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The 3 Most Exciting Places to Drink Wine in Istanbul

The 3 Most Exciting Places to Drink Wine in Istanbul

Visiting Istanbul 25 years ago, oenophiles were more or less limited to a single wine available at restaurants: a red produced by Kavaklidere. Few servers knew what grape it was made from, or much else about the producer (one of Turkey’s leading wineries), but it did pair well with lamb. 

But Turkey and the Tigris-Euphrates River valley have been home to grape cultivation and winemaking since the fifth century B.C.E.—indeed, the country is among the largest producers of grapes in the world, with about 30 of its indigenous varieties (plus familiar grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) used to make wine. Still, the country’s roughly 150 producers face numerous challenges, including low domestic consumption and a 2013 law that prohibits advertising or marketing of wine or spirits. And yet today, there’s much to enjoy for the visiting wine lover—and not just at international hotels with fully stocked bars. 

Istanbul, home to iconic landmarks including the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, and the Basilica Cistern—and now the second most-visited city in Europe behind Paris—is undergoing a cultural, culinary, and winemaking renaissance. (Michelin made its first trip to the region last year, awarding stars to seven restaurants.) Here, we list a trio of favorite spots around the area for raising a glass. 

Foxy Nişantaşi 

Michelin Bib Gourmand–rated Foxy is situated in Nişantaşi, a popular neighborhood for shopping and nightlife. Partner and wine specialist Levon Bağış focuses on low-intervention wines from native varieties. Our favorites: Vinolus Kalecik Karasi, which has polished tannins and flavors of black cherry and clove, and Vinkara Yaşasin, a traditional-method Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine with notes of grapefruit and toasted almond—while meze and small plates cooked by chef and co-owner Maksut Aşkar (whose other spot, Neolokal, has a Michelin star) have an Armenian and Greek slant in honor of Bağış’s heritage. 

Suvla Kanyon 

Located in a large indoor-outdoor shopping center that also contains local outposts of international restaurants such as Wagamama and Serafina, Suvla Kanyon features wine made with local and international varieties (by the glass, by the flight, and by the bottle) from family-owned producer Suvla. Try the Boğazkere-Öküzgözü blend, with velvety tannins wrapped around pomegranate, sage-leaf, and jasmine flavors. Small and large plates include bruschetta, pizza, charcuterie, and traditional meze; the industrial space with slate and concrete floors, meanwhile, opens to a charming rooftop garden. 

Seraf Vadi 

With a list that includes 10 pages of Turkish wine, two pages of well-known international producers, and a three-page cocktail and spirits menu, Seraf is one of the city’s top wine and dining destinations. Chef Sinem Özler is as proud of her large Anatolian wine collection as she is of her modern takes on traditional Turkish cuisine. Meze such as içli köfte—a cross between a meatball and a dumpling—and small roasted onions stuffed with rice and spices will whet your appetite for rich lamb dishes alongside reds made from varieties such as Öküzgözü and Kalecik Karasi. Our top pour, the Vinero Porta Diverti, is a Bordeaux-style blend from Thrace offering lightweight tannins, flavors of blackberry, vanilla, and dried thyme, and a soft, refreshing finish.

Source: Robb Report

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