Special Consumer Tax: Beating the grape grower

Special Consumer Tax: Beating the grape grower

Two separate invitations came by mail this week, both from two female wine producers.

The first one was an invitation from Sibel Kutman, one of the third-generation owners of Doluca Wines, to the event “Istanbul is Raising its Glass.” The second was from Vinkara wine producer Ardıç Gürsel.

In her invitation letter, Gürsel said: “We are thrilled to present Turkey’s first natural sparkling wine. We will taste our sparkling wine, the one we have been working on for almost two years, together with our oenologist, Marco Monchiero.”

“Istanbul is Raising its Glass,” which is led by Sibel Kutman, is in its sixth year this year.

As part of the activity, 75 different wines, both from Turkey and from the world, can be tasted in prestigious venues of Istanbul without having to buy the whole bottle, Kutman said.

Juxtaposing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comment this week about the new Special Consumer Tax (SCT), “Don’t smoke and drink less alcohol” with the invitations from Kutman and Gürel, one gets an interesting picture of Turkey.

On one hand there is the government that is increasingly hinting that it is against alcohol consumption, and on the other hand, there are a handful of people who are trying to breathe new life into winemaking, an Anatolian tradition that is thousands of years old, just like olive oil production.

Sevilen Wines in the most romantic restaurant

Winemaking in Turkey has come an remarkably long way in the past 10 to 15 years.

The Güney district on the Aegean coast, the name of which we had not heard of years ago, is now considered the “Bordeaux of Turkey.”

The finest wines of the country are produced in vineyards covering 3,000 hectares owned by winemakers such as Kavaklıdere, Doluca, Pamukkale and Sevilen.

It is possible to find quality Turkish wines in outstanding restaurants around the world. For example, if you go to the Michelin three-star Fat Duck restaurant in London, you can find Sevilen Centum.

Sevilen’s third-generation boss, Enis Güner, cracked a piece of good news when talking about the SCT, saying London’s most romantic restaurant, Clos Maggiore, would soon include Sevilen wines on its wine list.

Having spent years promoting Turkish wine, Güner is perplexed by the recent SCT hike.

Financial power versus taxes

“There is strong state support behind the Chilean, South African and Argentinean wines that have opened up to the world. Powerful financing is needed for promotion. The more taxes increase my cost, the less I have financial power,” he said.

According to Güner, with the latest SCT hikes, the price of table wines will increase 15 to 20 percent.

“Those who are buying four bottles of wine a week will drop down to two. But the majority of wine consumption in Turkey is in the field of tourism anyway,” he said. According to his figures, of the 50 million liters of table wine consumed annually in Turkey, 80 percent comes from the tourism sector.

“We mostly serve tourism. The government should understand this. Now, the cheapest wine will be around 4 euros. The cost will be reflected on tourists involuntarily. Thus, unrecorded production will accelerate,” Güner said.

Meanwhile, the grape growers, the quality of the grapes of which is constantly increasing, are also victims of the tax.

Güner is quite right when he says: “The government is moving against alcohol but wine should be separated. If I cannot sell my wine, then I cannot buy the product of the wine grower. The sector of wine growing is close to recovery with new investments.”