Turkey’s ‘wine dream has been halted’

Turkey’s ‘wine dream has been halted’

Demet Cengiz
Turkey’s ‘wine dream has been halted’

Hürriyet Photo

The Turkish wine sector is suffering from marketing restrictions brought about by new alcohol regulations, as the country’s wine makers continue to lose ground against newcomers in the market such as Georgia, Moldova and Israel.

One of the most recent examples of the sector’s plight is the recent cancellation of the annual Masters of Wine Weekend in Istanbul, which had allowed the promotion of Turkish wine to the world and attracted some of the world’s most experimented oenologists.

The organizer of the event, which had been held for four years up to this year, Yunus Emre Kocabaşoğlu, said competitor countries in the sector had learned crucial tactics from Turkey.

“Georgia was trying to promote itself for years with the motto, ‘The land where wine was born.’ They learned about holding events of such quality from us. One of my students is now working in one of Georgia’s projects. Moldova entered into contact with us and wanted us to organize an event for them. There is even demand from Israel,” Kocabaşoğlu said.

One of the Masters of Wine oenologists, Sarah Abbott, blamed the recent legal changes in Turkey for the recent drop in wine exports.

“The Turkish wine dream has been halted. Georgian wine is still relatively new to the U.K., but its overall exports are booming … Wine for them is a symbol of hope, renewal, civilization and prosperity.

Although the culture in Turkey is quite different, for you too I think that wine has this role of representing a nation - a nation that is at peace with itself, outward looking and confident in the future,” said Abbott, while also stressing the importance of wine for cultural tourism.

“Governments must protect the wellbeing of their people, and it is right that the sale of alcoholic drinks should be controlled. But the ban on all marketing of wine is needlessly damaging to the Turkish wine sector,” she added.

Another Master of Wine, Tim Atkin, also regretted that a “great opportunity has been lost” with the cancellation of the Masters of Wine event in Istanbul.

“It’s a shame that the government’s policies are undermining the industry at a time when so many people want to taste Turkish wines. Like Turkish cuisine, wines should be regarded as an asset to the country,” Atkin said.

A law that entered in force last year banned all advertisement and promotion of alcoholic products, including shop signs that included alcoholic brands.

The new regulations were carried through after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized that the anis-flavored rakı was sometimes considered Turkey’s national drink, instead praising the virtues of the salty yoghurt-based refreshment ayran.