Category Archives: Red Wines

Red Turkish Wines

Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc 2014

It feels like it’s been neigh on forever since I’ve had a wine by Gordias. So this winter when I saw a new bottle at Solera I couldn’t resist buying the Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc. Not only have I not had a Gordias in a while but I’d not even seen this blend anywhere before.

Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc

Gordias is a boutique winery near Turkey’s capitol Ankara. It is unfortunately one of the lesser known boutique wineries and the wines are not always easy to find in shops. The Solera wine bar is my go-to place to source these wines. It is not however unknown abroad! Last year the Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc won a silver medal from the International Wine Challenge in Vienna.

Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc

Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc 2014 Tasting Notes:

As soon as I poured the wine I knew it was going to be lovely. How could a wine with that beautiful of color not be? Far more purple than ruby, the color is a brilliant, almost amethyst purple. The nose was very fruity with black currant, black raspberry, and bright strawberry with the slight bite of green bell pepper.

I think the Cabernet Franc provided some of the tannins that Kalecik Karası usually lacks for me. Smooth and round with a fairly long finish the palate was more involved than my impression of the nose led me to believe it would be. Greener and more complex with slightly jammy fruits, green bell pepper, and cocoa.

I thought it went really well with roasted tomato carrot soup.

Another lovely and inexpensive wine from Gordias.

Likya Malbec 2015

I feel like I say a lot that such-and-such winery is one of my favorite wineries in Turkey. Does the expression lose gravitas for saying it so often? Or is it a reflection on how good Turkish wine really is? Whatever the answer; I’m going to say it again. Likya is one of my favorite wineries in Turkey.

One of the things I like so much about Likya is that they put equal effort into both domestic and international varietals. For example, Likya resurrected a nearly distinct Turkish grape varietal and is now making complex and interesting wines from the Acıkara grape. The list of international varieties they tackle is varied and interesting. Beyond the typical Chardonay and Pinot Noir they also make a varietal Pinot Meunier and several Malbec options.

The first Likya Malbec I tried was the Kadyanda Malbec and I was blown away. Less expensive than the wine we’re discussing here, the Kadyanda was fully expressive of the varietal. Given my enthusiastic response to that wine I was eager to try the eponymous Likya Malbec.

Likya Malbec

Likya Malbec 2015 Tasting Notes:

The drama of this wine is apparent as soon as you pour it and see the deep, opaque purple red color reminiscent of black mulberries. The nose here is everything. It displays aromas of black fruits (black raspberry, plum), coffee, vanilla, bay leaf, chocolate, and baking spices.

Medium-bodied with round, succulent tannins, the fruit on the palate is rich. It was far more fruit-forward than I expected after the dynamic aromas in the nose.

By no means a mundane wine; but I think a little longer in the bottle would be beneficial. However if you want to drink it now you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure to decant or otherwise aerate this one well first to let the flavors settle properly.

Vino Dessera 190 2014

The Vino Dessera 190 has a special place in my heart. It, along with one of the Prodom blends, was one of the first wines I tried here that made me believe Turkish wine could be really good. I do not now remember if it was specifically the 190 2014 … but I enjoy all the 190 blends equally.

Vino Dessera was established in 2012, but to understand the full story of these fields we need to jump a little further back. When the owner’s first grandchild was born, abiding by a very thoughtful Anatolian tradition, he planted approximately 600 walnut trees along the green slopes of Thrace. And, as it turns out, he never stopped. Motivated partially by self-competition, when his second grandchild was born, he planted wine grapes in 2000. And, so too Vino Dessera was born. Today, the vineyard is a family-run operation growing both international and local grapes and producing approximately 100,000 bottles every year.

190 2014

I got to visit Vino Dessera in September where I met Doğan Dönmez; the man responsible for the 190. I learned that each vintage of the 190 is a different blend. This is not a chateau-style winery aiming for a steady blend year after year. While that certainly has its merit there’s also something exciting about the flip side. Challenging yourself year after year to make a new blend. The same invariable quality but different grapes and different blends.

