Thrace, the European part of Turkey, has borders with Greece and Bulgaria and a coastline with the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. In between lie mountains, rivers, the Igneada Longoz Forest, Europe’s largest floodplain forest and an astonishing number of vineyards and boutique wineries which carry on the centuries’ old tradition of wine making in Thrace which goes back to even before Roman times.
These vineyards are linked by the Wine Route which reaches from Suvla, passing Tekirdag and north towards Kirklareli. Following this route is a unique experience, something very different to do on a trip to this part of Turkey.
I was lucky enough to have been invited on a five day press trip to Thrace by the Trakya Development Agency and two of these five days touched on the wine route.
First stop was the Barbare vineyard in Suleymanpasa/Tekirdag not far from the Sea of Marmara. It’s only in existence since 2000, but the 230 acres spread over a small hill and the favorable climate are already producing very fine Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.
Everything is organic and biodynamic, grapes are picked by hand and immediately transferred to the winery so they don’t lose any juice along the way.
We strolled along the vineyard and were regaled with one of the best Turkish breakfasts I have ever tasted. It was more like a full meal with dish after dish, all washed down….no, not with wine!!! With tea and coffee.
The proud owner then took us to the winery proper, explained the process and let us admire the barrels, bottles and specially designed corks. No screw top wines for this brand. And, strangely, no wine tasting either.
The next stop, Arcadia vineyards in Luneburgaz/Kirkareli turned out to be quite an adventure.
As the winery sports also a brand new boutique hotel which opened only four months ago, we were scheduled to spend the night there. If only we would manage to arrive! After Kirkareli we turned off the main road, darkness fell, no street lighting, no other buildings, not even a village in sight and we could only hope that our driver knew where he was supposed to go. In the end, he did, but it was a long drive and I can only recommend to any future visitors to undertake this part of the wine route in daylight.
What lay in store for us was well worth a spot of anxiety along the way. The owner who greeted us was as friendly and helpful as could be. He explained to me that his aim was to make his guests feel like members of his (large) family and to enjoy the unique combination of a luxury boutique hotel in the middle of 200 hectares of vineyard which also include a farm, chickens, rabbits and a very friendly dog.
The luxuries didn’t take long to appear either. A large pool, glorious hamam and sauna and best of all, a outdoor Jacuzzi which you could slip into in the middle of the night and look at the stars or in the early morning and watch the sunrise.
After yet another fabulous Turkish breakfast we were shown the winery and listened to explanations as to how Arcadia employs the most advanced methods to produce Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon without the use of any chemicals or pesticides whatsoever.
On our departure we learned a very special Turkish gesture: a glass of water was thrown after our coach. The water symbolizes that we should have an easy journey just like water flows and should return soon equally just as water does.
As far as I am concerned his wish for my return may well come true.