Having once ruled an empire stretching from Algiers to Budapest to Baghdad, the energy and ambitions of the Turks are now driving them to conquer new territory: the world apricot market.
The push to create a global apricot council is coming from Malatya, an eastern province of Turkey whose soil and climate are famed for nourishing the world’s sweetest apricots. An estimated 65 to 80 per cent of the world’s supply of dried apricots comes from here. But the region is determined to build its reputation in the world of apricots in order to take an even bigger share of the global market which is worth about $2.5bn (€1.8bn).
A council promoting high international standards would help Turkish apricots, says Osman Ipek, foreign trade manager for Güzel Can dried apricots in Malatya. “Our apricots are sweeter and look more vibrant than the Californian variety,” he says. While it’s hard to provide product information with the fresh fruit, he suggests labels with more detailed information about quality, nutrition and origin could be easily added to bags of dried fruit.
Malatya MP Mehmet Sahin has great faith in the potential of an official industry body to regulate the humble apricot and give his region greater economic significance. “Apricots are a strategically important product,” he says. “We should use this to our benefit.”
Politics: When Barack Obama called on the EU to import more Turkish apricots last year (he supports Turkey’s EU membership bid) the Malatya region responded by naming a variety of the fruit Apricobama.
Health: Apricots are thought to help strengthen cardiac muscles and so speed recovery for heart attack patients.
Cash: Turkey made nearly $279m (€206m)from dried apricot exports in 2009, according to UN figures. France is the second biggest exporter, but it is way behind, making just under $10m.
This year’s Vinitaly trade fair in Verona saw growing numbers of independent winemakers choosing to work with little-known grapes. Monocle talks to Piedmont-based Walter Massa.
How is the market for forgotten, indigenous grapes?
I revived Timorasso, a white wine grape with a very thick skin that has the flavour of white plum. Now you see dozens of people growing it – next year, production should double to 180,000 bottles. After Italy, England is the biggest market. I've had interest from Singapore and Japan. I used to sell 100 bottles and now I am selling in the thousands. In San Francisco wine bars are offering three types of Timorasso now.
What needs to change in Italian winemaking?
In Italy, we have over 100 different grapes but there’s been a push to homogenise their taste so they are easy to sell. Take Nero d’Avola in Sicily. The wine should evoke a mix of sea and countryside but growers have been trying to make it taste more like berries to appeal to more drinkers. Winemaking should not be about financial enrichment.
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A symbol of Italy’s coffee culture has fallen victim to globalisation. Bialetti, whose simple metal stovetop espresso maker, which it calls Moka, is a fixture in most Italian kitchens, is shutting its factory near Milan (pictured) and moving production to low cost Romania. But will Italians keep buying the 91-year-old firm’s trademark product?
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