The Vino Dessera 190 2014 is a blend of Shiraz and Merlot sourced from their vineyards in both Kırklareli (Thrace) and Kilis (Anatolia). Matured for 12 months in oak before bottling it blends the flavors of the grapes, their terroir, and oak. My friend M said that the wine’s flavor is that of a kiss. Not a kiss of passion but one of romance.

Who doesn’t want to drink a wine described like that?!

190 2014

Vino Dessera 190 2014 Tasting Notes:

The Vino Dessera 190 2014 is a big blend with 15% abv and an opaque, inky purple-ruby color. The nose is full of intense forest fruits, dark chocolate, and cloves. Generally well-balanced with a nice tannic structure the palate is a little jammy with the added depth of sweet, baking spices.

Vino Dessera wines are always excellent quality but it’s the 190 blends that I like the most. In fact it might be fun to gather a number of vintages and do a comparison tasting. I might just do that!

Ergenekon Bona Dea Rouge 2013

The Sommeliers Selection Turkey 2017 is the gift that keeps on giving. Seriously. I discovered so many wines and wineries there that I hadn’t heard of before. It’s taking a little time but they are slowly trickling into retail shops in Istanbul now.

Şeyla Ergenekon, one of the founders of Ergenekon winery, has written some of the first and only books available on Turkish wine including: Şarapla Tanışma and Türk Şarapları. I’ve had the pleasure of reading both of these. The second, Türk Şarapları is also available in English as Wines of Turkey and can be found online or, if you’re in Istanbul, at Vinus Wine & Spirits.

Bona Dea Rouge 2013

Luckily for wine lovers, Şeyla established her own, eponymous vineyard in Çanakkale. Initially this boutique vineyard sold its grapes to licensed producers but now Ergenekon wines are available commercially. 

In their organic and biodynamic vineyard Ergenekon cultivates Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Franc,  and Sauvignon Blanc.

Bona Dea Rouge 2013

Ergenekon Bona Dea Rouge 2013 Tasting Notes:

The Bona Dea Rouge 2013 is a blend of Ergenekon’s red grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet Franc. Whatever they’re doing at Ergenekon they’re doing it right because this wine is beautiful.

The wine appears a deep, dark ruby in the glass. The nose is complex and displays black fruits, vanilla, sweet spices, sweet tobacco, earth, and mint. The tannins were initially like slightly rough silk but they, and the flavors, rounded out after the wine had a chance to breathe. On the palate the attack was heavy ripe fruits (blackberry) and creme de cassis moving to clove and coffee and ending in a long herbal finish of licorice.

On a final note; I was so surprised when I unwrapped the foil and discovered a glass stopper instead of the expected cork. After a little research I discovered that these new glass corks have been around for a couple years now. These elegant stoppers are one of the ways to attack the problem of cork taint, which is caused by the chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA. TCA can develop in corks because corks are from trees, and plants have phenols, which are one of the ingredients of TCA. But glass doesn’t carry this risk. They don’t seem to have caught on a whole lot yet but I hope to see more of them!

Chateau Nuzun 2011

In September I had the opportunity to visit Chateau Nuzun where I tasted the Chateau Nuzun 2011. The tour, through Piano Piano and lead by expert Turkish sommelier Murat Mumcuoglu took us to five vineyards in Turkey’s Thrace.

Our first stop was at Chateau Nuzun where we were greeted by one of the winery’s founders, Nazan Uzun. Nazan showed us around the vineyards where the Cabernet Sauvignon and Öküzgözü grapes were still ripening.

Chateau Nuzun 2011

Chateau Nuzun is a boutique winery where they believe that good wines can only be made from excellent grapes. Hence, they concentrate on good viticulture practices. All their grapes are certified organic. They practice minimal intervention in their vineyards and let nature do its thing. Gravel and sandstone soil over clay allows them to dry farm. The majority of the vineyards sit at an altitude of 110m to 140m, all facing south with a slope of 18%. The Pinot Noir parcel is the exception; it which faces north with an 8% slope.

