Category Archives: Rose Wines

Rose and blush Turkish wines

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.

Suvla tasting

A Visit to Suvla Winery!

I recently had the opportunity to spend time on Bozcaada and was able to visit the Suvla winery in Ecebat. First of all, I wish I’d realized years ago how easy it is to get to the Suvla winery. The main reason I don’t visit Turkish wineries is because I don’t drive and it’s not like they’re exactly conveniently located. Suvla, in Eceabat, is a short ferry ride away from Canakkale which in turn is serviced by a daily flight out of Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul. Had I but known!

Walking into Suvla was a little, as my friend put it, like arriving at the mother ship. The Suvla store in Ecebat is gorgeous. I approached the wine filled walls like an eager kid in a candy shop wishing I could take a little of everything with me. Thanks to Nusret in the Cihangir Suvla shop we were armed with the name of someone to help us during out visit. Unfortunately after arriving we learned that was her day off! However as proof of how fantastic Suvla is, someone called her and Ecem very kindly came in to provide us with some VIP treatment!

First we had a tour of the factory with one of Suvla’s new wine makers, Hıkmet. He toured us through the factory showing us the grape presses and fermentation tanks (I particularly liked the Dalek-shaped tank in the back) answering my pesty questions all the while. Then he took us into the barrel storage room, a blessedly cool contrast to Eceabat’s 38C heat! Suvla uses oak from France, America, and Hungary I believe he said and the barrels are used for five or so wines before being retired.

Of course we couldn’t be at the home of Suvla and not do some wine tasting! Unfortunately Turkish laws have made it difficult, if not downright impossible, for wineries and shops to provide tastings free of charge, however the Suvla restaurant offers a long list of flights for tasting at reasonable prices as well tastings by the glass. T and I got two different red flights, one from Suvla’s mid priced range of wines and one from the higher end. While I was not surprised that we both loved the Petit Verdot-Karasakız blend; I was shocked, and not a small amount horrified, that I actually kind of liked the (2014) Merlot!

After our tasting and tour of the şaraphane, we refreshed ourselves with a coffee break before heading out for a tour of the vineyards with Suvla’s Australian viticulturist, Mark.

red globe table grapes

I suppose it’s possible that I could have been more excited by this, but not a whole lot. The first thing I learned which was very different for me was that wineries in Turkey don’t own large tracts of land where all the grapes are planted. They have bits of land here and there which enable them to plant different grapes in different types of soils and conditions. As a result, driving between the various Suvla plots we also passed a few individually owned farm plots as well as some of Doluca’s vineyards.

Sad stressed grapes

Suvla plants more than just wine grapes in its vineyards. They also have large sections dedicated to different table grapes that are used in workers’ lunches and farm plots where they grow ingredients for the restaurant and the Kilye line of oils, jams, preserves, etc they produce and sell. Mark stopped often so we could roll out of his Range Rover to get an up close view of the various grapes and so I could pester him with questions about canopies, soil types, drainage, grafting, root stock, and harvesting. We also used the stops as opportunities to try the various grapes. A regular grape will never taste as amazing as will a sun-warmed grape plucked from the bunch on the vine.

A young vine grafted onto American rootstock
Looking over Suvla’s vineyards

After a few hours in the vineyards Mark asked if we’d ever been to Gallipoli and seen the war memorials there. T has been but I’d never been to this part of Turkey at all so he very kindly offered to drive us around on a tour of the area.

Ari Burnu Cemetery

While most of the graves in the Ari Burnu cemetery face the sea, three graves belonging to British Indian Muslim soldiers have their headstones pointing towards Mecca.

Atatürk’s ‘Johnnies and Mehmets’ speech memorial at Anzac Cove

Find Atatürk’s iconic speech here.

Kemekli (bone) beach

As an American the battles at Gallipoli and along the coast now known as Kemekli Beach hold less significance. In fact I dare say that we mostly know it as the unpronounceable Mel Gibson movie. However for the allied armies, particularly Australia and New Zealand, it was an unwinnable blood bath into which Winston Churchill pushed soldiers even while knowing he couldn’t win. Significantly for Turkey, it’s also where a young officer names Mustafa Kemal would distinguish himself and what would begin his path to becoming the father of modern Turkey.

We cannot end this on a melancholy note and of course there must be more wine! So let’s talk about two of Suvla’s wines.

We’ll begin with one that I bought a while ago at the shop in Cihangir. I keep trying the pink wines even though I really just can’t get behind them. In the glass Suvla’s 2015 Merlot, Karasakız Rose is the soft peachy-pink of a sunset. To me the nose was basically pink oak. I did however also get some summer berry and floral scents. On the palate it’s dry with crisp acidity and a decent finish. Not a long one, but it stays with you. There are some nice raspberry and strawberry flavors which normally I love in a wine but the Merlotness of it overwhelmed me.

For 45TL this is not a bad investment and I really think the only reason I didn’t like it is because I just really don’t like the pink wines. However if you don’t share my pink prejudice this would be perfect on a hot summer day!

