Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In pursuit of a dream: the story of Likya Wines



Long associated with apples, Antalya’s Elmalı district is acquiring a new reputation as a center for winemaking thanks to the ambitious efforts of Burak Özkan, the head of Likya Wines.

Nestled into the Toros Mountains of southwestern Turkey is the small town of Elmalı. It is a quiet, conservative town, where a deep breath taken on an autumn morning is a divine gift of nature. An early morning sun gathers shadows from the valley floor and at day’s end, the high mountains capture the last rays of the setting sun, transforming their peaks into cascades of golden light that darken into rose, pink and, at last, to a delicate peach before slipping into a star-studded mountain night.

Elmalı’s name translates as “a place where apples are grown,” and it is aptly named. Apples have grown in this alpine valley for hundreds of years. It would be easy to suspect that not much of any importance ever happens here in Elmalı, but its history flows back to a time when it was not apples grown here, but vineyards that produced excellent wines. There are records dating back more than 3,000 years from the ancient Hittite city of Hattuşa indicating that merchants traveled over a thousand kilometers to buy wines here, and during Ottoman times it was an important trading and administrative center for caravans.

All that is now gone, with only apples remaining as the town’s main crop. When walking the stone-paved streets of this old Turkish town, it would seem the people of Elmalı might be content to grow apples forever, but change appears to be on the horizon thanks to the efforts of one man.

Something from the ancient past has returned to invigorate the slopes and inclines around Elmalı. Using land where orchards cannot be cultivated with great success, the beautifully tended vineyards of Likya Wines follow the uneven contours of the valley in orderly rows, bringing promise of a whole new agricultural industry.

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