Nazan and Necdet first planted their vines in 2004 and four years later made their first wine with the 2008 vintage. They’ve been going strong every since.

Chateau Nuzun 2011

I’ve tried Chateau Nuzun wines in the past but it’s been a few years. Honestly I was not entirely sure why people made such a fuss. However since my first encounter with Chateau Nuzun I’ve learned a lot about wine. My palate has developed and I’ve learned how to enjoy wines that are more complicated. I am now a Chateau Nuzun convert.

Chateau Nuzun 2011

Luckily Chateau Nuzun wines are pretty widely available in Istanbul. Comedus, La Cave, Rind, MacroCenter, İncirli Şaraphane… I bought three bottles, including the Chateau Nuzun 2011 blend when I visited the vineyard. Soon I’ll be heading to these shops to buy more!

Chateau Nuzun 2011

Chateau Nuzun 2011 Tasting Notes:

The Chateau Nuzun 2011 is a big blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Noir. And when I say big…14.3% abv. The nose is complicated with layers of fruit, herb, spice, and earth. On the palate it’s well-balanced with round, velvety tannins. Beautiful fruit expressions on the attack with intriguing underlying tones of earth and cinnamon on the finish.

There are so many reasons to love Chateau Nuzun wines. Nazan and Necdet’s enthusiasm for what they do is reflected in their wines and contagious! Furthermore by drinking their wines you get to support a small business that emphasizes sustainable practices. And most of all…the wines are amazing.

Adnan Kutman Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

I don’t drink Kutman wines often. Every time I do though I am reminded that it’s something I should do more often. Like the Adnan Kutman Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon, Kutman wines are a balance of both the fruit and the winemaker’s expression. While not every one will knock your socks off; they are dependable options.

Kutman is one of Turkey’s many wineries with vineyards located in the prolific Thracian region. However those aren’t Kutman’s only vineyards. They also grow in the Ege district of Turkey’s Aegean region. They grapes for this particular wine come from both vineyards.

Öküzgözü is a native Turkish varietal. Originally from the country’s east (Anatolia), it is a delicate and fussy grape that has managed to do fairly well in other parts of the country. Öküzgözü generally creates easy to drink wines that are medium-bodied, high in acid, and have delicate fruity-floral aromas. Blending it with the much bigger personality inherent in Cabernet Sauvignon gives Öküzgözü a bit more depth of character.

Kutman Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon

Adnan Kutman Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Tasting Notes:

I do not know the blend percentages but the high acid and lower alcohol (12.5% abv) lead me to suspect that it is majority Öküzgözü. However that does not mean that the Cabernet Sauvignon has not made its presence felt.

The nose was rather aromatic with both red and black fruits, green bell pepper, mint, chocolate, and some baking spices. The latter likely a result of the wine’s 12 months in oak. Medium-bodied with smooth, light tannins, the palate displayed the delicacy of the Öküzgözü with light fruits giving way to subtle green flavors.

Büyülübağ Shah 2010

Before we talk about the Büyülübağ Shah, let’s talk about Büyülübağ itself.

Located on Avşa Island, Büyülübağ is one of Turkey’s Marmara region wineries. Alp Törüner founded the winery there in 2003 with a view of continuing the island’s wine making history. Working with an architect and an oenologist, by 2005 he built Turkey’s first (and I believe only) gravity-flow winery.

So new question: what’s a gravity-flow winery? First of all, it’s not a legally defined term which means there’s a lot of room for variation. The idea behind a gravity-flow winery is to cut out all the pumps, conveyors, and other machinery most wineries use to move grapes, must, and wine during the wine making process. Instead gravity moves the wine through the process. Rather than cutting costs by eliminating pumps and conveyor belts, gravity-flow wineries are expensive to build though. Theoretically you would need to put each process on a different level. Which also means workers are scrambling up and down ladders all day, every day.

shah

If it’s potentially more expensive and more work then why do it? According to Wine Spectator, gravity-flow wineries allow wine to be moved around much more gently. Too much force, too much rough-and-tumble handling, and a wine might become overextracted or too tannic, or experience too much oxidation.

