Category Archives: Turkish Wine

Turkish Wine

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.

Arcadia Odrysia Narinca 2015

In the spring I attended an Arcadia wine tasting with Murat Mumcoğlu of Şarap Atölyesi. We tried a variety or red and white wines; one of which was the Odrysia Narince 2015. Wine made from Narince is not difficult to find; but finding one as special as the Odrysia is not easy.

Narince is a native Turkish grape. Originally from Tokat in Anatolia it is both a table grape and is used to make wine. “Narince” in Turkish means “delicately” which perfectly describes the wines it makes. Narince wines display sophisticated and elegant fruit flavors and are very ethereal and aromatic. They reveal aromas of orange, grapefruit, lime, white pineapple, quince, plumeria, acaccia, fruit blossom, basil, ripe green apple, and walnut.

In addition, the oh so popular grape leaf dishes in Turkish cuisine are made from Narince leaves. This actually presents an interesting conundrum for wine makers. While Arcadia cultivates its own Narince, not everyone does. Most Narince vineyards in Tokat are owned by independent vignerons. They then sell the grapes to viniculturists and the leaves to people who preserve them for food. The problem is that the leaves mature sooner than the grapes. As a result they’re harvested while the grapes are still maturing and desperately need canopy cover.

Odrysia

Father and daughter team Ozcan and Zeynep Arca established Arcadia Vineyards in 2007 to make and showcase terroir-driven wines from Northern Thrace. 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. In 35 hectares of vineyard they grow nine different types of grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Sangiovese, Pinot Gris, Öküzgözü, and Narince.

Odrysia

Arcadia Odrysia Narinca 2015 Tasting Notes:

While Arcadia’s Odrysia is all delicate florals don’t let that fool you! At 13.5% abv this is still a serious white wine. Before bottling Arcadia put the Odrysia through only a limited filtration process. As a result the wine maintained its full aromas. The nose is very floral with perfumed plumeria floating above citrus, mineral, and quince.

Lively mouthwatering acid encourage the flavors to leap off your tongue. Citrus, lemon peel, plumeria, and yellow apple liberally flecked with minerals; like a lemon syllabub graced with a sprinkle of fleur de sal.

Gorgeous. I’ve had quite a few of Arcadia’s wines now and they have never let me down.

The Suvla Sur 2012

I have been lucky enough to try three different vintages of Suvla’s Sur: the 2010, 2011, and 2012. A few years ago I wrote about the 2010 and 2011 side by side so it’s time to tackle the Sur 2012. They’re all beautiful wines. I wish I could get one of each for a vertical tasting but I believe the 2010 is sold out. It hurts no one’s feelings though to drink the Sur 2012!

Suvla is a family owned wine producer. In 2003 Pınar Ellialtı and Selim Zafer Ellialtı established the winery in Eceabat. Because of their location along the Çanakkale Strait (also known as Dardanelles); they named the winery after a bay in the north coast of the Aegean Sea. In 2006 after the first harvest they named the main vineyard ‘Bozokbağ’ after their newborn son ‘Bozok’.

Sur 2012

The Suvla vineyards are nestled in the historical Peninsula of Gallipoli, between the North Aegean coast and the Sea of Marmara. They produce 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 they also produce indigenous grape varieties, including Kınalı Yapıncak and Karasakız. In 2013 Suvla switched to organic viticulture and as a result received a certification of ‘Good Agriculture Practice – GAP’.

Sur 2012

Suvla Sur 2012 Tasting Notes:

The Sur 2012 is a Bordeaux blend of Merlot (73%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Cabernet Franc (7%), and Petit Verdot (5%). After fermentation it spent 12 months in oak barriques before being bottled and released.

The Sur is a balance of power and elegance regardless of which vintage you get. At% abv there’s no denying the power certainly! Blackberry, spices, jalepeño, and mocha mingle in the nose. The palate is perfectly balanced with smooth, elegant tannins and mouthwatering acid, Sweet, ripe blackberries, black pepper, and mocha invite you on a romantic journey.

This is one of those wines you could drink in one sitting without noticing what you’ve done. The Suvla Pied Piper beckons you deeper into the bottle until you’ve drowned in it. Happy way to go!

You’re Killing Me, Smalls!

Turkish wines really are good. Really they are. Often when I start talking about Turkish wines to people outside the country I’m met with the same slightly shocked faces and something along the lines of “They make wine in Turkey?” Yes they make wine in Turkey! Turkey, together with Georgia and Armenia, forms the cradle of wine making.

While I can understand outsiders’ surprise at the Turkish wine industry; I take almost personal affront when people living here don’t know or appreciate it. This was especially so in a recent Facebook group post from someone asking for wine recommendations. It was killing me! So of course I’m writing about it.

