It doesn't seem too long ago that Turkey looked like the future. It had a booming economy and, moreover, a popular government that seemed to be able to combine Islam with tolerance, democracy and a broadly liberal outlook. It looked like only a matter of time before Turkey joined the European Union. At London’s Wines of Turkey tasting last autumn, the mood was buoyant.
A lot has changed over the course of the last year, thanks in large part to events in Turkey that have created a charged political atmosphere there: Last July, a terrorist attack on Ataturk airport left 41 people dead; there was a failed coup later that summer against Erdogan's Islamist government; and now a government clampdown has resulted in thousands of suspected antigovernment sympathizers being arrested.
Last year, Turkish wine looked to have a bright future. Now, the turbulent political situation means that the industry has reached a critical point. Winemakers need to urgently figure out how to boost export sales effectively, or else face a languishing home market in a country where people really don’t drink wine. It’s a problem, but it is also an opportunity to refocus the industry towards quality.