Category Archives: Red Wines

Red Turkish Wines

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

Paşaeli 2010 Hoşköy Cabernet Sauvignon

This lovely Hoşköy Cabernet Sauvignon I first had at a Paşaeli tasting with Şarap Atölyesi. I really like Paşaeli’s wines, the K2 being a general favorite, and this was my favorite of the night. So of course when I found out that Paşaeli ships half cases I ordered a bottle (120 TL direct from Paşaeli).

Hoşköy Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is my grape here in Turkey. It’s not my favorite grape in the world being surpassed by virtually anything Italian or Spanish, but Turkey does a good Cabernet Sauvignon and I find myself gravitating towards Turkish Cabs and Bordeaux blends.

Paşaeli’s Hoşköy vineyard, located in Turkey’s Thracian region, has a long and warm growing season; much like France’s Bordeaux making it ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon. With Paşaeli’s care they’ve gone from quality grapes to a truly quality wine. This bad boy is beautiful now but will also age 10 to 15 years-from the release date.

How much care has gone into this 2010 Hoşköy Cabernet Sauvignon? To be brief-a lot. The wine spent two long years maturing in oak barrels then another 18 months in bottle before being released.

Hoşköy Cabernet Sauvignon

Paşaeli Hoşköy Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Notes:

In the glass the Hoşköy Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep, opaque ruby color. The nose is classic Cabernet full of dark berries, black cherry, cassis, vanilla, pepper, and mint.

With 14.5% abv this is not a shy wine and the palate lets you know it. There are some gorgeous tannins here with a strong backbone of mouthwatering acid leading to a long, smooth finish of cassis and vanilla.

This is a lovely wine now but if you have the patience to wait a few more years I think it will become truly elegant.

Kybele 2011 from Şen Vineyards

One of the best, medium-priced Turkish wines I’ve had in a while was the Kybele 2011 from Şen Vineyards.

I picked up the Kybele for 42 TL at Comedus on Meşrutiyet (it might be less at La Cave in Cihangir). Honestly it was the label that caught my eye. I think it’s fantastic. Much like the art on Chamilja’s wine bottles I’d love to hang a print of this in my apartment. The other reason I bought it is because I’d never heard of Şen Vineyards and I am always on the look out for new Turkish wine.

Located in Balıkesir, in Turkey’s Marmara region, Şen Vineyards plants Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Semillion. The Kybele is a Merlot-lead blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz. The vineyard has kind of an interesting website. It includes a page with a list of wine terms. So if you’re interested in talking about wine in Turkish this will help kick off your practice!

Kybele

Kybele 2011 Tasting Notes:

The Kybele is a very dark, opaque ruby in the glass. The nose was not particularly layered but the red fruits (berries especially), vanilla, and nutty aromas were pleasant. On the palate it was balanced with light, silky tannins and a medium, nutty-vanilla finish.

Overall the Şen Vineyards 2011 Kybele is not a particularly complex blend but it was a very enjoyable drink and held its own against some of the higher quality wines we drank that night.

Melen Tempranillo 2014

Melen is one of those wineries tucked away in Hoşköy of which I had some nebulous knowledge, but had never seen any of their wines. Until a trip to Migros in the Cevahir mall. Migros had two or three of Melen’s wine including the Melen Tempranillo 2014. I was gun shy as I’ve been burned by Turkish Tempranillo before; but for 29 TL what could it hurt?

Nothing that’s what. This was a shockingly good wine for the price. The inflated retail price no less.

The Melen winery has been a family venture around since the founding of the [Turkish] Republic. Their website is written rather poetically and absolutely worth a read through. One of the topics it addresses is the Melen logo about which I had been curious. From the website:

The source of inspiration for the Melen Logo is the maker’s mark that appears on ancient amphorae discovered in excavations of local potteries which, since ancient times, provided the means of exporting the wines of the region. With an abundance of wine and olive oil and clay from the river beds Hoşköy was able to export its produce to many different countries including Egypt and Russia. Today, Melen carries on this age old tradition.”

Melen is absolutely one of the wineries I’d love to visit as soon as I find someone to chauffeur me around Turkey.

Melen Tempranillo

Melen Tempranillo 2014 Tasting Notes:

At 14% abv this is not a little wine. Similar I suspect to a Spanish Crianza-style Tempranillo, it was an inky, opaque ruby in the glass. The nose was redolent of raspberries and chocolate. Even though the nose was lovely I braced myself for disappointment in the mouth. A disappointment that did not come!

Wow. Really big tannins that I wasn’t expecting. The tannins smoothed out well with some decanting time and balanced well with mouthwatering acid. The flavors also deepened quite a lot with the decanting time and picked up more black and dried fruit essence.

I am now actively on the look out for more wine by Melen! I have a couple on the racks already and can’t wait to get to them.

Yedi Bilgeler 2013 Phytagoras Reserve

The Yedi Bilgeler 2013 Phytagoras Reserve is why I fell in love with this winery. The first time I had it was at Solera where it caught my eye both because it was new and because I really liked the label. I have enjoyed it several times since and included it in one of my wine tasting events.

Phytagoras 2013

Yedi Bilgeler is based near the village of Selçuk; home to the ruined city of Ephesus. Due to Turkish alcohol laws wine tourism next to impossible.  As a result the native wine industry has suffered. Possibly the best way to stay in concert with current law and yet still attract people to a winery is to build a concept winery. Yedi Bilgeler has done this. By building a boutique hotel and restaurant on site people can visit the winery, try wines in the restaurant, and have a beautiful place to stay away from the more touristy areas in Selçuk.

Yedi Bilgeler has several wines on the market. To my sadness I have only been able to get my hands on a couple. The 2013 Phytagoras Reserve has been my favorite so far. It seems that it’s other people’s favorite too. in 2013 the 2013 Phytagoras Reserve won a silver medal at the Consours Mondial wine competition in Brussels.

Phytagoras 2013

This is a big blend wine: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot. At 14.8% abv it’s not a shy wine either. Nor is it terribly expensive running about 75 TL at Cihangir’s La Cave.

Yedi Bilgeler 2013 Phytagoras Reserve Tasting Notes:

The nose on the 2013 Phytagoras is beautiful. There are black fruits, a little jam, spice, leather, and a little smoke. Soft, medium tannins on the palate open up to a balanced wine. Dark flavors featuring black raspberry, cinnamon, smoke, and leather lead to a long finish.

The 2013 Phytagoras is easy and enjoyable to drink. I’ve joked in the past that I seem to be aiming to set a world record for most visits to Selçuk (eight at last count). However after getting to know some of Yedi Bilgeler’s wines I am looking forward to visit nine!