Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Chamlija Mavrud 2015

I had a chance to visit Chamlija’s tasting restaurant a while back. While there I learned that they produce so many more wines than those that make it to the Istanbul market, including the Chamlija Mavrud. Before our visit I had never heard of the Mavrud grape but I won’t forget it now.

Mavrud is a red wine grape that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines, indigenous to the region of Thrace in Bulgaria, particularly around the city of Plovdiv. The grape’s name is likely derived from the Greek word “mavro” which means black. However there’s a nice legend that goes with this grape which gives an alternate version of how the grape got its name:

In the early 9th century, the Bulgarian ruler Khan Krum forbade drinking alcohol and demanded that all vines in the country be uprooted. Krum’s army was undefeatable and one young man in particular excelled in battles. Upon return from yet another successful military campaign, Khan Krum decided to pay a visit to the mother of the brave young man to show her his respect about the way she had brought up her son. In response to his praise, the mother humbly replied: “Mighty Khan Krum, I need to confess something to you. Here in my backyard I kept a vine tree despite your orders. Every morning I was feeding my son wine and bread and that is why he came out to be such a strong man.” Instead of punishing her, Khan Krum allowed her to keep the vine tree and named it after her son. Needless to say, her son’s name was Mavrud.

Image result for mavrud grape

Mavrud grape. Photo credit: Bulgarian Wines Tours.com

The Mavrud bunch is large, winged and relatively heavy. The grapes themselves are small and spherical with thick and tough skin. Mavrud is a late ripening variety that needs warm temperatures. It does not do well in the cold. It is possibly the most highly prized (local) varietal in Bulgaria. And that leads to the question-why are we talking about a Bulgarian grape in connection to a Turkish winery?

Luckily that’s an easy question to answer. The Çamlıca family emigrated to Turkey from Kubadin, Razgrad, in northeastern Bulgaria. Mustafa Çamlıca is the third generation of the family to farm in Turkey’s Thracian region. He is also the founder and head of Chamlija Winery, one of the most prolific and quality wineries in the country.

I’ve only had Mavrud one other time, when I visited the Todoroff Winery in Bulgaria. Their Boutique Mavrud was my favorite of their wines. So how does Chamlija’s compare?

Chamlija Mavrud

Chamlija Mavrud 2015 Tasting Notes:

Despite the rather serious, heavy-looking grape, my experience with Mavrud so far has been that it makes light to medium bodied wines. So it was not surprising that the Chamlija Mavrud (12% abv) followed suit. Mavrud takes well to oak; this vintage was aged for six months. While that might have helped tame some of the wine’s naturally high acidity, it didn’t kill it.

The nose was lovely; full of red and ripe fruits like strawberry, raspberry, and cherry highlighted by hints of milk chocolate. It might sound like I’m starting to describe everyone’s new favorite dessert but this is not a sweet wine. While milk chocolate mellowed the fruits in the nose, the flavors were all tart, juicy fruits. The palate hinted only a little at tannins but the floor show was all about the acid.

The bright, lively acid and juicy fruit flavors make this a fantastic choice for summer drinking. It’s a perfect barbecue day wine that’s not too heavy for summer drinking and which would pair really well from everything to grilled meats and cold pasta salads. 

Büyülübağ Ada Karası 2015

I have not explored Büyülübağ’s wines as much as I should have. My first introduction to them was with one of their Vedat Milor* wines. It wasn’t until one of my first all Turkish (language, not wines) tastings with Monşer Ilhan‘s group that I really discovered these wines.

It was Christmas Eve and Alp Törüner, founder of Büyülübağ, lead us through a vertical tasting of his Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Törüner’s family has had a huge French influence, two of his aunts are French and brought a lot of French culture to the family; including the practice of drinking wine with meals. This is why he decided to work largely with French varietals.

Despite this, his goal is to make more widely known Turkish varietals and to improve their quality. As the only winemaker on Avşa Island he is also the only producer making wine from the local variety, Ada Karası. And it is about the Ada Karası that we’re talking today.

Ada Karası 2015

Büyülübağ Ada Karası 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Ada Karası is a light-medium bodied wine with 13% abv. The nose on this jeweled garnet colored wine is intense with eucalyptus, black pepper, and black fruits. Think black cherry and blackberry. Racy acid with lowish tannins, the palate displays a lot of black fruit and black pepper flavors. 

Mr. Törüner seems to not believe that he has quite yet perfected his Ada Karası. If and when he does get it any more “perfect” though I will be thrilled to try it because I quite liked this one the way it was.

