has penned pieces for Vogue, CNN, USA Today, Essence, NPR, Architectural Digest, Ebony, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Her perfect day includes soca music, rum, and the ocean.
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