ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

Enological, or wine, tourism has long been popular in well-known wine producing regions such as South Africa's Western Cape, California's Napa Valley and France. But while Turkey's vineyards having graced Anatolia for thousands of years, they have thus far remained relatively unseen by modern tourists.
This is what Murat Yankı, the founder of the first company in Turkey to offer wine tours to foreign and domestic tourists, hopes to change. Generally, Vinotolia's tours involve a small group of guests staying at boutique hotels, touring wine estates and sampling products.
As one of the oldest wine regions in the world, Turkey has a particular advantage. �What we do at Vinotolia is slightly different from companies in other countries," Yankı told the Turkish Daily News, adding, �We offer enotourism within a historical concept; basically, we offer wine-themed history and culture tours.�

Come see historic Anatolia …
The Dionysus tour, for example, is the next scheduled tour. It begins at the İzmir Airport then traces the path of Dionysus through Anatolia while guests sample wines from producers such as Mey, Sevilen and Pamukkale. The group will spend two nights and three days traveling to Teos, the site of one of the greatest temples to Dionysus and the center of his cult, and then onto historic Pamukkale to sample wines made from indigenous grapes such as öküzgözü, boğazkere, and kalecik karası.
Other programs include a Homeric tour concentrating on the region where the Trojan War took place and a Hittite tour where the wines of one of the world's oldest civilizations can be enjoyed alongside historic sites that are not found in guidebooks, as well as many other wine tours.
Organized by Vinotolia's travel agency, Travel Atelier Tourism, which completes all the arrangements, tour groups range between five and 20 visitors. Vinotolia is very young, founded just four years ago, and has had a limited numbers of participants. With 190 people signing up for tours in 2006 and dropping to 95 in 2007 due to seasonal difficulties and the season generally being restricted to April through October, the company's overall goal is to host between 150 to 200 visitors annually.

… and stay for the wine
But these numbers are only for Turkish visitors visiting vineyards, and Yankı points out that the company Web site is also available in English, French and Japanese, bringing in some 50 foreign nationals every year. �Of course, our problem is we have difficulty putting Turkey and wine together and selling the idea abroad,� said Yankı. People often question why they would choose to visit wine producers in Turkey, admits Yankı. �Many foreigners see it as similar to taking a wine tour in Morocco or Tunisia. We have to assure them that they are touring the world's oldest wine producing lands.�
The industry is very dependent on the reputation of Turkish wines abroad, which has not been made widely known. �We only advertise among ourselves,� lamented Yankı, adding, �At the London Wine Fair last May, many of our wines won medals, yet any coverage only appeared in our own press. The firms used the opportunity to increase their market share in Turkey and so it didn't echo at all abroad.�

Turkey's first wine & travel program
On creating Turkey's first enological tour company, Yankı noted, �I wished to combine a personal interest in wine, having toured many wine estates while abroad, and my experience having worked as a multilingual tour guide for 20 years.� And few are as qualified as he to offer the tours, having taken wine courses in Italy, researched in France and completed the British Wine and Spirit Education Trust examination.
The next tour, the Dionysus tour, will take place from Aug. 22 to 24 at an all-inclusive price of YTL 590 per individual. Following that, the longer Homeric tour, from Aug. 28 to 31, will cost 710 YTL. For additional information, go to Vinotolia.