LONDON, England – Turkish wines were launched to the UK market to great acclaim and excitement yesterday, Thursday 24 February 2011, at Vinopolis when leading wine experts, Turkish winemakers, historians and DNA experts, including Dr. Patrick E. McGovern, Jancis Robinson OBE MW, Tim Atkin MW, Charles Metcalfe and Kevin Gould, met with the UK wine trade and press at Discover the Roots, From Silvestris to Vinifera: Inaugural Wines of Turkey Conference and Tasting 2011 in the first such event in the world for Turkish wines, organised by Wines of Turkey. Experts discussed South-eastern Anatolia is the most likely primary domestication centre of the grapevine according to grape genetics, linguistics (the Hittite language) and biomolecular archaeology.
The event was also attended by the Turkish Ambassador, H.E. Ahmet Unal Cevikoz, who opened the event with a welcome address.
Mr. Taner Ogutoglu, Director of Turkish wine platform Wines of Turkey, remarked that “We are delighted with today’s success and launching of Turkish wines onto the global stage. Turkey is part of a region where wine-making has a very long history and where it possibly originated by at least 7000BC, so it is very apt that Turkish wines and Turkish native grapes are set to take their place among the greatest for the 21st century, as well as being such an important part of tourism since nearly 3 million British visited Turkey last year; indeed the synergies between wine and tourism will form a key part of our strategy for next year”.
The first keynote speech by Dr Patrick E. McGovern, author of Uncorking the Past, The Quest for Wine, Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverages discussed evidence for Turkey being the possible birthplace of wine and “The Taurus Mountains of eastern Turkey as being a real possibility of being the “world center” of the Eurasian grape where its greatest genetic diversity is found. This is where some of the so-called founder plants for the Neolithic period were first domesticated; including einkorn wheat, chickpea and bitter vetch and perhaps, this was where the grapevine was first domesticated.” McGovern later referred to Turkish wines as “liquid time capsules which take the drinker right back to the Neolithic and the era of the Hittites.”
Financial Times wine critic Jancis Robinson OBE MW’s session was hugely well received, and she made the point that more than any other wine-producing country Turkey has the right to “play the history card as their wines have a story to tell” while she also noted that “Turkey’s wine producers are fiercely ambitious about quality, open to what’s going on elsewhere and with a huge ambition to export”.
Dr Jose Vouillamoz and Prof. Dr Gokhan Soylemezoglu jointly presented five of the most popular Turkish native grape varieties, Okuzgozu (Bullseye), Kalecik Karasi and Bogazkere for reds and Narince and Emir for whites; They also discussed what genetics have revealed about the origins of Vitis vinifera, viticulture in Turkey and native grape varieties, of which there are more than 800 indigenous varieties. Dr Vouillamoz memorably referred to Turkish wines as “balanced and fresh wines from a continent of climates” commenting on the diversity of the terrains available for grape cultivation.
A Grand Wine Trade and Press Tasting followed in the afternoon where varieties from winemakers Doluca, Kavaklidere, Kayra, Likya, Pamukkale, Selendi, Sevilen and Vinkara were sampled to great interest and acclaim. The day was attended by over 250 wine trade and press including celebrity wine critic and presenter on BBC Saturday Kitchen Olly Smith; wine critic for The Independent Anthony Rose; Editor at Large of Meininger’s Wine Business International Robert Joseph; Cornucopia magazine editor Sir John Scott; journalists from The Sunday Times; National Geographic Traveller; Food and Travel Magazine; Drinks International, Harpers Wines and Spirits; as well as wine buyers from Constellation Europe; Hakkasan; Waitrose Wine Society; BBC Wine Club; Top Selection; Hawksmoor; Vinexus and Bedales to name just a few. Representatives from Diageo, whom on Monday 21st February announced their acquisition Mey Icki Sanayi ve Ticaret AS, owners of Turkish Winery Kayra, for £1.3 billion ($2.11 billion) from U.S. private-equity firm TPG Capital, were also in attendance.
The special wine-tasting masterclasses led by award-winning Tim Atkin MW and Charles Metcalfe were fully attended and gave the opportunity to get up close to 10 each of their favourite wines, tasted and chosen specially by them for the day.