For the Love of Wine

For the Love of Wine by Alice Feiring is a great look at the raw (natural/biodynamic) wine movement in the Republic of Georgia and how Georgian wine has recovered out from under the thumb of Communist USSR.

Georgia seems to have finally passed the ‘up and coming’ stage and is now the new hip thing. Tourism is picking up, more Georgian restaurants are opening abroad, and Georgian wine is being consumed as quickly as it can be poured.

The quality of Georgian wine has been undervalued for years but thanks in large part to people making Georgian wine in traditional ways people are sitting up and taking notice. For the Love of Wine highlights a dedicated group making wine that is not only organic but raw and traditionally Georgian. Some of these people are young and new to the business, some are foreign upstarts, and some have been part of commercial wine making families for generations.

Feiring’s book introduces you to the people and wine methodologies in a narrative that is both heartfelt story telling as well as educational. It’s also a nice surface introduction to Georgian culture and history if you’re new to this magical country.

A really quick read, For the Love of Wine will whet your appetite for Georgian wine. Before you can finish the book you’ll wish you had some refreshing Mtsvane, a brooding Saperavi, or an amber qvevri wine to quaff.

Nıf Sangiovese 2012

Nıf is one of the Turkish wineries I have only recently become interested in. This is due in large part to its 2012 Nıf Sangiovese.

Based in Ege, Izmir, it’s one of Turkey’s Aegean region wineries. What makes Nıf especially interesting is that more than any other winery here I know, it focuses heavily on Italian grapes. In a country which favors French grapes the Italian grapes we see here are few and far between.

Nıf’s wines are not inexpensive. They run a gambit from about 70 TL (the Nıf Sangiovese was 69 TL at the Savoy Tobacco shop in Cihangir) to 140 and above. They are worth it.

Nıf Sangiovese

Nıf Sangiovese 2012 Tasting Notes:

I really liked this Sangiovese. It was pretty in the glass with a brilliant, clear ruby color and thick, fast legs. The nose was very rich, due I suspect to the eight months it spent in both French and American oak and the bottle time it had. Scents of raspberry and blackberry, vanilla, cinnamon, and a nutty aroma drew me in.

The palate was full of slightly tart fruits, tobacco, and meat with an earthy, medium finish. Tannins were full and round opening up into an elegant and balanced wine.

Paşaeli Karalahna Rose 2015

I had this 2015 Paşaeli Karalahna Rose at a tasting with Şarap Atölyesi. Not being a fan of rose wines I wasn’t terribly excited to be tasting this one but it really wasn’t all that bad. For a rose.

Before we get into this one a little about the grape. Karalahna is a native Turkish grape grown largely on Bozcaada and in spots around Tekirdağ. It is a thin skinned, dark purple grape capable of producing dark red wines with pronounced acidity and tannins.

Only recently have a few producers like Paşaeli made varietal wines with Karalahna grapes. It was recently thought that wines made from this grape would be commercial unsuccessful and it was used largely in blends as a coloring agent. Sounds a lot like Petit Verdot’s Cinderella story, no?

Paşaeli grows its Kralahna crop in a single vineyard in Şarköy, Tekirdağ. For this wine, the grapes are fermented in the ‘sur lie’ method for about three months in stainless steel tanks.  What does ‘sur lie’ mean? Simply put: lees are the leftover yeast particles that don’t get eaten up during fermentation. Often these are filtered out of wines but if a wine is left to age ‘sur lie’ or ‘on the lees’ these yeast particles impart a creamy texture/taste. Check out WineFolly’s great article to learn more about this process.

Tasting notes Paşaeli Karalahna Rose 2015:

The 2015 Paşaeli Karalahna Rose is a very pale pink, watermelon color in the glass. The nose was very summery with big red berries and strawberries. On the palate I also tasted a lot of strawberry with a little creaminess (thanks to those lees!) and a light amount of acid.

All in all for a rose-not too bad. I’m still not joining the pink wine bandwagon though.

Ktima Papaioannou Terroir Agiorgitiko 2004

Before E&M left Turkey they had a going a way party that really was just a ‘eat and drink whatever is still around’ party. Included in that were a few bottles of Greek wine they’d picked up while there visiting family.

This Terroir Agiorgitiko comes from Ktima Papaioannou. An organic vineyard, Ktima Papaioannou’s vineyards are located in the AO (Appellation of Origin) of Nemea. They grow a fairly wide variety of both native and international grapes including: Agiorgitiko, Cabernet Sauvignon, Roditis, Assyrtiko, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Touriga, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Verdot.