Suvla Kınalı Yapıncak 2015

Suvla makes three different versions of its Kınalı Yapıncak: the Suvla Kınalı Yapıncak, the Reserve Kınalı Yapıncak; and now even a Kınalı Yapıncak sparkling wine. While they’re all very different wines; they’re all lovely in their own respect.

I’ve had an earlier vintage of this one but either never made notes or lost them. This one I had again at a dinner party hosted by a friend of mine. An easy-going wine it pairs well with a variety of foods and is therefore a great bottle to bring to a dinner.

Suvla Kınalı Yapıncak

Suvla is a family owned wine producer established by Pınar Ellialtı and Selim Zafer Ellialtı in 2003. The vineyards are nestled in the historical Peninsula of Gallipoli, between the North Aegean coast and the Sea of Marmara where they cultivate a wide variety of grapes. The whites include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne. The reds include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache Noir, Petit Verdot, and Pinot Noir. In addition Suvla produces several indigenous grape varieties, including Kınalı Yapıncak and Karasakız. In 2013 Suvla switched to organic viticulture. As a result they received a certification of ‘Good Agriculture Practice – GAP’.

Suvla Kınalı Yapıncak

Yapıncak is not an easy grape to talk about because it’s rather uncommon. To my knowledge only Suvla and Paşaeli produce it. It is a Turkish grape native to Turkey’s Thrace. I feel that this is a wine made in the vineyard and is terroir-driven. Suvla’s Kınalı Yapıncak and Paşaeli’s Sofuköy Yapıncak, both from 2015, are very different wines.

Suvla Kınalı Yapıncak

Suvla Kınalı Yapıncak 2015 Tasting Notes:

While the Suvla Kınalı Yapıncak is a pale, straw yellow it is still, at 13% abv, a wine to be reckoned with. The nose is delectable; redolent of white peaches, flowers, and delicate pastry. The palate is creamy and supple with white flowers and stone fruit with a hint of steely flint.

Really a lovely wine, the Suvla Kınalı Yapıncak is also attractively priced. As with many of Suvla’s wines you’re getting more than you paid for with this one!

Chateau Kalpak BBK 2012

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 2012

Forgive the blurriness!

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 currently 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.

Previously I reviewed the BBK 2011 so let’s see how one year later measures up.

Chateau Kalpak BBK 2012 Tasting Notes:

The BBK 2012 is a deep, dark purple-ruby in the glass. The nose is intense with black fruits. vanilla, baking spices, and a whiff of mocha. On the palate the wine was initially tart and tight. However as it had a chance to open the flavors grew warmer and jammier. Balanced if a little bit heavy it certainly fits the Bordeaux profile that is Chateau Kalpak’s goal.

Ktima Palivou Nemea Agiorgitiko 2014

My Greek wine education began with my friends E&M. E’s family is Greek and her frequent trips to the country the last few years have netted many opportunities to sample wine that she brings back to Istanbul. One of the wines she brought home last year was this Ktima Palivou Nemea Agiorgitiko 2014.

Ktima Palivou (Palivou Estate) is one of the two largest wineries in Greece’s Nemea PDO (protected designation of origin). Its main effort is with the Agiorgitiko grape variety but the estate also cultivates  Rodites, Malagousia, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. In order to take advantage of the various microclimates and soils the estate has vineyards in various locations around Nemea. All of them are organic.

Nemea Agiorigtiko

Before we talk about the Ktima Palivou Agiorgitiko let’s tackle the grape. And most importantly, how to pronounce it! Agiorgitiko (Ah-your-yeek-tee-ko) is one of the most common black wine grapes in Greece. It is cultivated mainly in the Peloponnese, specifically the Nemea PDO. There are many synonyms for the grapes, some easier and some more difficult to say! The one I’ve come across most often though is St. George.

Agiorgitiko commonly displays aromas and flavors of red fruits, blackcurrant, strawberry, sour cherry, plum, cherry, etc along with sweet spices, cloves, and cinnamon. Aging makes these wines more complex as they develop flavors of nuts, herbs,  and tobacco. They have excellent aging potential.

Palivou Estate Nemea Agiorgitiko 2014 Tasting Notes:

The Palivou Estate Nemea Agiorgitiko is an excellent example of what this grape can do. After harvest it macerated for five days before aging a total of 12 months in a combination of French barrels (equal parts in new, second, and third use). The wine then aged an additional six months in the bottle before release.

The care they took here resulted in a big, (14% abv) complex wine showing off all the character of which the Agiorgitiko grape is capable. The nose is deep and layered with red fruits, vanilla, chocolate, toasted wood, green bell pepper, and whiff of meat. Tannis are a bit aggressive but balance well with the acid. Rich with a long finish the wine displays flavors of cherries and black currant, vanilla, and a lot of wood.