You're Killing Me, Smalls

To be fair and honest, when I moved here five years ago I shared the opinion that all Turkish wine was bad. Then two things happened. One: I realized that I was an adult and I should (be willing to) pay more than $10 for a bottle of wine. Two: The Turkish wine industry went (and is still going) through an amazing transformation.

When I started my foray into Turkish wine I admit that I drank the cheap stuff. I neither knew much about wine nor had a lot of money. And back then the Turkish Lira was a great deal stronger against the US Dollar. So yeah; I drank the Savas and Yakuts of Turkish wine. And regretted it more often than not.

You're Killing Me, Smalls

Some lower cost wines really aren’t bad. Melen‘s bottom shelf line goes for about 30TL and I’ve had a few of those that are quite acceptable. Suvla, always at the top of my list, has wine prices that run the gamut from 18 to 300+ TL; and they’re all nice. Varying degrees of nice of course; but none of them are drain cleaner.

Eight to ten years ago (so I’ve heard from friends) Turkish wine was pretty much all bad. Things have changed since then. Yes alcohol taxes are insane high and wine here costs more than it should. But wine is good now. No longer are there only a handful of producers. I swear every time I go to La Cave I see a new wine by one of my favorite producers or a wine from a new winery. I can barely keep up with the boom. And I drink. A lot.

You're Killing Me Smalls

What’s also changed is that you can now get some decent wines for under 30TL. However you don’t have to spend even a hundred TL to get really good wine anymore. There are a whole range of mid level wines now going for about 50-60 TL that are lovely. So when I see recommendations for ‘decent and affordable’ wines including the drain cleaner level wines it hurts my soul. You’re killing me, Smalls! Killing me!!

After a while I stopped being so cheap and started trying some of the up market wines. By doing so I learned something. Turkish wines can be beautiful. More than that; they can occasionally even be amazing. Do I still have moments when I drink a mid level Italian wine;  swoon with wonder; and say “oh that’s what wine tastes like”? Sure. However I now put that down to the lack of variety in Turkish wine rather than quality. Yes they can be beautiful. But no matter how beautiful they are you can only drink so many Bordeaux blends, Cabernets, Syrahs, and Öküzgözü-Boğazkere blends.

You're killing me Smalls

There’s also terroir to consider. Nif makes great Italian grape-based wines. Likya and Chamlija make nice Malbecs. But the land and growing conditions here aren’t the same as they are in Italy, Argentina, France, California, et cetera ad nauseum. So you will not get a Turkish Bordeaux blend that tastes like Bordeaux from the Medoc. Will you find a Turkish Sangiovese that tastes like Chianti Classico? No. You will find exception Turkish Bordeaux blends (hello Chateau Kalpak), and perfectly lovely Turkish Sangiovese. You cannot compare apples and oranges. Appreciate Turkish wine, and the hard rode its traveled, for what it is.

There’s an expression in Turkish: “köpek ölderen” which means “dog killer”. This is how they refer to the worst of the worst wines. And it’s how I would classify most of the wines people in this thread recommended. Not only recommended but described as “yummy”. That person I want to kick. Am I a wine snob? You bet I am. Personally I think everyone should be a bit of a wine snob. If you’re drinking just to get drunk then either drink the dog killer and don’t complain about it; or go straight for the hard stuff. On the other hand if you’re drinking wine because it’s the drink of the gods and it elevates every situation; then stop bitching that it costs more than 20TL a bottle.

Killing me!

You're killing me Smalls

Eventually I had to stop reading this thread. I was sending impassioned and furious messages to a friend of mine who moderates this page; begging her to sanction anyone who recommended a dog killer. Not everyone has the same palate. I know that; it’s fine. But if you’re one of those willing to drink any old, cheap plonk please just don’t recommend it to others. Especially with comments about how “yummy” it is. Wine making is an art and it should be appreciated like one.

What I find the most upsetting about these “recommendations” is that they perpetuate the belief that Turkish wine is bad; and it isn’t. While Turkey might be one of the oldest wine making countries in the world; it’s also one of the ‘non-traditional’ wine making countries. It’s extremely difficult for these non-traditional countries to not only get their wines on the international market but to be taken seriously. Especially when, like Turkey, they have to fight their own government to make the wine in the first place.

So for those Turkish wine makers out there, battling oppressive government regulations and making beautiful art anyway; have a little respect.

Chateau Nuzun 2009

Established in 2004, Chateau Nuzun is one of Turkey’s boutique wineries. Only an hour drive away (depending on the insanity level of traffic!) it is possibly the closest one to Istanbul. I’ve had a few of their wines over the years but the Chateau Nuzun 2009 blend was by far my favorite.