Terroir Agiorgitiko

The Terroir Agiorgitiko is a limited edition wine with only 4,500 bottles produced. It spent two years in oak and another in the bottle before going on the market. A high quality wine, it can age for another 10 years beyond its release date (i.e. until 2017). So having drunk it at the tail end of 2016 we got to it just before it would (theoretically) start to decline.

Before I jump into the tasting notes…Agiorgitiko? Like Öküzgözü and Bogazkere weren’t difficult enough? You could and call it by its more pronounceable alternative name: St. George. But once you get the hang of it it’s not all that difficult. Agiorgitiko is one of GReece’s most ubiquitous red wine grapes so learning how to get your tongue around the name is a good place to start if you’re exploring the Greek wine industry:

Ah-yor-YEE-te-ko

Terroir Agiorgitiko

Ktima Papaioannou Terroir Agiorgitiko 2004 Tasting Notes:

The Terroir Agiorgitiki is an intense wine. Everything from the deep garnet red color to the alcohol level (14% abv) clamors for attention. The nose is a sensuous dance of cherry syrup, chocolate, and nutmeg with a depth of oak. Elegant and balanced with silky tannins and a long finish the flavors melt together like a chocolate covered cherry.

My very first trip to Greece did not leave me with an overly favorable impression of Greek wine. As in any country table wine is a world away from thoughtfully-made quality wine. After trying more and more of these I am quickly becoming a fan of Greek wine.

The History of Wine in 100 Bottles

The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond by Oz Clarke is not a tome of dates and facts as dry as the pages on which its printed. Rather it is a collection of stories that illuminate the way history has shaped wine; and vice versa.

These quick to read essays cover topics in wine history both ancient and modern. The History of Wine in 100 Bottles explores everything from the growing science involved in viticulture and viniculture, the birth and evolution of the wine bottle as we know it, extreme wine, wine forgery scandals, and so much more.

I particularly enjoyed the way Clarke wrote this in short, digestible chapters. He doesn’t get mired in dry, extraneous detail. The essays are to the point, educational, sometimes shocking, and often amusing. Above all, they’re always interesting.

Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume

In the semi-recent past I lead a tasting called the Four Faces of Papaskarası. We tasted four of Chamlija’s Papaskarası wines: the Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Noirs Fume, Papaskarası, and Papaskarası Reserve. I’ve had the Blanc de Noirs before but this was my first go round with the Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume. It was not only my favorite of the night but everyone’s favorite!

I often feel spoiled as there are a number of wineries that ship directly to me; Chamlija being one of them. However there are a couple Chamlija wines for which I would pay the inflated retail price. The Blanc de Noirs Fume is one of them.

Chamlija Papaskarası

Papaskarası’s story is interesting. Papaskarası is a grape native to Turkey’s Thracian region with a history going back at least 1,500 years. It is not a well-known grape even in Turkey where it’s cultivated by few winemakers-namely Chamlija, Melen, and Edrine. Papaskarası grapes have the ability to make versatile wines that are aromatic, fruit-forward, and naturally highly acidic light bodied red wines and blanc de noir white wines.

Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume

Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume 2015 Tasting Notes:

I was really surprised by how light this was for a fume. You can see even in the picture how pale yellow the wine was. Even though I’d had the Blanc de Noirs before I really had no idea what to expect from the Fume. The differences were somehow both subtle and huge.

The nose of the Fume was full of white peaches, tropical fruits, and vanilla. In the mouth it was delightful. Absolutely delightful. Very nice acidity; fresh and lively. The flavors echoed the nose with more white peaches, tropical fruits (mango), and a hint of cream and butter.

At 12.5% abv and the refreshing flavors this was one of those wines that I call Dangerously Drinkable.  It slipped down very easily (perhaps too easily!) especially paired with the spicy chipotle chicken salad I was eating.

I see another order to Chamlija in my near future to stock up on this for summer drinking!

Villa Antonori Bianca 2015

I love Italian wine. Red or white. I don’t care. I love it all. And when you find a trusted producer, like Marchesi Antinori, you are guaranteed that even the lower end wines will be nice. Such is the case of the Villa Antinori Bianca 2015.

The Villa Antonori Bianca is a Tuscan wine. A white Tuscan wine! Surely not! Surely yes! Tuscany is not just about red wines. The red wines might be more well-known but there is no shortage of white wine in Tuscany.

