Introducing Anatolian grapes to the world
The brand Vinkara Şarapları (Vinkara Wines) is now frequently heard because of their product “Yaşasın,” the first real sparkling wine produced in Turkey. I recently had lunch with the head of the executive committee of Vinkara Wines, Ardıç Gürsel.
The story of Vinkara starts with land bought in the 1960s in the village of Kalecik, known for its Kalecik Karası grapes, near Ankara. The buyer of the land was the Kiska Group, operational in the construction sector and tourism with its Marmara hotels. Gürsel’s father, Oğuz Gürsel was the founder of the group.
Grapes were planted in 2003, many years after the land was bought. The vineyards are formed but because there is nobody in the Kiska Group who has his or her heart in winemaking, the product offered does not make anybody happy.
In 2007, Gürsel stepped in and started working with Italian oenologist Marco Monchiero to upgrade the quality of the wine.
After five years, Vinkara Wines received one prize after the other in international competitions.
In Kalecik, they have 420 decares of vineyards on a total of 540 decares. They indeed overwhelmingly grow the Kalecik Karası grapes but, as Gürsel said, they grow all together about 20 types of local and international grapes. “Our real concern is to promote the grapes that have been grown in Anatolia for centuries, to make them known to the world because people now hold an expectation for different grapes,” Gürsel said.
Imagine there were 400 types of grapes in Anatolia at one time. Now, there are only eight to 10 types left.
In Vinkara, they have invested 18 million Turkish Liras, according to Gürsel, and they produce nearly 1 million bottles a year. The company is not expected to record profits before 2017. Now, their only concern is to upgrade the quality to its utmost point and promote Turkish grapes abroad.
Vinkara Wines have now been sold at the UK online retail sales site, Wine Society, for a couple of months and they will soon come onto the U.S. market.
Vinkara Wines have a high chance in the U.S. market because the customers at The Marmara Hotel in Manhattan are already accustomed to the brand.
The Kiska Group, which has started building a second hotel again in New York on the plot it bought on 57th street, is a significant support for Vinkara Wines.
Meanwhile, according to Gürsel, who has been dreaming of introducing Anatolian grapes with foreign wine lovers for years, one of the best ways of doing this is to offer a few Turkish wine brands to passengers on Turkish Airlines (THY) alongside French wines.
Actually, THY, which has undergoing an immense development in recent years, is popular among foreign passengers also for its catering services, but to what extent will THY executives take into consideration Gürsel’s suggestion I don’t know.
When it comes to what is the apple of Vinkara Wines’ eye, it is no doubt “Yaşasın” champagne. For the first time in Turkey this champagne was produced with the “methode Champenoise,” in other words with the method used in France’s Champagne region. Last year only 6,000 bottles were produced.
“This is an especially difficult method. We took care with almost each of the 6,000 bottles,” she said. According to Gürsel, the Yaşasın brand will shape the sparkling wine consumption habits in Turkey.
Head of the Executive Committee of Vinkara Gürsel is not the only woman who has set her heart in wine.
I can also count the head of the Executive Committee of the Sabancı Group Güler Sabancı who has created the Gülor brand from grapes she has grown in Şarköy in Tekirdağ Province; and Doluca Wines member of executive committee responsible for marketing Sibel Kutman who has made a major contribution in boosting the interest in wine in Turkey.