“Ada! Please, come with me,” said Pınar to her daughter. Ada was laughing and running around in the garden. “We are on an island where kids are free to be happy”, I thought. We were having a rich breakfast with fresh tomatoes and homemade jams at Akarsu Kalyopi, a family-owned hostel in the center of Bozcaada. Ada (meaning island!) also lives there, with her parents and her grandma Seher, who has been running the hostel for more than forty years now. (Instagram: Kalyopi Bozcaada)
For those who are not familiar, Bozcaada is a wine island in Turkey on the Aegean Sea. It is one of the most unique places I’ve been to and it could truly be understood only when one visits this place. This is why I try to put as many photos as I could to pass the spirit of the island. This island is especially special to me because I fell in love with wine five summers ago during my first internship there. The island is full with vineyards lying along the turquoise sea and the hidden bays. I come here once in a while to forget world’s endless problems and to have wine talks with sincere people.
This time, I met with Haşim Yunatçı , the owner of Çamlıbağ Winery in his wine shop. Before we started our conversation, he brought me a glass of white wine, made out of a local red grape variety: Kuntra. “When phylloxera arrived in Bozcaada, the sickness first affected the white grape varieties. Therefore, my family started making white wine out of red grapes for a while. This wine is also my first trial with the same method after many years” he said and continued with some interesting details about the history of Bozcaada:
“Tenedos is known as the Greek name of Bozcaada and wine has been produced on these lands for centuries. The island used a currency called “Tenedion” which even had pictures of amphora and bunches of grapes. ”
The climate, soil and grapes:
The climate of Bozcaada is very suitable for winemaking. They have rain in winter and constant wind that protects the grapes from sicknesses. As Yunatçı explains: “Cavus is the main table grape here. However, it is very delicate and once it’s harvested, it needs to be consumed very quickly. For this reason, it has been losing its popularity on the island and overall in Turkey. Other indigenous varieties like Vasilaki (white), Kuntra (red) and Karalahna (red) are still common. However, tourism and increasing construction on the island has diminished the vineyard area on the island. We used to send 20 trucks of grapes to Istanbul. Today; probably only a truck leaves the island. For me, the old vines are like antiques and should be protected.”
Yunatçı narrates his own story: “Winemaking started with non-muslims on the island. In those days, one of the first winemakers, namely Izvingo Family, even constructed oak barrels that fit their boats and it is said that wines were even shipped to Athens and Romania. It used to be a remarkable source of income. Muslim families mostly sold their grapes to Greek families. My grandfather’s dad used to regret why they never used their own grapes to make wine themselves and in 1925, he finally had the courage to buy a factory. The same year, Yunatci family started making wine for the first time.”
Yunatçı explains that they were not able to make wine non-stop. They went bankrupt few times and the most destructive one was in 1960. Yunatçı’s grandfather moved to Canakkale and started growing olives. However, his father took over the winery again and today Haşim Yunatçı is still in charge.
“I have a chemical engineering background’ says Yunatçı. “However, I benefit more from hands-on experience. One should know how to deal with nature and climate and the basics of fermentation control. We do not need more technology to produce good wine. My grandfather used to say: A winemaker can only witness maximum of 60 vintages in his life. If you do not listen to my advice, you might lose 60 years of your life. That’s why I find our experience and know-how valuable. I specifically want to protect indigenous varieties on the island. I planted small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but my main goal is to promote Kuntra, Karalahna and Vasilaki.”
To explain in more detail, Kuntra is one of the local varieties in the area. It used to be planted with high yield and was used for cognac production. Nowadays, the winemakers work on lower yields to get the best complexity out of it and to use it for wine. It has a pale color just like many Pinot Noirs and shows red berry flavors with hints of earthiness. Wines from Karalahna grape have strong tannins and exhibit flavors of sour cherries and spices. They are usually blended with Kuntra or another international variety. Vasilaki on the other hand, is a white grape variety, creating fresh and fruity wines on the island.
I very much enjoyed tasting the wines of Çamlıbağ. They are simply natural, fruity with very high concentration. Apparently one of his Merlot is also sold in USA. Karalahna 2014 was also a great representation of the local variety with its well-integrated tannins, cherry aromas and earthy notes.
After an hour of talk, Haşim Yunatçı gave a call to Amadeus and I drove there to discover the winery, owned by an Austrian family. I had already been in contact with Oliver Gareis, the son of Hermann Gareis who established the winery. Oliver is also actively involved with winemaking. Unfortunately the family was not on the island and I didn’t have the chance to meet them in person, but I listened to their story from their great team.
Hermann Gareis had come to Turkey in the 1960’s with his wife Ingrid and worked here as a senior executive for many years. He was actually born in Graz and witnessed World War II very closely. In 1945, when he was 17 years old, the Russian soldiers were 30 km away from Graz and everyone in the city was asked to join the battlefront. Apparently Hermann received the summons one day later and he learned that the majority of his friends had lost their lives on the battlefront.
After those hard times, Hermann went back to sports and took lessons from Karl Schäfer, the legendary ice skater and won many awards in the following years. He met the love of his life Ingrid soon after and got married in 1958 and they had a son, Oliver Gareis who I’ve been in contact with. They discovered Bozcaada on a trip and fell in love with the island. They bought some land and started making wine as a hobby, which turned into a business as they launched their products in the summer of 2010. Today, on the island, they are called as “Hayri” and “İnci” and they speak fluent Turkish.
The couple planted mostly international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc. Grillo (an Italian variety) and Zlahtina (a Croatian variety) are two interesting varieties that one cannot find in Turkey elsewhere. Ingrid mostly makes the decisions in the vineyards and they are the only ones using high trellising system in their 4.5 hectares. They also have an Italian enologist who consults them in winemaking.
I bought two bottles of Amadeus before leaving the island, wishing that I had more space in my luggage to carry back to Zurich. All of their wines were very well made and shows great complexity. Also, keep in mind that they have a lovely wine bar in the winery. You can have a tasting and enjoy great tapas during sunset!
There are many other wineries on the island: Corvus (relatively a bigger player in the market), Talay, Ataol, Gulerada etc… However, I keep them as a subject of another article and another amazing trip to this island!