Villa Antonori Bianca

Marchesi Antinori is the famed producer of Tignanello-the herald and (still) standard bearer of Super Tuscan wines. Antonori produces far more than Super Tuscans though; and they’ve been doing it for 26 generations. They have eight estates producing wine in both the Toscana and Umbria IGTs (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), three DOCs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), and three DOCGs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).

Antinori produces many high-end wines and are lauded, rightfully, for their excellence. It’s so nice to know that the same sense of excellence and commitment to quality extends to all their wines. The Villa Antinori Bianca being included.

Villa Antonori Bianca

Villa Antonori Bianca 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Villa Antonori Bianca is a testament to a master blender. The wine is a blend of five grapes: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Trebbiano, Malvasia Toscana, and Rhine Riesling. How a body is supposed to be able to pick out all those grapes is beyond my comprehension.

Straw yellow with faint green highlights the wine is full of light and life in the glass and the nose. The nose is aromatic; brimming with flowers and citrus. Flavors of lemon and grapefruit wrap around a highly acidic core. The acid was something of a surprise after the delicate nose but it was perfect for cutting through the saltiness of what we were eating.

It’s a lovely wine perfect for pairing or sipping on a hot day.

Barbare Libra 2012

Barbare is perhaps one of my favorite Turkish wineries. Their wines range from perfectly lovely to truly special and the Libra is no exception.

Sitting between the villages of Barbaros and Yazır in Tekirdağ, Barbare grapes are cultivated with organic and biodynamic farming methods. Founder Can Topsakal focuses on international, red variety grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

Barbare’s most important ideology and conviction is “to give back to the soil what it has taken” and as a result, is dedicated to cultivating the choicest grapes and organic farming. To endorse this commitment, Barbare received the hard-won Ecocert certification. Ecocert was established in France in 1991 and is an independent inspection and certification body recognizing and certifying organic farming and has been a benchmark in organic certification worldwide ever since.

Libra

Recently I hosted a wine and chocolate pairing tasting. I needed a Bordeaux blend to pair with the bitter chocolate so I took myself off to La Cave in Cihangir to find one. I had a few ideas in mind but as soon as I saw the Libra label all those ideas flew right out of my head. A Barbare wine I hadn’t yet tried?! How could this be??

It’s rare that I offer a wine at a tasting I haven’t already drunk myself. What if it’s bad? Or worse-what if I’m stumped and can’t provide accurate tasting notes to my group?! With a Barbare though I knew I wouldn’t have to even remotely worry about the first possibility. As for the second…it’s Barbare. I could tell people it smells of unicorns and they’d believe it because it’s that good.

(Because it’s that good. Not because I’m that convincing of a talker).

Libra

Barbare Libra 2012 Tasting Notes:

To begin, the Libra is not a shy wine. At 15% abv it is a big, powerful velvety fist. The nose changes and evolves a lot. Each time I went in for a sniff the Libra revealed new layers. Aromas of blueberries and herbs gave way to earthy tones of leather and tar which softened to reveal the wine’s oak influence. If deep, purple red could be a sensation then that’s how this would feel in the mouth. Luxuriant, velvety tannins wrap themselves around the tongue and linger for a long, rich finish.

This is a limited addition from Barbare with only 20,000 bottles produced.  I really hope that the Libra is part of a planned Zodiac series of wines. If it is; please you beautiful people at Barbare, make the Leo amazing!!

Kayra Leona Bubble

For years I avoided most sparkling wines. I found that almost all of them made me ill; instant migraine. Maybe I’m just getting more drinking practice now because that hasn’t happened in a while; freeing me to explore Turkish sparkling wines like the Leona Bubble.

Kayra, one of Turkey’s largest and most prestigious wine companies, produces two sparkling wines: Cameo and under its Leona label, Bubble. Both are relatively inexpensive although the Cameo (review soon!) is definitely the higher quality of the two.

Leona Bubble

There are six different ways to make sparkling wine: traditional method (Méthode Champenoise, méthode traditionnelle), tank method (or charmat), transfer, ancestral, and continuous (the Russian method) methods, and simply adding carbon dioxide. Wine Folly has a great article detailing each method; but briefly:

Traditional: In 2015 UNESCO awarded the traditional method, used largely to make Champagne, with heritage status. In this most celebrated, and expensive method, the base still wine is made as any other wine would be made then bottled. Then in tirage, the winemaker then adds yeast and sugar to the bottled wine to start the second fermentation and wines are bottled (and topped with crown caps). The second fermentation happens in the bottle. The CO2 gas created by the fermentation process has nowhere to go so it turns into liquid and dissolves back into the wine creating the bubbles. The wine is then aged, riddled, disgorged, a dosage is added (or not depending on the desired style), and finally corked.

