Despite Turkey’s vines being some of the oldest in the world, Turkey is not known for its quality wines. In fact, aside from a few exceptions, until about 15 years ago wines coming out of Turkey were largely undrinkable. However, during the naughties the quality of Turkish wines took a turn for the better as wealthy investors began to channel money into promising wineries. Existing producers upgraded their facilities and brought in knowledgeable consultants. Today, there are around 140 registered producers in Turkey, with 50 of these large and reputable.
Today, the four largest Turkish wine growers (Kavaklidere, Kayra, Sevilen and Doluca) produce up to eight million litres each annually, and finally, quality wines are beginning to flow outside the country’s borders, with a select few earning prestigious international awards.
Istanbul is at the epicentre of the Turkey wine boom. Locals and foreign visitors alike are flocking to the city’s wine bars to imbibe Turkey’s best wines and sample the new varieties that are popping up all over Turkey.
Here, we give you a rundown of the best wine bars and restaurants in Istanbul
Buyukhendek Caddesi 5
Hidden down a small side street near the Galata Tower, this cosy wine bar serves Turkish wines from all around the country, and complements them with a variety of local and international cheeses. If there are four or more of you they offer wine tastings for about 30 TL per person. The cave-like space is a great place to escape the hectic city while sampling a huge selection of Turkish wines. You might need to make a reservation if it’s a weekend as this is a popular joint - a perfect chance to sample some Turkish culture on an adventure from your Istanbul hotel, and a great night out on any given day. .
Kayra Wine Center
Abide-i Hürriyet Cd Bolkan Center B Blok No:211
Kayra is one of Turkey’s largest producers of wine, with vineyards all over the country. The Kayra Wine Centre is the company’s headquarters, and functions as not only as a place to sample some of the best wines around, but also as an educational centre for promoting wine culture, learning and appreciation in Turkey. Located in Beyoglu, the public can visit a bar, restaurant and a shop, as well as attending classes in wine tasting, appreciation and food and wine pairing. A few of the classes are in English, so look into sessions on “Anatolian Grapes” and “Rare Turkish Wines.”
Viktor Levi Sarap Evi
Viktor Levi was a sardine fisherman’s son from Gallipoli. He would occasionally visit Bozcada, an island in the northern Aegean famed for its vineyards. Eschewing the fishing trade, Levi opened a winehouse in Istanbul in the early 1900s, serving up Bozcada wines to locals. The winehouse remained in the family until 1967, when it was turned into a cafe. In 1999 it was bought by Feyzi Buyukerol and restored to its near-original state. Viktor Levi is located in a historic three-storey wooden mansion and is famous for its beautiful wine garden, cosy interior and of course its range of local and imported wines. You can get a three course meal for two, with a bottle of wine, for around 100 Euros. There is a second Viktor Levi establishment in Beyoglu.
Siraselviler Cd No:55
Mimolett was voted Istanbul’s best restaurant in 2010 by Time Out Istanbul, and this restaurant and wine boutique is certainly deserving of the accolade. This elegant French restaurant is located in a beautiful old mansion, and as well as offering more than 350 different wines, serves up Mediterranean a la carte and degustation menus, cooked by Michelin Star chef Murat Bozok.
Yeni Carsi Cd No:44
This intimate bar offers a dazzling array of more than 1100 wines, including local and imported wines such as Shiraz, Malbec, Okuzgozu, Bogazkere and Merlot. English is spoken and the extremely knowledgable staff are happy to help you with your wine selection. Wines are complemented by meze and sharing plates. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed. However, this tiny space is often packed and you might find you need to wait for a table. If you enjoy the wine you sample you’re welcome to buy some to take home at a 25% discount.
Corvus Wine & Bite
Sair Nedim Cd No:5
Corvus’ wines and foods hail from the island of Bozcada, where Corvus Vineyards are located. This modern, elegant wine bar is a space for people to sample the 25 Corvus wines on offer, which include red, white, rose and dessert wine. The food available includes speciality cheeses from Bozcada, including Kars, Konya and Nigde, and dishes with exotic and flavoursome ingredients like beef ribs with buttered wheat and grape molasses. The staff are knowledgeable about the food and drink they serve, and speak good English. You can buy wine to take away, as well as tasty Bozcada cheeses.
Lamartin Cd No:11
Rouge is a wine bar, restaurant and shop rolled into one. Owner Mehmet Yalcin, who founded Gusto Magazine, is an authority on wines and spirits and has selected more than 260 local and international wines. Turkish wines include Kavaklidere, Doluca, Turasan, Pamukkale, and Likya. You’ll also find reputable champagnes and wines from some of the best wine-growing regions in the world. Staff speak good English and are happy to help you select a wine to enjoy. The decor could be described as ‘eclectic but casual’, with soft mahogany fittings and striking artwork on the walls. You can order a wide range of snacks and larger meals to complement your wine drinking, including some pretty decent seafood dishes.
Turkish wines to watch: these award-winning wines are some of Turkey’s best.
Doluca Ozel Kav (red)
This award-winning deep red wine comes from Bogazkere and Okuzgozu grapes grown in the Diyarbakir and Elazig regions and has aromas of carnation, vanilla, damson and blackberry. Wonderful served at 16-20 degrees with red meat and pasta.
Sarafin Merlot is a deep, ruby coloured wine made from Merlot grapes. Light with a strong body, it’s good with red meat and pastry and served at 16-18 degrees.
Sarafin Cabernet Sauvignon
This full bodied, dark purple-ruby coloured wine is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, giving it a vanilla flavour to complement the Sauvingnon grape. The Sarafin Carbernet Sauvignon is good with red meat with heavy sauces and served at 16-18 degrees.
With its aroma of dried fruit and fig, this deep red wine has a rich, strong and sharp taste of fruit and spice. An oak aftertaste is due to the 12 months the wine spent maturing in oak barrels. Enjoy with red or white meat.
Sarafin Chardonnay’s strong body and acrid taste mean it’s perfect for a main course. Its beautiful straw colour and Chardonnay flavour have won this wine a handful of prestigious international awards. Serve at 8-10 degrees with spaghetti and fish.
Vinkara Wines Kalecik Karasi
Kalecik Karasi grapes are grown in Kalecik, near Ankara. The wine is well balanced and full of red fruit aromas, with vanilla, cacao and red fruit flavours. Serve this ruby-coloured wine with meat and cheese.
This red, rich dry wine is redolent with oak, fruit and spice aromas and the standout flavours are cherry, blackberry, raspberry and plum. It goes well with cheese and poultry and is best served at 16-18 degrees.
Sarafin Sauvignon Blanc
With a yellow and green colour, Sarafin Sauvignon Blanc has a rich aroma of green apple, green plum and fresh spices. This fruity, dry wine is best served with seafood and spicy food. Serve at 8-10 degrees.
The only dessert wine on our list, Safir has an aroma of citrus fruits, honey and daisy with a sweet and smooth taste. Serve at 6 degrees, with desserts: cakes, ice cream and fruit.
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