What makes wines of Turkish Thrace interesting is of course the ancient history of viticulture, but also a number of myths. On one side, the region is known as the birth place of Dionysus, the Thracian God associated with wine; on the other side, as the source for wines of Byzantine Empire.
Thrace region is shared by Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria and it offers a much bigger diversity in Turkey than in its neighbours in terms of geography and history.
Geographically, although very small, it bears a greater diversity of climate than any other region in the world. In terms of climate, Thrace bears all the climatic zones of Turkey. Black Sea climate in the north, continental climate at the center and Aegean climate in the south create an incredible advantage for viticulture, making it possible to cultivate a great variety of wine grapes in such a tiny region. While in the north cool climate grapes can be grown and wines with crisp acidity are obtained from them, the southern part can be an ideal zone even for grape varieties that require big heat.
There’s no international grape variety which is not grown in this region. Besides the international ones, at least 2,000 year old native grapes continue to please palates of wine lovers since Byzantine times.
Historically, the region is very important for the history of wine production and trade as well. Several shipwrecks excavated by archeologists in the sea of Marmara at the south of Thrace witness the brilliant past of wine trade dating back to 9th to 13th centuries. One of these ships sank with 21,000 amphorae, which makes it the biggest cargo of ancient times given the volume of production in the area. Most of the amphorae are of the Ganos type where the wine production has flourished since ancient times.
The diversity of terroir is remarkable in Thrace which helps to have very diverse wines. While Gallipoli Peninsula reflects characteristics of Mediterranean climate, Şarköy-Gaziköy coastline on Marmara Sea is a very old terroir. The central and northern parts of the region with Luleburgaz, Kırklareli and Edirne areas on the other hand, attract with a true wine renaissance, as well as several UNESCO World Heritage sites and a Citta slow (part of an urban program of slow food movement). While Gallipoli offers the memories of the battlefields of Gallipoli campaign of the First World War, Edirne is worth seeing with the Selimiye Mosque, an UNESCO World Heritage and Kırklareli, home to Longoz forests, another UNESCO biosphere protection site.
WHEN TO GO AND FOR HOW LONG?
Thracian wine region can be best visited from early May, the time of the year when the vines start to turn green and the weather becomes stable. The region is beautiful until at least late October, even mid November thanks to its mild climate.
Day trips from Istanbul to Tekirdağ, Luleburgaz or Kırklareli area are possible, however an overnight stay or two will be ideal to discover the many historical and natural sights in vicinity, or to visit the whole wine area, the vineyards in Gallipoli area and reach Aegean Sea.
WHERE TO GO?
In the region there are basically 3 wine areas:
The first area covers the north and centre of Thrace. You can visit the historical town of Lüleburgaz (near Arcadia Vineyards) and further north the Istranca mountains offer many hiking sites and cave visits. The ancient town of Vize is also a a citta slow now, the only town in Thrace making part of urban program of slow food movement. Ancient capital of Ottoman Empire Edirne is also well worth visiting with its historical monuments.
The second area follows the coastline of Marmara Sea. Encompassing the beautiful city of Tekirdağ the road takes the wine tourist to Yazır village and its vineyards, and to admire the beutiful view on Marmara Island known for its wines in Byzantine times. The road ends in Şarköy wine area and the very charming village of Hoşköy that hosts some small and middle scale wineries as well.
The third zone on the other hand includes the southwestern part of Thrace with Gallipoli Peninsula and its vineyards and historical sites around Dardanelles strait which connects the Marmara and Aegean Seas.
Historical city of Edirne with its gastronomical treasures; fried beef and lamb liver.
Try Hardaliye in Kırklareli which is an indigenous drink of Thrace. The drink is produced mainly from grape juice mixed with Mustard (condiment) and marzipan.
Visit the small town of Vize with the ruins of the only Roman theatre of Thrace and St Sophia Church converted to Süleyman Şah Mosque.
Hike in Istranca Mountains, recognized as a Biospheric reserve area by UNESCO.
The only important festival in the area happens in Edirne. It is a 600 year old traditional festival of wrestling named Kırkpınar.