Veni, Vidi, Viti

Veni, Vidi, Viti

Veni, Vidi, Viti Viticulture has deep roots in Anatolia. In Turkey, when we refer to our past, we tend to mention just Anatolia, as if Turkey consists only of Asia Minor. Quite a paradox indeed! Turkey almost always sees itself as a part of Europe; it is awkward that the tiny bit of Turkey that is geographically really in Europe hardly receives a mention. Thrace largely remains an unexplored area despite its closeness to Istanbul, and is rarely seen as a tourism destination.

Likewise, Turkish wines need new consideration with all the recent achievements of small wineries, with many of the best ones situated in Thrace.

Now, a new Vineyard Routes Project raises hope for the future of Thrace as an exciting upcoming target for explorers of taste and admirers of good life. The Thrace Development Agency has recently given support to the Thrace Tourism Association (TTID) to promote viticulture in the Thrace area.

Orhan Çebi, the president of the association, likes to quote the famous phrase of Julius Caesar as “Veni Vidi, Viti” inviting all to come and see Thrace and have a taste of their viticulture. The project includes 12 small wineries in Thrace, all producing exceptional wines in the Thracian region.

Turkey has a great past and history in viticulture, but good wine used to be scarce until a few decades or so. It was the small boutique wineries that raised the bar and started producing really inspiring and exciting new wines.

Emphasis on terroir and local indigenous grapes came from local producers, practically reviving the glorious, good old days when the wines of Kırklareli were shipped from the ports of İğneada directly to Venice, where it was much sought after.

Turkish wines are receiving great recognition from wine critics worldwide and receiving very high marks from all wine masters. It is astonishing that most of these vineyards are only within a couple of hours away from Istanbul. A day trip to one or a few of the wineries is easily possible, and soon an overnight stay in one of the wine houses will also be possible as some wineries are starting to build their own boutique hotels.

The Thrace Vineyard Routes project will enable the willing travelers to find the possibilities in the region, so if you want to explore about Thrace and its wines, just check their website, but the first step should be to visit the exhibit and grab the map of  Thracian wineries.

Recipe of the Week: This is a traditional recipe of stuffed vine leaves with lentils from the Tekirdağ region. It is customary to make this in the cherry picking season and enjoy it in the cherry orchards to take a break from cherry picking. Pick about 0.5 kg pound tender vine leaves. Of course, you can also use brined vine leaves, or just buy fresh ones from the local market. Finely chop 2-3 midsized onions and sauté in 1 cup of olive oil until it becomes translucent.

Lower the heat and add 1 cup fine bulgur, 2 cups red lentils, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1.5 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Finally chop a bundle each of spring onions, mint and dill. Mix in all the greens thoroughly and add 1 cup hot water. Cover, take it off the fire, and let it steep and absorb all the water. Meanwhile, blanch the vine leaves for 5 minutes in salted boiling water. Arrange a few on the bottom of a pan to line the pot. Cut off the stalks. Place a tablespoon of the lentil filling to each vine leaf, flatten the filling with the back of a spoon, and fold in two edges near the stalks, continuing to fold in other’s points of the leaf clockwise to end up in a polygonal bundle. Arrange the stuffed vine leaves in the pot in layers.

Pour in 2 cups water and a good drizzle of olive oil. Cover and let simmer on low heat until all the cooking juices are absorbed. Enjoy cold or lukewarm, preferably with a cool white or deep red from Thrace at sunset in one of the vineyards.

Bite of the week

Corks of the Week:
Twelve vineyards are part of the project, clustered in four geographical zones. The first zone, Tekirdağ and the vicinities include Chateau Nuzun, Barel, Barbare, Umurbey; the second zone covers the Şarköy area with Melen, Gülor, Chateau Kalpak wineries; the third zone is toward the border with Bulgaria, the region of Kırklareli and beyond with Vino Dessera, Chamlija and Arcadia; and finally the fourth zone is down by the Dardanelles on the peninsula of Gallipoli with the Suvla ve Gali vineyards. 

Fork of the Week:
Being an architect, I am not particularly proud of the uninspiring building of the Chamber of Architects in Karaköy. But surely it will be a destination this week to find out all about the wines of Thrace. The exhibit designed by Burçak Madran on the wine routes and participating wineries will be open until March 9 on the ground floor. You can enjoy a few good bites at Ferahfeza on the rooftop of the building to go along with your Thracian wines. Don’t forget to try their tomato basil fritters!