Chamlija Alvarinho Reserve 2015

I have written about Chamlija’s Albariño twice now and will again with every new vintage they produce. This gem though is not the Albariño, but the Alvarinho Reserve. Before we talk about the wine, lets talk about the grape.

Albariño and Alvarinho are the same grape. Like Syrah and Shiraz it simply has a different name depending on location. Albariño is the Spanish name and Alvarinho the Portuguese name. Generally quite aromatic, Albariño grapes make wines that are fruity and light with lively acidity. I have yet to drink a rendition of this wine that I don’t love; especially in the heat of summer when you want a refreshing and zippy wine!

Albariño is also a perfect match for those difficult to pair foods. It goes beautifully with Indian, Thai, and other spicy foods. Because of its high acidity it also pairs well with creamy foods. I paired this a creamy white, pork sausage lasagna.

Alvarinho Reserve

Chamlija Alvarinho Reserve 2015 Tasting Notes:

In the glass the Alvarinho Reserve is a light gold. It is exceedingly aromatic and chock full of ripe peaches and lemon. The palate is slightly creamy giving a nod to the 10 months it spent in French oak. The peaches, citrus, and a minerality all come through. While there’s plenty of acid to fully balance the wine, there’s a full richness from the oak that rounds it out for an elegant finish.

I really thought I couldn’t possibly like a Chamlija white more than their Albariño. I was wrong. The Alvarinho Reserve is gorgeous and definitely a cut above the (still lovely) Albariño!

Gali Saros Blend 2010

It has been years since I’ve written about Gali. Granted Gali doesn’t have the output some of the other wineries here do but considering how much I enjoy both the eponymous blend and the Evreshe Bordeaux blend it is a little shameful. So let’s talk about the Gali Saros blend. But before we get there, a little about Gali itself.

Gali Saros blend

Gali’s story began in 2005, when founder, Hakan Kavur, acquired 48 hectares of land in the Gallipoli Peninsula. The goal was to manufacture a single wine, ‘GALİ. They planted about 24 hectares of land with 78% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In November 2011 they released their first wine, the Gali 2009 blend.

The 24-hectare vineyard is situated right where the Gallipoli Peninsula connects to the mainland and offers magnificent views of the Aegean and Marmara seas, the Dardanelles, and the Gulf of Saros.

Saros
Gali Saros Blend 2010 Tasting Notes:

The Gali Saros is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. After hand harvesting the organic grapes they are fermented in stainless steel and then aged in French and (other) European oak barrels. This was a fairly sediment heavy wine with a brick-red garnet color. The nose was medium intense with aromas of cooked fruit, chocolate, smoke, and meat. For me the balance could have been a little better; the acid felt quite high. However I really liked the coffee flavors that came through on the finish.

Arcadia A Cabernet Franc 2011

Cabernet Franc is one of those grapes that I really want to like. But somehow I never quite manage it. There are a few exceptions. One is Chamlija’s. Another is Arcadia’s.

Father and daughter team Ozcan and Zeynep Arca established Arcadia Vineyards in 2007 to make and showcase terroir-driven wines from Northern Thrace. On their 350 hectares they grow nine different types of grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Sangiovese, Pinot Gris, Öküzgözü, and Narince.

Arcadia

The name Arcadia is steeped in local history. The vineyard is located near the village of Lüleburgaz which was known as Arcadiapolis. In addition, in mythology Arcadia meant “a unique beauty garden that resembles a paradise on earth.”

Arcadia

From planting the vines to vinifying the grapes, they insist on careful production methods and minimum intervention, so that their wines can express the unique terroir of their beautiful vineyards. Arcadia wines are all made from estate-grown fruit and processed in their on-site, gravity-fed winery. With assistance from viticultural consultant Prof. Dr. Alain Carbonneau and onologic adviser, Dr. Michel Salgues, Arcadia creates quality minimal-intervention wines fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in French barriques. Arcadia produces all their wine under one label name (Arcadia) but six with distinct series: Fresh, Ilktepe, Mono, Finesse, Odrysia, A, and their botrytised 333.

Arcadia A Cabernet Franc

Arcadia A Cabernet Franc 2011 Tasting Notes:

Arcadia definitely took care with their Cabernet Franc. This estate-bottled wine spent 12 months in French barriques and went through only a limited amount of filtration prior to bottling. While it wasn’t fully filtered the wine was still very clean, no cloudiness, with little to no sediment.

The nose is a little shy. However after a while in the decanter and some swirling it revealed delicate red and black fruits, tobacco, and hints of cocoa and cola. A bit sweet on the palate, fruit-forward, with supple tannins and an elegant finish.