Chateau Nuzun is an organic vineyard located in Tekirdağ. The vineyards (in Çeşmeli) enjoy a terroir made up of gravel and sand stone soils over layers of compacted clay and breezes from the Marmara Sea (5 km away). Half of the estate is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon; one third with Merlot, and the remaining plots are Syrah and Pinot Noir. The Chateau Nuzun 2009 is a blend of the varietals planted there.

Chateau Nuzun 2009

Chateau Nuzun 2009 Tasting Notes:

Like its other wines the Chateau Nuzun 2009 blend is organic. The wine spent about 13 months in French oak and then another year in the bottle before being released. So no wonder this vintage will set you back about 100 TL give or take. It’s also unfiltered so I recommend decanting over a candle. I didn’t get a lot of sediment at all but better safe than sorry! Because if you’ve ever accidentally swallowed a mouthful of sediment you know that is not pleasant.

In the glass this super blend is a dark, opaque ruby. The nose was super involved. We got black pepper, jam, blackberry, black currant leaf, violets, cinnamon, and vanilla. You can tell that I broke out the Aromaster kit with this one! The palate was all velvety tannins, well-balanced, with a nice, somewhat jammy finish. The flavors followed from the nose especially the fruit, vanilla, and baking spices.

This was a really nice wine, absolutely worth the price tag.

Paşaeli Sofuköy Yapıncak 2015

In November I attended another wine tasting lead by Şarap Atölyesi‘s Murat Mumcuoğlu at the Historic Pano Wine House in Istanbul. We tasted eight wines all by winemakers Paşaeli and Selendi. I’ve long been a Paşaeli fan and was really looking forward to this.

The first wine we tasted was the 2015 Paşaeli Sofuköy Yapıncak. Unfortunately I have no pictures of my own of this wine so I’m borrowing one from London’s alternative wine merchant Red Squirrel Wine.

Kınalı yapıncak is a native Turkish grape but not a very common one. In fact other than Paşaeli the only other winemaker here cultivating it is my old friend Suvla.

Sofuköy Yapıncak

Photo credit: Red Squirrel Wine, London

Yapıncak takes oak well but is not always treated with it. Paşaeli’s Sofuköy 2015 (the village where the vineyard is located) was largely fermented in stainless steel tanks with a portion aged ‘sure lie’ in oak barrels. ‘Sur lie’ means ‘on the lees’. Lees are the extra yeast particles in wine left after the completion of the fermentation process. Many white and sparkling wines are allowed to age with these particles as they add a creaminess to the texture along with aromas of toast, bread, cheese, and sweet, nutty aromas. For a full description of the ‘sure lie’ method check out this great article by Wine Folly.

Tasting notes 2015  Sofuköy Yapıncak:

So after that long intro…what about the Sofuköy Yapıncak? It won’t surprise anyone that I prefer my Yapıncak wines unoaked so this is never going to be a favorite wine of mine. In the nose this lemony yellow wine had a lot of fruit, citrus, and vanilla. The palate was rather too acidic for my taste but still with a creamy butteriness and a lot of sharp lemon, mineral, and floral flavors.

I let this sit a little bit and it really benefited, for me, from the chance to breathe and mellow. The flavors became rounder, the lemon softened and the flowers and vanilla were much more pronounced.

Saranta Chateau Murou Merlot 2014

Saranta is one of those wineries in Turkey that I vaguely knew existed. However I had never seen any of their wines in Istanbul until the Sommelier’s Selection Turkey in February. That is when I finally encountered not only Saranta wines, but their brilliant Chateau Murou collection. And to my deep surprise, that’s where I decided the Chateau Murou Merlot was worth breaking my Merlot ban.

Since February I have been on tenterhooks trying to find some Chateau Murou for my very own. Finally in May I was browsing the shelves of La Cave inn Cihangir when I spotted, sitting on the floor in a corner all on their own, a few bottles of Chateau Murou. They had one each of the Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Shiraz. And they all became mine. I suspect I provide great amusement to the gentlemen who work at La Cave when I go into excited raptures over finding new and long-awaited wines.

Chateau Murou Merlot

I hosted a chocolate paired wine tasting in June and knew that the Chateau Murou Merlot would be a perfect match for dark chocolate. I picked up two bottles (100 TL each from La Cave) and paired it with a dark-bitter (72% cocoa) chocolate and a dark chocolate goat cheese truffle. Fantastic.

Given my general attitude towards Merlot it was unsurprising that people were shocked that I put a Merlot on our list. However once they all tried the Chateau Murou Merlot they were willing to follow me to the dark side.

Chateau Murou Merlot

Saranta Chateau Murou Merlot 2014 Tasting Notes:

At only 13% abv this is a medium bodied wine; but don’t let that fool you! It might be medium in body but it delivers in a big way.