Is it worth it? Well my experience with Büyülübağ wines says yes. Törüner produces some really nice wines. However other vintners in Turkey are also producing really nice wines without this system. For now let’s say that it works well for Büyülübağ.

shah

Büyülübağ Shah 2010 Tasting Notes:

The Büyülübağ Shah is a Syrah-lead blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. We all know that I’m not a Syrah fan and often avoid them. I’m not gonna lie here; I bought the Shah because I love the label. Thumbs up to Büyülübağ’s marketing and design team!

Velvety black fruits and black pepper dominate the nose. Twelve months in French oak add an underlying toasty sweetness of clove. Elegant tannins and a strong acidic core lead to a long finish with plump, juicy blackberries.

Kastro Tireli Karkaia 2013

I haven’t yet dived fully into Kastro Tireli’s wines. Outside of the Narince-Viognier I previously reviewed I’ve only also had this Karkaia, a Bordeaux-blend style wine. However I’m so pleased to see that their wines are pretty widely available now. Especially as I’m a fairly lazy individual and still haven’t made it to their storefront in Bebek.

Committed to quality over quantity, Kastro Tireli, which began planting in 2004, does everything by hand. The winery is also dedicated to organic viticulture. If you cannot visit them in Akhisar and want a bigger experience than just picking up something in the bottle shop-head to Bebek. And then mock me with how great your experience was. Maybe then I’ll stop being lazy and finally make a visit!

Karkaia

Kastro Tireli Karkaia 2013 Tasting Notes:

The Kastro Tireli Karkaia is a big, bold blend of traditional Bordeaux grapes. This beautiful, deep ruby wine combines not only Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but also Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

The alcohol is quite high (14.9%!) so you’ll want to give this some breathing time or otherwise aerate it. Without the benefit of breathing the nose is initially quite tight and alcoholic. However once it does have a chance to settle, the nose is redolent with fruit and spice. Black fruits (black currant, blackberry, and black plums) are mingle with vanilla and sweet, baking spices. It’s saved from being too sweet any syrupy by a zing of green bell pepper. Beautiful, round tannins support rich fruits and spices on the palate.

Overall the Karkaia is a well-balanced and elegant wine that only increases my estimation of Kastro Tireli as a whole. I look forward to trying more of their wines!

Suvla Reserve Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012

As with the Suvla Sur, I’ve tasted multiple vintages of Suvla’s Reserve Petit Verdot Karasakız. Is the Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012 my favorite of the vintages? I honestly do not know since they are all beautiful.

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’.

Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012

I love Petit Verdot. It is highly prized as a blending grape because it adds color, tannin, and floral aromas. However as part of a Bordeaux blend you never really get to appreciate it since it’s usually only 2-7% of the blend.

Petit Verdot is a late ripening grape. Probably for that reason it has never been used to its full potential in France where it originates. The Bordeaux growing season is too short to allow it to fully ripen. However, lucky me, the grape has made a resurgence and warmer countries are now producing varietal, or blend-led Petit Verdot wines. Including Turkey!

Suvla Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012 Tasting Notes:

The Suvla Reserve Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012 is a medium bodied wine with a full-bodied attitude. While not completely opaque, its dark ruby color hypnotizes as you gaze deeply into the wine; like it holds your future.

Blending the Karasakız with the Petit Verdot brings out some of the Petit Verdot’s brighter fruit and earthy flavors. The nose was ripe with blackberry and black cherry, walnut, cinnamon, earth, and meat. Gorgeous, velvety tannins seduce the palate with black fruit and earthy, meaty flavors linger on the finish.

As long as Suvla continues to produce Petit Verdot I will be there to drink it!

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.