Category Archives: White Wines

White Turkish Wines

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.

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.

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.

Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier 2014

Kastro Tireli is something I discovered only recently. During a stop-in at Comedus I bought this Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier 2014 (67 TL). I have come to realize that Kastro Tireli, an Aegean-based winery, is a much bigger deal than I suspected!

Since I first bought this white, I have seen Kastro Tireli wines pop up everywhere. I had also the pleasure of being able to try several others and speak to them at the Sommerlier’s Selection Turkey event. Located in Akhisar, in Manisa, the winery is influenced by the history of its location and by French and Italian viti and viniculture practices.

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 where Kastro Tireli has a storefront.

Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier

Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier 2014 Tasting Notes:

As a first impression to a new (to me) vineyard, the Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier made an excellent impression. This was a beautiful and harmonious blending of the Turkish Narince grape and the French Viognier. The great balance Kastro Tireli achieved highlighted the strengths of both grapes without letting one overpower the other.

The nose was very aromatic. I detected both ripe tropical and stone fruits as well as flowers. A creamy mouth feel full of rich apricots, honey, and flowers was saved from being sweet by a lively acid. Overall this was a well-balanced wine and a true expression of the grapes and terroir.

Nif Aegean White 2015

Nif has quickly become one of my favorite wineries in Turkey and I’m always seeking out more of their wines. At the Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey I had the opportunity to try several which I picked up later from La Cave. Among them was the Nif Aegean White blend.

With the tag line “Bottled Happiness” they rather boldly guarantee the quality of their wine. Are the wrong? Not that I have so far found. The critics seem to agree. Nif wines have been winning awards since 2012.

Located in Izmir in the heart of Turkey’s Aegean region, Nif cultivates both domestic grapes such as Bornova Muscat, Narince, and Sultaniye as well as a vast array of international grapes. French grapes are the most popular here in Turkey but Nif is one of the few wineries tackling also Italian grapes. I’ve had both the Sangiovese and the Montepulciano Reserve and will post about those soon!

Nif Aegean White

Nif Aegean White 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Nif Aegean white is a blend of Viognier and Narince.  In the glass it is a pale, lemony yellow that doesn’t really hint at the wine’s power. With 13.5% abv it’s a fairly big white. The nose is really aromatic with citrus and tropical fruits, lychee syrup, honeysuckle, and something spicy like nutmeg. It has a silky mouthfeel with a solid acid spine. Flavors were very citrus driven with lemon peel and rich lychee.

I drank this with some brie I had on hand and it was gorgeous. The acid of the wine really cut through the creamy cheese. They were beautiful together.

At only about 35TL (La Cave in Cihangir), the Nif Aegean white blend is a nice wine for a fantastic price. I highly recommend this one.

Likya 2015 Arykanda Chardonnay

I know-a Chardonnay? What is the world coming to?! I really did have a reason though. I recently lead an all-Likya tasting and wanted at least one white. So when I spotted this unoaked Likya 2015 Arykanda Chardonnay at La Cave (for only 45TL) I thought why not?

Also they only had one bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc.

Arykanda Chardonnay

I was actually fairly intrigued by the Arykanda Chardonnay. I have not hated unoaked Chardonnay wines I’ve had in the past and so thought that this could be interesting. Oddly enough I-loud Chardonnay hater that I am-was one of only THREE people out of 13 at the tasting who liked it! Well-“like” might be a strong word for what I felt. I thought it was drinkable, but two of my guests really did actually like it.

In the glass the Arykanda Chardonnay was a brilliant, pale yellow. On the nose I got an explosion of tropical fruits, yellow apple, citrus blossom, and white peach. Many people at my tasting told me that they smelled bubble gum.

On that palate I personally thought that this was pretty soft for a 13.7% abv wine. Apparently I was the only one to do so however as the vast majority of my guests were completely put off by what they said was bracing acidity.

The question of acidity aside, the palate carried many of the flavors from the nose, particularly the white peach, along with a creamy creme fraiche flavor/feeling.

Final feelings on the Arykanda Chardonnay…I didn’t hate it nearly as much as 85% of my guests but it isn’t something I’m likely to buy again.

Pamukkale Sole and Diamond

I recently saw an Instagram post from Pamukkale showing several new wines and I had to try them. I’m a bit of a magpie and am attracted to shiny/sparkly objects so the label of the new Pamukkale Sole line attracted me right away. And for 16 TL how can you go wrong?

Pamukkale Sole

Normally Pamukkale is not one of my go-to producers. For one thing they’re responsible for Sava which is one of the cheapest wines available here and gives a bad name to vinegar. However since I can’t afford to spend 90+ TL on every bottle of wine I drink I am always looking for quality inexpensive wines. I don’t promise huge quality here, but the white Pamukkale Sole, which is a dry Sultaniye, was pretty quaffable.