In the nose the fruit is secondary for me. I was almost overwhelmed by the earthy aromas of clay and gunpowder supported by green/herbal scents and pepper. Lurking underneath all of that were wisps of dark, black fruits like sugarplum and berry jam. Succulent tannins wrap themselves around the tongue and carry the fruit flavors to a nice, lingering finish.

Has this changed my mind about Merlot in general? No. However the Chateau Murou Merlot is not just another Merlot; it’s a Merlot with attitude.

Turasan Kalecik Karası 2015

This Turasan Kalecik Karası 2015 was part of a shipment of wines I got from Turasan a while back. Kalecik Karası was the first wine made out of native Turkish grapes that I really liked and while I’ve come to love what Turkey does with international grapes more, I still try a new one from time to time.

Turasan is possibly one of the most well known wineries in Turkey. Certainly the most well known in Cappadocia. The winery produces a wide range of styles, grapes, and quality levels. I’ve mostly only had the wines from the low and mid price ranges but would really like to try some of the higher end wines soon. One of the things I love about Turasan is their Emir. Not a lot of wineries in Turkey produce Emir wines which makes Turasan’s extra special.

Turasan Kalecik Karası

On its own, for me, the Turasan Kalecik Karası was a little bit of a disappointing drinking experience. While it might not have been my favorite stand along drinking wine; it was a great food wine. It did go pretty well with our dinner of cold pasta salad with grilled vegetables, Greek pork sausage, and white cheese. Not all bad, and cheap (only about 25 TL directly from Turasan).

Turasan Kalecik Karası

Turasan Kalecik Karası 2015 Tasting Notes:

This is a pretty standard Kalecik Karası in the nose with aromas of red berries and candy. The palate is berries, licorice, and black pepper. Fairly well balanced but with something of a cliffhanger finish. One minute it’s there but the next it’s gone.

In the end the Turasan Kalecik Karası is a simple wine that isn’t going going your palate. Also nice drinking for the summer if you’re not quite a rose person (like me). This would not be hurt at all by a little chilling before you open it.

Selendi Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay 2015

In November I attended another wine tasting lead by Şarap Atölyesi’s Murat Mumcuoğlu at the Historic Pano Wine House in Istanbul. We tasted eight wines all by winemakers Paşaeli and Selendi; one of which was the 2015 Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay by Selendi.

Selendi is one of Turkey’s Aegean wineries located in the Akhisar district of Manisa (outside Izmir). The name of this wine, Sarnıç, is actually the name of the specific vineyard. It is not uncommon for winemakers here to name wines after the villages where the vineyards are.

Selendi has three vineyards in Sarnıç (Sarnıç  I – III). It’s in Sarnıç III where they have grown their Viognier and Chardonnay grapes since 2009. While located very near the sea, Sarnıç is not as hot as the surrounding areas. At 850 meters above sea level it is home to a microclimate that makes it cooler than its surrounds thereby providing a longer growing season and more time for the grapes to ripen.

Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay

Photo by: Vivino

Tasting notes 2015 Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay:

The Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay is a blend of 60% Viognier and 40% Chardonnay. The paleness of color speaks to the only small amount of time the wine was oaked leaving the fruit to largely speak for itself. True to its Viognier (better) half it was very aromatic with a lot of fruity and floral notes like citrus, pineapple, and vanilla.

On the palate it’s clean and round with zesty acid and bursting with citrus and vanilla. There’s also a hint of creaminess in the mouthfeel which keeps the higher acid from being too overwhelming.

Chamlija Kalecik Karası 2015

My visit last year to Chamlija’s tasting restaurant near Kırklareli in Turkey’s Thracian wine region was more of a “flying” visit than anything else. However while there I discovered that Chamlija has a much larger range of wines that I was seeing in Istanbul; including the Chamlija Kalecik Karası. 

Since my visit last summer more and more Chamlija wines are easily available in Istanbul. La Cave in Cihangir has an entire wall section for their stock now. And I believe that the Chamlija Kalecik Karası is one of them.

Chamlija Kalecik Karası

Tasting notes 2015 Chamlija Kalecik Karası:

Chamlija’s Kalecik Karası was treated with French oak for six months and will age well for about 10 years. While the oak treatment was not extensive, it really heightened the inherent aromas of the grape. The nose was really quite lovely-black cherry, forest fruits, and chocolate.

On the palate the Chamlija Kalecik Karası showed a lot of earthiness which I didn’t expect at all. My experience with this grape previously has been more of the light weight and bright fruits variety. At 13.5% abv this had a solid, medium body with light tannins. And while it didn’t have much in the way of a finish, the flavors of mulberry, blackberry, and chocolate were quite lovely.

This would probably go really well with tomato-based foods. For whatever reason that I don’t understand, high acid wines want high acid food so tomato-based sauces and pizza would pair really well this!