Domaine Laroche Chablis 2015

I have long been an anti-Chardonnay person. It wasn’t really until my introduction to wines from Chablis that I realized why I dislike Chardonnay…and why I love it. But before we get into the Laroche Chablis or my complicated relationship with Chardonnay let’s discuss what is Chablis.

Chablis is an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) from the northernmost wine district of the Burgundy region in France. The only allowable grape grown in Chablis (in order to be classified in the AOC) is Chardonnay. Wines in Chablis are nearly always vinified without oak, instead fermented and aged in stainless steel or other neutral containers. They are known for their purity of aroma and taste and are characterized as having aromas of citrus and white flowers, light bodied with zesty acid and flavors of citrus, apple, and pear with a distinctive shell-like minerality and salinity.

Laroche Chablis

Sherlock either disapproves, is jealous and wants some wine, or is trying to kill me. I can never tell.

So what’s my deal with Chardonnay? When I first started drinking wine my Chardonnay experiences were largely with California wine. American wine makers are gradually moving away the super heavy use of oak but the heavily oaked, buttery, burnt sugar and caramel flavors of the past Chardonnays linger in my memory. I don’t particularly care for a great deal of oak in any white wine really so those oaky Chardonnays are not my speed. But the racy, lean, and zesty Chardonnays of Chablis? Yeah baby.

My friends E&M don’t have a home base anywhere so quite often when they don’t have anywhere else to be they stay with me in Istanbul. Their “rent”: duty free wine like this Domaine Laroche Chablis. Domaine Laroche believes firmly in sustainable agriculture which relies on taking the relationship between vine, soil, climate and environment into account. They use no weed killers, no pesticides, no anti-botrytis treatments.

Laroche Chablis

Domaine Laroche Chablis 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Laroche Chablis is a great example of the regional terroir. The nose is simultaneously angular and citrus but soft and floral with a suggestive hint of smoky flint . On the palate zesty, mouthwatering acid melts into flavors of apple and pear. Clean minerals and light salinity complete this light-bodied, balanced, and lovely wine.

My Favorite Turkish Wines of 2017

2017 was a crazy year. It began with a last minute trip to Iceland where wine is even more expensive than it is in Turkey. Spring was full of whirlwind wine trips to Israel, Georgia, and Greece. This summer after a two-year lapse I went back to the States to see my family in Michigan and Vegas. In the fall I went to Elmali, Turkey to visit a great winery and in December I visited Graz, Austria for the Krampuslauf, Christmas markets, and wine shopping.

In addition to the travel I attended or led a couple dozen wine tastings. Including one on a private yacht on the Bosphorus where I was so sea sick I gave all my notes while gazing at the horizon trying to not hurl.

Some of my travel didn’t work out. I’ve been gearing up for a year to move to Italy to complete my wine education and spend a few years exploring all of Italy’s wine regions. And then I couldn’t get the visa! In the end I’m happy to stay in Turkey. I have a good life here, a lot of wine still to try, and a new project I’m really excited about.

Likya vineyards

Likya Vineyards

I tasted a lot of Turkish wine in 2017. They ran the entire gamut from DNPIM to ‘where has this been all my life’?! Below is a list of my favorite Turkish wines that I tried this year (in no particular order). Unfortunately my typing is a lot slower than my drinking so I haven’t posted reviews of all of them. Hardly any if I’m being really honest. If I’ve reviewed it there should be a link to the page but if I hadn’t and you’re curious drop me a line!

2017 reds

Reds:

  1. 7Bilgiler Solon Attica
  2. Barbare Ambiance
  3. Likya Pinot Meunier
  4. Chateau Nuzun 2011
  5. Barbare Libra
  6. Karnas Zinfandel
  7. Gelveri Kalecik Karasi
  8. Pasaeli Papazkarasi
  9. Trajan Rezerv Kalecik Karası 

2017 whites

Whites:

  1. VinAida Grenache Blanc de Noirs
  2. Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume
  3. Vinolus Narince
  4. Saranta Chateau Murou Chardonnay
  5. Vinkara Hasandede
  6. Vino Dessera Kalecik Karası Blanc de Noirs
  7. Arda Rezerv Narince
  8. Porta Caeli Pacem Sauvignon Blanc
  9. Urla Hypnose

Likya vineyards

Roses:

  1. Porta Caeli Felici
  2. Chateau Nuzun Rose

2017 others

Sweet:

  1. Arcadia 333

Sparklings:

  1. Suvla Kinali Yapincak
  2. Kayra Cameo

I can’t wait to see what there will be to taste in 2018!