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GİLA BENMAYOR >Thrace Vineyard Route to become lifesaver for wine sector

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The winemaking sector in Turkey is troubled because of new regulations on alcoholic drinks that went into effect six months ago. Those who have gone into this sector with huge investments cannot sell their wines, which they have produced with painstaking efforts, over the Internet and are also not permitted to advertise and publicize them.

The bans imposed on alcoholic drinks are in such dimensions that even those wines that have won medals at international competitions cannot be offered for tasting. They cannot organize grape-harvesting tours anymore, which had recently become quite popular.

In sum, a heavy blow has been inflicted on wine, which has a history of 7,000 years on this land.
Just like the Aegean region, the Thracian region is also an extremely important area for wine producers. Thracian wine producers have developed a genius solution as a way out of the trap they have been caught in.

Twelve boutique wine producers from Tekirdağ, Şarköy, Kırklareli and Gelibolu have gathered together to promote a new “Vineyard Routes Project” with the support of the Thrace Development Agency.

Those who have the opportunity to visit the Exhibition on Vineyard Routes Project opened in Istanbul’s Karaköy neighborhood at the Chamber of Architects will be able to understand what the project is.

Of course, I will mention what the project is, but before that, I want to draw attention to its name. I guess many people have the same question in their minds, “Why Vineyard Routes instead of Thrace Wine Route?”

The answer is simple. Those preparing the project were careful not to draw any reaction from certain circles to the word “wine.” This is the stage where we have landed on the road when we set out for a more advanced democracy. We are refraining from pronouncing even one word in such an important project as this one.

The Thrace Vineyard Routes Project aims to merge gastronomy and tourism by determining a route including the vineyards of 12 wine producers.

The Thracian region has a rich history and cultural heritage. In every square meter, it is possible to come across traces of Alexander the Great, as well as the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.

Edirne, for instance, which is one hour away from Kırklareli and is included in the Thrace Vineyard Routes, was the capital of the Ottomans for 90 years and features the Selimiye Mosque of Architect Sinan, one of the most famous masterpieces in architectural history.

Again, a very short distance away from the route is the town of Vize, one of Turkey’s few “cittaslows.”
On the vineyard route, in Tekirdağ, there are Umurbey, Chateau Nuzun, Barel Şarapçılık and Barbare; in Şarköy, there are Melen, Gülor and Chateau Kalpak; in Kırklareli, there are Acadia, İrem Çamlıcı and Vino Dessera, and in Gelibolu, there are the Gali and Suvla brands. An increase of 50 percent in the number of domestic and international tourists is being aimed for in the Thrace region thanks to this route. The Thrace Tourism Association (TTID), which is also sponsoring the exhibition in Istanbul, estimates the route will also be extended to Balkan countries in the future.

When we consider that wine tourism in the world is growing about 30 percent a year, the Thrace Vineyard Routes, or what I would call the Wine Route, is a significant step taken in terms of tourism.

The Tuscany and Piedmont regions in Italy and the Rhone region where the famous French wine Chateauneuf-Du-Pape vineyards are located are important tourism destinations that attract tourists from Turkey.

In Thrace, where unemployment among the youth is high, this wine route project will provide a breath of fresh air to wine producers, as well as the region’s economy.

March/04/2014

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