Tank: This method, closely associated with Prosecco, starts out similarly to the Traditional method. However the second fermentation happens in a large tank. After the second fermentation ends, the sparkling wine is bottled without additional ageing.

Transfer: This method is nearly identical to the Traditional method until the riddling and disgorging. The bottles are emptied into a pressurized tank and sent through pressurized filters to remove the dead yeast bits (lees). Then, the wines are bottled using pressurized fillers.

Ancestral: This method of sparkling wine production uses icy temperatures (and filteration) to pause the fermentation mid-way for a period of months and then wines are bottled and the fermentation finishes, trapping the CO2 in the bottle. When the desired level of CO2 is reached, wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged.

Continuous: In this method, used by Russian sparkling wine makers, wine is moved from tank to tank each with a different purpose. After the base wine is blended, the winemaker continually adds yeast into pressurized tanks. Wines are then moved into another tank with yeast enrichments. Finally, the wines move into the last set of pressurized tanks where the yeasts and enrichments are settled out, leaving the wine relatively clear.

Carbonation: In this cheapest method, CO2 is added to the base wine in a pressurized tanks.

Leona Bubble

Kayra Leona Bloom Tasting Notes:

The Leona Bloom was made in the cheapest sparkling wine method of simply adding CO2 to still wine. However it is still a pretty decent bottle of fizz. A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Misket; it’s fresh, light, and utterly quaffable.

The nose displays a balance of aromas from the three grapes. A slightly musty aroma underlines peaches, white flowers, and grass resulting in a bouquet that is both fresh and deep. Tight bubbles burst with the ripeness of summer peaches and florals for a warm, albeit brief, finish.

A non vintage blend, like the majority of sparkling wine, this particular one was bottled in 2013. With only 11.5% abv the Leona Bloom is an easy and enjoyable drink.

Chateau Kalpak BBK 2011

Even before our trip to Chateau Kalpak with Em and AJ I’d had a few of their wines. One of them being the AWC Gold Medal winner BBK 2011.

Chateau Kalpak is the love child of Bülent Kalpaklıoğlu who began developing the vineyard in 2003. It was not until 2010 that he released his first vintage. His goal for Chateau Kalpak is to create a single chateau-style wine from a single vineyard. In order to achieve this, he picked the best root-stocks and clones of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot to match the vineyard terrior.

Only two blends are released annually: Chateau Kalpak and BBK. They harvest, ferment, and age (30-36 months) each parcel (about 1 hectar) separately. At Chateau Kalpak they use Hungarian oak barriques made out of wood selected for their balance, bouquet, and character. This establishes the basis of their “Chateau Wine”. From their they spend months conducting extensive blend studies for the Chateau Kalpak label. The remaining wines are re-blended to create the BBK label.

BBK 2011

Chateau Kalpak’s story and process are absolutely worth a deeper look and I suggest checking out the website (link above). Bülent Bey elevates wine making to a form of fine art with his thoughtfulness and attention to detail. All of which has paid off for him. Not only does he make beautiful wine but he has the gold medals to prove it. Chateau Kalpak is the only vineyard in Turkey to win a three star rating (2014) from the International Wine Challenge (AWC) in Vienna. Additionally they received six gold and three silver medals from the AWC and three gold medals from the Concours Mondial Bruxelles.

Chateau Kalpak BBK 2011 Tasting Notes:

The BBK might be Chateau Kalpak’s second wine but that in no way means it’s an inferior wine. In fact personally I liked the BBK 2011 more than I did the same vintage Chateau Kalpak. A bold blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot with a 14.7% abv, the BBK 2011 is a wine to be taken seriously.

The nose is a dark, romantic mystery. Aromas of black fruit, baking spices, dark chocolate, and mocha wrap your senses like a silken cocoon. Beautifully balanced with velvety tannins, the BBK held us in thrall and continued to develop and open as we sank into its spell. In addition to the black fruits and dark chocolate from the nose; clove, vanilla, and caramel each vied for their turn to take center stage. The long finish lingered with flavors of smoke and a hint of meat.

We made a pilgrimage in that bottle and found the light. It might have been a brilliant ruby light, but we found it.