Pamukkale Sole

Brilliant gold in the glass the Pamukkale Sole was very aromatic with a nose of flowers and tropical fruits. It was a little flabby; there was not a lot of acid to balance the flavor which became a problem as the wine warmed up so serve this right out of the refrigerator and you’ll still get the tropical flavors without the lack of acid making things awkward.

If you decide to give the Pamukkale Sole a try make sure you drink it within a few months of purchasing it and you store it out of the light. Clear bottles like this provide no protection for the wine inside opening the wine to major sun damage.

The Diamond is another newish line from Pamukkale and also only 16 TL a bottle (The Cave) it was not a horrible wine. I bought it a bit on impulse but then was reluctant to open it; I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Pamukkale Diamond

In the glass it was a rather beautiful color: brilliant clear wheat-gold. I’m not sure what the grape in the Diamond is because I am no where near that good yet (possible another Sultaniye-Pamukkale seems to like this grape) but whatever it was has a very fruity nose. There wasn’t a great deal of finish to this but the mouthwatering acid and dry, slightly oaky finish balanced well with the citrus, tropical, apple and floral flavors.

Pamukkale Diamond

Is this even in the top 20 white wines I’ve tried this summer? No. But will you embarrass yourself if you take it to a party? Also no. For 16 TL it’s really perfectly drinkable.

Papazın Şarabı Sauvignon Blanc Blend

I don’t actually know where the Papazın Şarabı and Palivor Çiftliği crossover happens. I did some light Googling and couldn’t find the connection but it was the Palivor Çiftliği logo that got me to buy this so whatever the partnership is Papazın Şarabı owes at least one sale to them. Truly I bought this bottle because there’s a buck on the label-the Palivor Çiftliği logo-and I thought it would amuse my Daddy who is a hunter.

This was not a light decision to pick up. Sure I got a giggle over the buck on the label but at 80TL from Carrefour this wasn’t a small investment, especially considering that the last time I tangled with a Sauvignon Gris I was utterly unimpressed.

In the glass the Papazın Şarabı Sauvignon Blanc-Sauvignon Gri blend was a clear, pale gold with a lot of citrus, white flowers, and a little oaky something in the nose. This one could definitely use a little breathing time as initially the acid was quite high, giving a bit of a fizz on the tongue like a Lambrusco. Once it opened up and the fizz died down though this Papazın Şarabı was actually rather creamy in the mouth but no finish to speak of. The aromas carried through to the palate with white flowers and a lemon/lime citrus but also with a little bit of orange at the tail end.

In the end, the 2012 Papazın Şarabı Sauvignon Blanc-Sauvignon Gris is a porch wine. It’s an easily sipable wine for the afternoon you’re out enjoying your garden in the sun and don’t want a super challenging beverage. I won’t say that it was worth 80TL, but I did not regret the money spent.

Arda Winery

Visiting Edirne and the Arda Winery

Happily day two in Edirne was only about 35-36 C and not 38 because we had to bundle up several times to visit some more mosques. I was really looking forward to visiting the Arda winery but before we could get there we had to fill E’s need to see and do everything possible so we started the day at the Eski Camii (Old Mosque) located just down the street from the Selimiye Mosque.

This is possibly the most uniquely decorated mosque I’ve ever visited. Rather than tiles or frescoes, the Old Mosque, completed in 1414, is almost stark of decoration except for the giant Arabic calligraphy inscriptions that dominate the walls and pillars.

After a morning wandering around the Old Mosque and the arasta (bazaar) we headed back to our hotel to check out. We stayed at the Ottoman Palace Hotel which is situated pretty centrally in Edirne. A perfectly decent hotel for the ridiculously low price (about $30/night for a large single) and the owners were very friendly. I’d stored a couple bottles of wine in their refrigerator which sparked a conversation with the owner about Turkish wines. As we were leaving he gave me a bottle of wine that his family makes for themselves!

From our hotel we headed down the street to the Üç Şerefeli Camii (Mosque of the Three Balconies). This stunning mosque, completed in 1447, was impressive even before we got into the courtyard. From outside the wall we could see that not only were the minarets decorated, they were all done in different styles.

Inside was equally lovely with soaring domes and lots of light and space. What I particularly liked was how no space was too small to decorate. Even the inside of the small domes are beautifully decorated. As sad as it is to see the country so devoid of tourists the selfish side of me enjoys it when I can walk into a mosque, museum, church, etc and not have a ton of people in my photos!

