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GİLA BENMAYOR > How was the transfer made from mining to winemaking?

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I was in İzmir over the weekend with wine producers. 

The first stop was İsa Bey Vineyard, which belongs to the Güner family, producers of the Sevilen brand, the most old-line wine producer in the Turkish Aegean region. 

After a lunch with Enis Güner, the third generation owner from the Güner family, we headed toward the Magnesia Winery of Sevilen Wines, newly established on over 25,000 square meters near the antique city of Magnesia. 

The Magnesia Winery is the fifth winery the Güner Family has added to the Turkish wine producing sector since 1942. 

Magnesia Winery cost 20 billion Turkish Liras and is equipped with the latest technology, a very modern establishment where both production and wine tasting can take place. 

It is a live example of the unbelievable progress Turkish winemaking has achieved in the last 10 years. 
Sevilen, with 10 million bottles a year, is Turkey’s second largest wine maker and as Enis Güner highlighted, it is the oldest wine producer that “grows its own grapes.”

Up until now, the Sevilen 900 Fume Blanc Wine has been awarded more than 200 gold, silver and bronze medals. It was on the menu of El Bulli, managed by the Spanish chef Ferran Adria, also known as the genius chef. 

Enis Güner is now planning to start initiatives to enter the United States market. He also said that Sevilen wines were recently put on sale in London at Marks & Spenser stores. 
The second wine producer I met in İzmir was a member of the Executive Board of Atay Holding, Mehmet Atay.

Atay Holding is a family company operating in the mining sector for 102 years. Until today they had been managing coal mines they had previously taken over from the British. They also process the coal they import from Siberia at Aliağa and Trabzon plants. 

Eight years ago Atay Holding attempted a business, which might even be unique to the entire world. They have filled with earth, the land of the coal mines that were empty in the Aegean town of Aydin and have planted olive and fig trees and also vineyards. 

In my conversation with Mehmet Atay, he explained: “We pondered over the idea on how to make use of the vast fields that were practically deserts after we finished extracting coal from them. Eight years ago we started filling the pits with earth and planted trees and vineyards. We wanted to give back to nature what we had taken.” 

Atay Holding now has 55,000 planted trees and it plans to increase this figure to 150,000 trees.

The stage they have reached after eight years is such: 

The olive oil that is the product of olive trees brought from north Aegean town of Ayvalik has won a golden medal in Japan. Japanese who are newly introduced to olive oil asked Atay Holding to produce olive oil with “rose oil” and “orange.” 

Mehmet Atay explained that they have started wine producing around the same date and proudly cited their achievements. The wine they produce under the brand Prodom was selected as the best wine of Turkey in 2006 and 2007.

Prodom wines have won medals in several competitions in 2010 and 2011. There is demand for Prodom today from Canada and even China. 

“For a hundred years we have been mining and nobody ever talked about us… We created a wine brand and now everybody knows [us],” Mehmet Atay said smilingly.

June/13/2012

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