Viticulture and wine making on the island has a heritage of 3000 years, reaching from the past of the island to the present. The grape bunches on the coins of Tenedos date back to 5C BC, and many old sources which mention Bozcaada wine from Homer to Evliya Çelebi’s travel book carry the traces of this deep rooted tradition.
The island, whose domination was fought over because of its strategic position, encountered different cultures at different times. All these cultures had a point in common though, and that was the connection they had with the vineyards. The north winds, a gift of nature to this small Aegean island create the ideal environment for viniculture. It is as if the island’s peculiar climate and the soil got together to choose the right plant for growing and carried it to this day from years ago.
Almost half the island is covered with vineyards. Their appearance, which changes with the seasons, together with the vineyard houses are the indispensable images of the panorama of the island.
It is possible to talk about grape types special to the island. The grapes for making red wine are Kuntra and Karalahna, for white Çavus and Vasilaki
are used. The white grape ‘Çavus’ is identified with the island and the
most delicious ‘çavus’ is found here. In recent years some other brands
from other countries such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah have
stared to be grown and it seems that they have adapted to the geography
of the island.
Other than traditional viniculture, there are high tech and wire systems both of which have become popular in the last few years. Irrigation is not used on the island’s vineyards and the protective measures applied are close to those of organic agriculture.
It is a fact that the islanders have been engaged with viticulture for centuries. It is impossible not to think of winemaking wherever grapes are grown. For many years winemaking was in the hands of the Greeks. The Turks kept away from winemaking due to religious reasons for many years. However, after 1925 they also begin to become involved in winemaking. In the years between 1960-80, this tradition of the island reached a peak. In these years there were 13 wine manufacturers. With the 80s a period of unproductiveness began which continued until the government aid of 1998. After this date, the modernization of the manufacturer’s buildings, the growing of better quality grapes and the steps taken to becoming brands perhaps herald a return to the good days of Bozcaada wine making.
Viticulture and wine making are two subjects that people talk the most about. Viticulture is learned early in life. There is virtually no adult who does not know how to make wine. Vineyards require careful attention all through the year, because for good wine you need good grapes.
The grape stumps that sprout as the spring flowers blossom, the grapes ripening throughout the summer, whetting one’s appetite, grapes rushed to the ferryboat in crates, the sharp perfume of grapes filling the streets of the island and the clinking glasses at tables that bring together friends. The pleasure you will get from drinking an island wine is not only because of its good taste, but because it makes you part of the story yourself.
The whole of Bozcaada is a natural and historical preservation site. Therefore, all construction work and restoration has to be approved by the Committee for the Historical Preservation of Cultural and Natural Goods. Due to strict control, no unlicensed construction is seen on the island. The historical architectural fabric is preserved and restorations are made taking into account the original architectural style.
The centre of the island has two neighbourhoods, one of the Turks, the other of the Greeks. In the old days they were separated by a stream. As their names suggest, in the Turkish neighbourhood, the population consists mostly of Turks, and likewise there are more Greeks living in the Greek quarter. Naturally, the architecture in each of these two areas reflects their own cultural characteristics.
In the Turkish quarter, there are one story houses and two story houses with bay windows, winding streets and small squares. The Greek neighbourhood has been re-established after the great fire at the beginning of the 1900s. It was built according to the grid plan used in many of the ancient cities which consists of intersecting streets of approximately the same width. Big or small, there are no squares among these streets.
Outside the centre, there is no large settlement. As for buildings, only houses belonging to the vineyards are seen.There are two types of vineyard houses according to their appearances. Those that are one story high and without a slanting roof are called ‘dam’, meaning flat roof, and those that are two stories high are called ‘kule’ meaning tower. These houses are small, simple structures, mostly built of stone and are were used by the people as lodging when they worked in the vineyards.
In those days, when transportation was done by
animals only, to go to the island centre and come back was so
time-consuming for the vineyard labourers that they stayed here in the
summer when there was a lot of work to be done in the vineyards. They
went to sleep on the flat roofs as they watched the stars.
The vineyard houses are used as summer houses nowadays.
Thanks to a shared past of more than 500 years the interaction between
the Rum and Turkish inhabitants has enriched Bozcaada’s cuisine. The
island’s cuisine has many similarities with the Northern Aegean cuisine.
Seafood, red meat, wild herbs, and olive oil are frequently used on the
Together with the start of spring the wild herbs seasons begins. Nettle, Cibes, Chicory, and many more are being picked and used. These herbs are used for preparing meze, salads, and börek. Early in spring is the best time to eat red meat on the island, especially the local lamb and sheep dishes are popular amongst the island folk.
Special to the island is its rabbit. If you visit the island during the ‘Yerel tatlar’ festival you can taste this old ‘Rum’ delicacy on the food bazar.Squid and octopus are the most commonly used seafood on Bozcaada. You will find the most diverse dishes made from either calamari or octopus, such as calamari kokoreç, calamari dolma, octopus prepared on charcoal and many other dishes.
When the vineyards start to live up and flourish again, the green grape leaves are being plucked and pickled for the use of different dishes at home and in the restaurants. Raw dolma is a typical Bozcaada dish, in which raw fillings are stuffed inside of pickled grape leaves. Another special Bozcaada dish is grilled Sardine wrapped in grape leaves.
One of Bozcaada’s oldest cafes offers you homemade syrup, jam and liqueur of corn rose. Do not go by without tasting some.
An old Rum tradition is to offer tomato or fig jam beside a coffee. Another old Rum custom is making jam of Bozcaada’s big and original mulberries.