In an effort to cover all the major religions in one day, we left this mosque in search of Edirne’s Great Synagogue-of which I have no pictures because we got there to find the tall gates closed and locked. I spoke to the group of guards and we discovered that the synagogue was closed only that day. Argh! E&M tried to convince them to let us take a sneak peek but they weren’t falling for it. So if you visit Edirne and want to see the Great Synagogue, don’t go on a Monday!

We tried out luck next with the Christians of Edirne and drove through some narrow, tricky streets to try to find the Bulgarian church of Sveti Georgi (and don’t think there weren’t jokes around a mispronunciation of sveti). We got there, after successfully parallel parking no less, only to discover another closed gate-this one topped with razor wire. This was apparently not to be our day of being inclusively religious.

 

After our disappointments at the synagogue and church we were ready for some good luck which we found at one of my favorite wineries, the Edirne-based boutique winery Arda. Easily spotted from the road, the Arda winery-recognizable from the labels-sits on a vine covered hill that rises above the road. We drove through the vineyard and were slightly taken aback to find a large backhoe digging out the earth along the back wall of the winery. Sadly Arda was having a problem with damp and while the naturally well-irrigated soils are great for the vines, they weren’t doing so much for the winery and its contents.

We had a great visit at the Arda winery, fully making up for the day’s earlier failures. We met Yavuz who told us how his family got started in the wine business and about the wins they are currently producing. While I asked all my usual wine questions (root stock, irrigation, harvest, barrel ageing etc) we sampled a wide range of the wines. Arda produces three levels of wine:

  • Sekiz Dokuz: This, their low-end wine is named after the 8/9 rhythm of Gypsy music and is usually sold in bulk for banquets and large events
  • Kuşlar: This mid-priced wines cover a large number of varietals including: Narince, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet-Merlot blend and are among the best mid-priced wines you can get. The Cabernet is one of my go-to wines and even for a non Syrah fan like me, the Shiraz isn’t bad.
  • Reserve: These higher priced wines are well worth the buck (or TL I suppose), especially if you can buy them at the winery where they’re far more reasonably priced. The reserve line includes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet-Merlot blend, and Shiraz

Of course I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to buy wine at the winery price; especially since there were several wines there that I haven’t seen in Istanbul. I also snagged two of their last four bottles of Narince! Arda is not widely available even in Istanbul but you can find them at Solera (Beyoglu-Yeni Carsi Cd.) and at the wine/whiskey store in Karakoy I can never remember the name of. Helpful I know but it’s somewhere near the iskele and offers significantly lower prices.

Arda 2013 Narince: A brilliant, pale yellow in the glass with a very floral, plumeria, and pineapple nose. On the palate it was creamy giving evidence to time spent in oak with bursting flavors of white pineapple, citrus, and white flowers. I’m so sorry that I only bought two bottle of the Narince because it was gorgeous-easily the nicest Narince I’ve had. And to the sadness of everyone at my Arda tasting, the second bottle was corked. There were tears.

The Cabernet I have reviewed before (see the link referenced above) so I won’t rehash that here other than to say it’s a lovely medium-bodied Cabernet with a lot of red berry, particularly raspberry flavors.

Arda 2013 Reserve Cabernet-Merlot blend: This has only recently been released and, at the time of our visit, wasn’t yet available in Istanbul. You should be on the look out for it though because even for a Merlot naysayer like myself this 50/50 blend was beautiful. Eighteen months in oak (and three in the bottle) and limited filtration gives this blend a beautiful dark garnet color and adds some fascinating oak characteristics without stripping the berry flavors. The nose is redolent with pine forest, forest fruits, chocolate, and clove. In the mouth the tannins are soft and silky and with the black fruit, vanilla, and mocha flavors give a luscious drinking experience.

 

Arda 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: This one is so beautiful it gets its own picture which I took ages ago when M grilled steaks the size of our heads. Cabernet Sauvignon is often a wine that wants meat and Arda’s reserve is no different.

Arda took the Mondus Vini Silver with this wine in the 16th Grand International Wine Awards, and it was well deserved. In the glass it’s an intense, beautiful, purple red. The 18 months it spent in oak was obvious right from nose as the tart, dark fruit aromas were accompanied by chocolate and cinnamon. In the mouth the tannins are velvety and long like the finish. A really long finish that just kept going carrying with it the flavors from the nose: bilberry, chocolate, and cinnamon.

Side note: I had to Google bilberry because I’ve never had one. I was tasting blueberry but not really blueberry and it turns out that the bilberry is a wild, European cousin of the blueberry more similar in flavor to the American huckleberry (which I’ve also never had so that wasn’t all that helpful).

