The country has an ancient winegrowing tradition, since at least in the 4th millennium BC there were already cultivated vineyards in Anatolia, in the region of Transcaucasia (which together with Mesopotamia is considered the cradle of wine culture) and on the coast of the Caspian Sea. Excavations in the city of Catal Hüyük, built in the 7th millennium B.C., have found representations that suggest that wine was already being produced at that time. According to a naturally unverifiable hypothesis, an ancestor of the grape variety Kalecik Karasi was allegedly known to the Hittites as early as ~1,500 BC. Close to the border with Armenia is the famous Mount Ararat, where, according to a story in the Bible, after the Flood Noah landed with his ark and "became a winegrower". According to the latest research, the origin of the cultivated grapevine or the winegrowing culture is said to lie in south-east Anatolia.
The Islamisation of the country and the associated ban on alcohol led to the first cut in the 8th century. In the Ottoman period (1300-1920) only Christian minorities such as Greeks and Armenians were allowed to produce wine with high taxes. In the Tanzimat period, from the middle of the 19th century, viticulture was revived and exports rose - due to the phylloxera catastrophe in Europe - to 30 million litres per year by the beginning of the 20th century. After the Peace of Lausanne in 1923, large areas of land had to be ceded to Greece, among others, and the majority of the Greek minority, which was important for viticulture, left the country, there was another decline.
From 1925 the new republic under the liberal political leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) tried to revive viticulture. The statesman, known as a wine lover, paved the way for private wineries. In 1926 Nihat A. Kutman founded the "Maison Vinicole" (later Doluca) winery in Istanbul. The next was Mehmet Cenap And in Ankara in 1929, who named his winery Kavaklidere (Poplar Valley). The most important wine-growing areas are located in the Aegean region in the west of the country, where the climate is wetter than in the dry interior and where two thirds of the wine is produced.
This is the European part of Turkey with the regions of Marmaris and Thrace (Bilecik, Canakkale, Edirne, Kirklareli, Tekirdag), and the Aegean coast of Anatolia (Denizli, Izmir, Manisa). Smaller areas are located on the Black Sea (Corum, Kastamonu, Samsun, Tokat), in Central Anatolia (Kirikkale, Kirsehir, Nevsehir, Nigde), Eastern Anatolia (Elazig) and Southeast Anatolia (Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Mardin, Sanliurfa). In 2012, the total area under vines of 497,000 hectares ranked fifth in the world behind China, but only 546,000 hectolitres of wine were produced (see also Wine Production Volumes).
Turkey is the world's largest producer of table grapes and the second largest producer of raisins, accounting for around three quarters of the grape harvest. Both are mainly produced from the Sultana variety (Sultaniye). Traditional products made from grapes are the honey-like grape syrup Pekmes and the fermented grape juice Hardaliye. There are many hundreds of autochthonous grape varieties, often not officially registered. The list of grape varieties includes the Celtic varieties with a negligible share of only 13,000 hectares:
The Multi Mey Icki Sanay (formerly state-owned Tekel) produces or distributes a large part of the spirits and wines (owned by Diageo since 2011). Other production companies are Diren, Doluca, Karmen, Taskobirlik and Kavaklidere. Among the most famous brand wines are the red wines Buzbag, Villa Neva and Yakut as well as the white wines Cankaya, Thrakya (Sémillon) and Villa Doluca (Sultaniye and Sémillon). But the most important alcoholic drink is raki, made from dried grapes (almost exclusively from Tekel), to which aniseed is added. The annual per capita consumption of wine is less than one litre. Great efforts are being made to catch up with western quality standards.