While actually at the Suvla winery I treated myself to two of the high-end wines that I normally wouldn’t let myself buy in the shop. In fact I’ve managed to forget the cost of them both but suffice to say they’re priced over 100TL/bottle. Really rather somewhat over actually. I am a sucker for Turkish Cabernet Sauvignon though and I really wanted to try Suvla’s award-winning 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Unless you have a disposable income far greater than my own, this is not an everyday wine but a special occasion wine. My special occasion happened to be last Tuesday when I made a particularly good truffled chicken and parmesan panino…

After 12 months in oak this gorgeous deep red Cabernet has a nose redolent with prunes, blackberry, cherry, chocolate, and tobacco. In the mouth the tannins are velvety and luscious and the wine has a long finish with more of those dark fruits, some coffee, and smokey flavors. Wow. If you’re looking to treat yourself to a premium Turkish wine you can stop here. I might not have liked the rose but this one knocked my socks off. So much so that I’m actually letting that previous sentence end with a preposition.

Two years after I began my love affair with Suvla wines I finally visited the winery and it could not have been a more fantastic experience! Thank you to Suvla, especially Nusret, Ecem, Hıkmet, and Mike for a fantastic day!

Anfora blush

Anfora 2014 Kalecik Karası Shiraz Blush

While I still approach pink wines warily I am more open to at least trying then than I used to be. That does not mean that I go out of my way to buy them; particularly not the cheaper brands like Anfora.

I have recently started holding Turkish wine tastings; informal parties at my place for my friends where the only rules are that you must bring a wine that is Turkish and is not DLC. If you don’t live here and you don’t know what DLC is count yourself lucky. As one of the goals of the tasting is to try a wide spectrum of Turkish wines at least one pink wine should make the roster.  At the very first tasting I did, the pink wine was Anfora 2014 Kalecik Karası-Shiraz Blush from Pamukkale.

Pale peachy pink in the glass the nose is very fruit forward with a lot of strawberries. On the palate the Anfora blush was off-dry with a subtle acidity and minerality. While I want to be diplomatic and say that while I don’t see this particular blush bringing me any closer to being a fan of pink wines it wasn’t bad…I just can’t say that. I don’t like pink wine-full stop. I have tried and as there are two more bottles in my fridge I will keep trying…but really just avoid this one.

I did not buy this so I cannot confidently say how much it was but my experience with Pamukkale wines said that this Anfora blush was probably around 25TL and widely available at many of Turkey’s grocery stores if you want a bottle of your very own despite my advice that don’t.

Suvla Blush

Suvla Blush Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Continuing my forays into pink wine I agreed to a bottle of Suvla Blush Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. I generally like a Cab so I didn’t figure I go terribly wrong getting one that just didn’t sit as long with the grape skins.

I didn’t go terribly wrong…nor did it exactly blow me way either.

To start with, the Suvla Blush was a very attractive looking wine with it’s peachy, salmon-like color. The nose was also quite nice: fruity with maybe some hints of oak and a scent that was very familiar but frustratingly elusive. On the palate it was low in tannins, medium acid, and with a long finish. The majority of the flavor on the palate seems to have been lost on me but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. The Suvla Blush is a definitely dry, clean wine that drinks pretty easily.

I can always tell when a wine did or did not impress me. If I wasn’t blown away by it then my notes are few and very basic. However if I loved a wine then my notes read like a bloody romance novel. Written in collaboration by Victor Hugo and Orhan Pamuk-two of the most overly wordy writers I have ever had the (mis)fortune to read. As much as I hate to not gush over a Suvla wine…my notes for the Suvla Blush were pretty basic. I just can’t get on the pink wine bandwagon.

Suvla Kabetepe Rose

Suvla Kabetepe Rose

I’ve been through Suvla’s Kabetepe red, white. and blush so I figured I should bookend the series and get the last one, the rose. I’m still a little resistant to pink wine but a) it’s only 15 TL and b) it’s Suvla so how bad could it be?

Not very, I’m happy to say.

In the glass the Suvla Kabetepe Rose was a bright rose, salmon color with a lot of berry and floral scents in the nose. It even smelled dry if that’s possible. On the palate it was low in tannin,  with medium acid, and a long dry finish. Crisp with berry flavors, it was refreshing and paired really well with strong cheeses and dried meat.

Am I coming around to the pink wines? What is the difference, anyway, between a blush and a rose? Thanks to Nusret at the Suvla shop I learned this not too long ago. The difference is both simple and huge. A blush is a wine made with red grapes but in a white wine method. So after the grapes are crushed, the skins are removed immediately leaving behind lightly colored juice. A rose wine is made (with red grapes) in the same manner as a red wine (i.e. skins are left with the juice through the fermentation process) but are removed sooner than are skins destined to become red wine. I think this might just be a Turkey thing.

If you think it’s impossible to find cheap but decent wine in Turkey you’re almost right…but at 15TL Suvla’s Kabetepe line is everything you’re looking for. I would advise though keeping this one cold; the warmer it got the more reminiscent it was of church wine…and I don’t know why but we seem incapable of making decent-tasting church wine.