IT’S only taken about 7,000 years, but Turkey is finally making a name for itself as a winemaking hot spot.
Modern vineyards are popping up across the country amid the ancient ruins to ensure it is firmly on the viticultural map.
While the Thrace and Cappadocia regions are arguably most famous for their grapes, I’d decided to focuse my attention on the lesser-known south west, specifically the Aegean coast.
It’s home to several award- winning producers and has the added benefit of encompassing the chic Bodrum peninsula — full of breathtaking bays, exquisite cuisine and historical landmarks.
Could there be a better combo?
The first stop on my wine tour was Karnas Vineyard, just 30 minutes from Bodrum city centre.
The family-run boutique winery is tucked away in a valley set back from the coast and offers sweeping views of its luscious surroundings.
It mainly produces Zinfandel grapes due to the fertile soil and balmy microclimate which is similar to that of the Napa Valley.
But the team at Karnas, who live upstairs, make several other wine varieties too, including Syrah, Vermentino and Cabernet Franc, totalling around 35,000 bottles a year.
I opted for a wine-pairing lunch while I was here, which involves four courses, all made from locally-grown produce and each accompanied by vino.
The nearby Garova and Mor Salkin wineries are all so close to one another you could easily spend a boozy afternoon sampling the best from all three.
Staff will walk you through everything in detail. If you get really into it, then there’s always the option of venturing further afield to Sevilen, Lucien Arkas and Yedi Bilgeler, which sit north towards the city of Izmir.
But I was keen to get back to Bodrum to do some exploring.
Dozens of superyachts line the bays in this Turkish city as well as the nearby Yalikavak, known as the St Tropez of Turkey.
With a pristine promenade and designer shops on every corner, it’s a magnet for the rich and famous — Mick Jagger, Kate Moss, Tom Hanks and Bill Gates have all graced its cobblestone streets.
We were staying at the 5H Lujo Hotel, which has ultra-sleek rooms overlooking the blue ocean, several fresh water pools and even its own “night club” on the beach.
If you’re on more of a budget, the Diamond Of Bodrum Hotel will place you in the thick of the action, plus it’s just a 20-minute walk from the harbour where you can hire a boat to sail the coast.
After boarding our traditional wooden vessel, the Gulet Bodrum Queen, we spent the day exploring several shimmering coves, then kayaking over to white stone beaches and lazing in the sun with an ice cold glass of local wine.
We felt like celebs on our luxury yacht experience, but it turns out you don’t need to be minted to give it a go as a full day on board the 12-person Gulet Bodrum Queen will set you back around £108.34pp (book with guletecapes.com).
A glamorous yacht day was followed up with a more local tradition, meze at the Marina Yacht Club restaurant.
Like you’re playing musical chairs, you take your seat in a restaurant then immediately stand up and head straight for the kitchen where, in front of the busy chefs, you view your extensive options in a glass cabinet before pointing at what you’d like to order.
I’d recommend anything with aubergine. Fried, baked, roasted, mashed or pureed, each version I had was full of flavour.
If you really want to do it like the locals do, you must wash it all down with a glass of Raki.
Made with twice-distilled grapes and aniseed, it’s the go-to meze spirit and is best served topped-up with water.
Feel like a movie star
But as someone who hates liquorice, it’s definitely not for me (I was on the wine again).
It’s not just the food that’s great about this Turkish coastal region.
Bodrum sits on the site of Halicarnassus, which once held the Mausoleum — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
It is also home to a 15th-century castle and Museum of Underwater Archaeology, which houses one of the oldest prehistoric exhibitions in the world.
And just outside, there is the village of Etrim, where families have been making traditional Turkish rugs for hundreds of years.
I received a red carpet welcome from Engin Basol, who grew up in the area and explained the intricacies of double-knotting.
I watched in awe as his mum Ummahan, in her 60s, threaded, weaved and cut multicoloured strings at lightning speed.
After having a go myself, I can see why one rug can take up to a year to complete.
Carpets go for anything from about £70 to several thousands of pounds.
And the best way to avoid being ripped off, Engin tells me, is to turn a rug over and look at the white dots on the back.
The smaller they are, the more expensive it should be as it’s of superior quality and took longer to make.
When you’ve had your fill of culture, it’s definitely worth squeezing in some heart-pumping adventure activities while you’re there, like jet-skiing, horse riding or an off-road quad bike safari.
Not only will hurtling over waves or galloping through fields blow away the cobwebs, you will feel like you’re a movie star doing it.
Bodrum is the perfect blend of ancient and modern. I’ll drink to that – and local wine, of course!
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Four nights’ all-inclusive at the 5* Lujo Hotel Bodrum is from £1,775pp, including flights from Stansted on October 16.
Seven nights’ all-inclusive at the 3* Diamond Of Bodrum Hotel is from £719pp, departing from Stansted on October 3. See jet2holidays.com, or call 0800 408 5594.