Mardin and Tekirdag, Turkey – As Gabriel Oktay Cili works in his small wood-panelled silver shop in the heart of the southeastern Turkish city of Mardin, several people drop off damaged jewellery, which he repairs with a decades-old blowtorch. But most visitors come to order and pick up his sweet, spicy homemade wine.
In the past two decades, numerous boutique wineries have cropped up across Turkey, competing in a burgeoning wine industry. Some proprietors are working to bring European winemaking practices to Turkey, while others – like Cili – are striving to revive the region’s ancient winemaking traditions.
Cili, 43, is Assyrian, a member of the ancient Christian community that has lived in the area around Mardin for thousands of years. He has been making his family’s wine with grapes sourced from local vineyards since the early 2000s and now produces at least 1,000 bottles a year.
However, he is one of many small wine…