To really to know someone’s heart, you need to understand their passions and pursuits. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke12:34) Turkey definitely has a treasure of wine in their heart.
For the month of October, #winestudio (an online educational program) focused on the heart of Turkey, specifically, Turkish Wine. And I got to be right in the middle of it! Protocol winestudio invited this wine lover to join them in experiencing Turkey’s growing wine renaissance. It was an amazing educational tour and it created a taste for turkish wine. Which is a good thing, right? Our energetic and enthusiastic tour guides into this popular Eurasian destination were VinoRai Importers from Seattle who focus exclusively on Turkish wine. Each week, we explored Turkey’s history, culture, indigenous grapes, wine regions, wineries and challenges. And here’s the best part: we got to taste the wine.
Turkish Wine: Rubies in a glass
Beginning with an amazing viticultural history, Turkey lays claim to more than 800 indigenous varietals. They were also the savior of European wine drinkers during the 1800s phylloxera epidemic in Europe. Today, Turkey cultivates the 4th largest vineyard area and has the 6th largest grape production in the world. However, for the modern Turkish winemaker, any marketing of the wine or winery is strictly prohibited by the current government. So being able to share their heart through their wine is almost an insurmountable challenge. But I think impossibilities often open the door for creativity and invention. One way wine producers are overcoming this obstacle is by ruling in the export market. This is good news for western wine drinkers! It also reminded me of the vines in arid climates whose roots are forced to grow several feet deep for water and yet produce some of the most sought after vintages.
Vineyard in Turkey
The most prized of these indigenous varietals is Kalicek Karasai (kah-LE-chic KAR-ah-sehr), a beautiful blue-black grape varietal grown in Cappadocia which is located almost directly in the center of the country. Cappadocia means “mountain door” with high altitudes, hot summers, cold snowy winters, scarce water, volcanic soil and unique rock formations called “fairy chimneys”.
Cappadoccia Fairy Chimneys
Our tour guides took us through a tasting of two red wines in order to give an idea of Turkey’s wonderful indigenous grapes. The first was Turasan Kalicek Karasi 2013 (kah-LE-chic KAR-ah-sehr). Now try pronouncing that name five times. Fortunately, just saying Turasan will do! The Turasan Winery, where this bright ruby wine is produced, is basically the wine pioneer of Cappadoccia. It was the first privately established winery in the region and has been now for 3 generations. The Turasan Kalicek Karasi was a bright red beacon in the glass and gave ripe fruit, tart cherry and red currents with vanilla aromas. A hint of vanilla was on the finish. It was even better on the second day with more complex flavors and dryness with pronounced red currents and hints of strawberry.
The second wine was Diren 2011 Karmena Red Blend. This blend contains five grape varietals. Five. The cornerstone is the indigenous grape, Okuzguzu (oh-cooz-GO-zoo). Rounding out the line up are three internationals: 30% Syrah, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon with one hearty native tying them together; 10% Bogazkere. The Karmena Red Blend hits the bull’s eye with lots of spicy, ripe fruit, full dark berries and loads acidity.
The indigenous grape has similar characteristics to Syrah and Malbec with earthy, plum qualities but the acidity and spice shone through. On the second day, Karmena’s acidity mellowed and there was vanilla, with a meaty taste almost like BBQ brisket on the finish. Yeah, I know a bit weird, but really appealing! It was very unique. It made one stop and ponder it’s taste. On a side note: If you happen to make reservations at a restaurant with Karmena on the wine list, I suggest calling ahead to have them decant it just to experience the unique finish. Karmena reminded me of Bordeaux that just gets better and better the next day.
“Throat Burner” Bogazkere
Well, just like most extensive tours, this one included a trip to the seashore. It was in the bottle of Yazgan Bogazkere 2013. Bogazkere means “Throat Burner” and it definitely lived up to its name! It was full-bodied, dense tannins, sweet and sour cherries, and plums. Dry with 13% alcohol. Although a bit rustic, still enjoyable and delicious. Crazy, I know. Most times you want to avoid something that sounds dangerous but the only danger here was an empty bottle! The Yazgan winery in Izmir has four generations of wine producers. However, the indigenous grape itself is grown in southeast Anatolia with hot, dry diurnal summers and cold, wet winters. The soil ranges from sandstone to red clay. I understand red clay since we’ve been blessed with an abundance of it in Oklahoma. And now that I know the “throat burner” might thrive in it, I need to plant a vineyard.
The final destination on our turkish wine tour was the Gallipoli peninsula in the Thracian part of Turkey. Kavur Vineyards offered their Gali 2011 Evreshe for the wine tasting. Gali means “beautiful, precious, extending beyond limits”. Gali 2011 Evreshe is comprised to 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc and tasted of dark fruit, raspberries, lots of acidity and a long finish. Interestingly, the wine is aged for 12 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels. It lives up to the old world style with lots of rustic charm.
Gali Vineyards overlooking Gulf of Saros
It was a pleasure to discover the beautiful wine that flows from the heart of Turkey and to meet some of their passionate turkish winemakers. At the moment, you can experience this turkish delight in Washington D.C. and Montana. Yes, that’s right! Apparently the clear mountain air makes rugged cowboys long for turkish wine. It can also be ordered directly from a few online wine retailers. However, I hope as awareness grows, turkish wines will began to find homes in wine shops across the west.
If you find a turkish wine, be bold and try it! The quality and uniqueness may amaze you. Besides, international travel via a glass of wine is always a great adventure without having to use a pass port.
These samples were received from VinoRai Importers through Protocol WineStudio in order to get me to fall in love with Turkish wine. They succeeded. I received no other compensation.