So Arda; beautiful wines made with care and dedication and absolutely worth the effort to track down if you’re not near Edirne.

Chamlija Tasting

Visiting Edirne and Chamlija’s Blanc de Noirs

A few weeks ago E&M, R, and I headed out of Istanbul. None of us had ever been to Edirne, the old second capitol of the Empire, and on a roll after Bozcaada, I wanted to visit a few area wineries, particularly Chamlija. So we rented a car and headed out to adventure.

 

Adventure that was made both hilarious and painful long before we ever got to our destination thanks to Google Maps’ incredibly bad Turkish pronunciation. I realize it’s just a computer but come on. I mean think goodness I wasn’t the navigator because I truly had no idea what she was saying.

View of the Mosque of Three Balconies from our hotel
Monument to Mimar Sinan by his greatest mosque

Once we got into Edirne it took several wrong turns, arguing with Google Maps’ bad Turkish, and asking directions twice to find our hotel. But once we got there and checked in we set off on a short walk to the Selimiye Mosque. Our first priority was the museums as our guidebooks said they were closed on Monday. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is in the mosque’s courtyard which oddly enough made it even more difficult for us to find! We were not having good luck with Google Maps that day. Eventually find it we did and we went in to wander the air conditioned, glassed in corridors that wrap around a courtyard holding old marbles. Several of the displays included tableau of old Ottoman and Turkish life. My favorite being the section on the traditional oil wrestling where there was even a holograph showing a wrestling ceremony.

They’re supposed to be wrestling but it looks cannibalistic to me!

From here we wandered across the street to the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum where we discovered more tableau, examples of traditional painting on wood, marbles, statues, and religious bits and bobs from the various cultures that passed through Edirne (once Greek Adrianopole).

It was then time to visit the Selimiye Mosque-once of the greatest of all the Ottoman mosque complexes and a triumph for the leading Ottoman architect: Mimar Sinan. Completed in 1575, a year after his death, the dome of the mosque is six cubits wider and four deeper than that of the Haghia Sofia.

It’s a truly stunning creation both architecturally and in its decoration. This is probably my second favorite mosque in Turkey after the Rustem Pasa Mosque in Istanbul. I know, I know…the Blue Mosque blah blah blah-it’s nice but there are others that are better and this is definitely one of them.

On our way to Edirne we made a slight detour to visit one of my favorite wineries in Turkey-Chamlija. Not only do I rarely have a bad word to say about Chamlija wines, I almost hands down love (barring Chardonnay which I don’t like in general and to be fair have never tried Chamlija’s). We were greeted by owner, the charming Mustafa Camlica who runs the vineyards that are dotted around Kirklareli. We sat down to do a tasting and he brought out four wines saying with a grin that we would be “starting with your favorite” as he brandished a bottle of their Albarino. It’s true, it is (at least one of!) my favorite. So much so that I’ve blogged about it twice. However this wasn’t just the Albarino-we were treated to a tasting of Chamlija’s new 2015 Alvarinho Reserve. This was followed by the 2015 Papaskarasi (I’ve previously reviewed the 2014), the 2015 Mavrud, and the 2015 Öküzgözü-Boğazkere. Be on the lookout for tasting notes on these at a later date!

Before leaving Chamlija we made plans to order (they deliver to Istanbul if you buy a case!) and also bought a few bottles to go. One of which was the Karıştıran Bağları. You won’t find this wine on the order list as it’s one of two made really just for the local market but since we were there and being locals for the afternoon we bought a bottle. After a long day of driving and exploring we retired early to our hotel with some pide and Chamlija wines.

The Karıştıran Bağları is a 2015 blend of Pinot Noirs. In the nose there were a lot of black fruits like plum and blueberry as well as nail polish and maybe some gun smoke. It was slightly effervescent when we first took out the cork but as the wine opened and warmed up (we’d put in the fridge since “room temperature” that day was 38!) it smoothed out and the fizziness dissipated. No tannins or finish to speak of this was definitely the local wine-but it was fun to try!

Several cuts above the local wine was the 2015 Blanc de Noirs. A white wine made with Papaskarası (i.e. red) grapes, this was truly gorgeous. Go out and buy this now. Like right now.

Pale clear yellow in the glass it had a delicate citrus and tropical nose with possibly some floral elements. On the palate it was clean with some lively acid, an excellent finish, and flavors of peaches, tropical fruits, and lemon. Too easy to drink; this Papaskarası Blanc De Noirs by Chamlija definitely gets tagged as being #dangerouslydrinkable.

Day one in Edirne was a success! During day two we’ll visit more mosques, attempt to round out our religious experience with a church and a synagogue, and visit a boutique winery!