Category Archives: White Wines

White Turkish Wines

Kayra Cameo Sparkling Wine

Turkish sparkling wine is fairly new to the market. While previously there may have been one or two, it feels like the industry exploded with them over this spring and summer. Now you can find sparkling wine offered by a variety of producers including Vinkara, Pamukkale, Suvla, Kayra, and others.

Previously I posted about Leona Bubble, one of the two sparkling wines made by Kayra. The Kayra Cameo is a blend of the same grapes but is a higher-end version of the Bubble.

Cameo

The winery’s name is taken from the Turkish word “kayra” which means benevolence, grace, and kindness. A family endeavor, Kayra has two main bases in Turkey, one in Elazığ and one in Şarköy. The Elazığ winery in Eastern Anatolia was established in 1942, and the Şarköy winery in Thrace was established in 1996. With assistance from lead winemaker Daniel O’Donnell, Kayra produces an impressive 10 labels each with its own unique characteristics.

Leona Bubble

Part of the Kayra series, the Cameo is a well produced sparkling wine made in the tank, or charmat method. Unlike the traditional method (think Champagne), whereby wine goes through a second fermentation in the bottle to create bubbles; in the tank method the second fermentation happens in a large pressurized tank. The sparkling wine is then bottled and sealed.

I’ve had the pleasure of drinking Kayra’s Cameo several times now. In fact it formed the basis of a yacht-board wine tasting I hosted this summer! It doesn’t get much better than drinking sparkling wine while on a private Bosphorus cruise!

Cameo

Kayra Cameo Tasting Notes:

Like many sparkling wines, the Cameo is a non vintage-meaning it is a blend of wines harvested in different years. The blend includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Misket. Between the lovely flavor and the relatively low alcohol (11.5% abv) this is definitely a wine that is dangerously delicious!

The Cameo has a lovely aromatic nose filled with delicate fruits and cream. White peach, citrus (grapefruit particularly), and pineapple all vied for attention. Bubbles are fine and tight giving the wine a nice, frothy mouthfeel. It almost feels like the flavors of peach, lemon pith, blood orange, and grapefruit burst out of the bubbles as they dissipate on the tongue.

So far my favorite Turkish sparkling wine is the Cameo! While it seems that sparkling wine is often reserved for a special occasion at an average price of 99 TL the Cameo won’t break the bank if your special occasion is as simple as opening a good bottle of wine!

Late Harvest Urla Symposium 2015

Many people I know are turned off by the term: late harvest. “I don’t like dessert wine.” “It’s too sweet.” For many ‘late harvest’ means a wine that is syrupy sweet; but it doesn’t have to mean that at all. Late harvest wines can be super sweet, dry, and everything in between.

The late harvest Misket Urla Symposium is an excellent example. It is not a dessert wine but a lovely, light, semi-sweet. So if late harvest doesn’t automatically mean sweet wine; what does it mean?

Late harvest grapes are just that. They are grapes that have been left on the vine longer than a typical harvest (an additional one to two months). When grapes are left to hang like this they slowly begin to raisin. A concentrated “raisined” grape contains lower amounts of water and higher amounts of sugar. The resulting juices are therefore super concentrated in both sugar and flavor.

The must from late harvest grapes is then vinified. While this usually results in sweet wines, notably German Riesling and French Sauternes; it doesn’t have to be. Late harvest wines can be vinified completely dry. Wines made in this style will often be fuller in body and more intensely flavored than they would be had grapes been picked at the usual harvest time.

Now that the lesson in late harvest wines is over that leaves the question: where does the Urla Symposium fit? Somewhere in the middle but definitely on the sweet side of the fence.

Urla Symposium

Late Harvest Urla Symposium 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Urla Symposium is a late harvest Borovina Misket. Its pale color and relatively low alcohol (11.5% abv) provide the first indication of the wine’s overall elegance. The nose was what I’ve come to expect from Misket; but more so.  Intense honey and orange blossom saved from being overly sweet by an underlying zing of lively citrus.

The palate was restrained; like fragile, perfumed gossamer. Orange blossom, honey, and lemon curd gracefully twine just enough acid to keep the wine from tipping over the syrupy saccharine line. Sweet for certain and slightly thicker than standard Misket. A perfect sweet wine for those who like

Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume

In the semi-recent past I lead a tasting called the Four Faces of Papaskarası. We tasted four of Chamlija’s Papaskarası wines: the Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Noirs Fume, Papaskarası, and Papaskarası Reserve. I’ve had the Blanc de Noirs before but this was my first go round with the Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume. It was not only my favorite of the night but everyone’s favorite!

I often feel spoiled as there are a number of wineries that ship directly to me; Chamlija being one of them. However there are a couple Chamlija wines for which I would pay the inflated retail price. The Blanc de Noirs Fume is one of them.

Chamlija Papaskarası

Papaskarası’s story is interesting. Papaskarası is a grape native to Turkey’s Thracian region with a history going back at least 1,500 years. It is not a well-known grape even in Turkey where it’s cultivated by few winemakers-namely Chamlija, Melen, and Edrine. Papaskarası grapes have the ability to make versatile wines that are aromatic, fruit-forward, and naturally highly acidic light bodied red wines and blanc de noir white wines.

Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume

Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume 2015 Tasting Notes:

I was really surprised by how light this was for a fume. You can see even in the picture how pale yellow the wine was. Even though I’d had the Blanc de Noirs before I really had no idea what to expect from the Fume. The differences were somehow both subtle and huge.

The nose of the Fume was full of white peaches, tropical fruits, and vanilla. In the mouth it was delightful. Absolutely delightful. Very nice acidity; fresh and lively. The flavors echoed the nose with more white peaches, tropical fruits (mango), and a hint of cream and butter.

At 12.5% abv and the refreshing flavors this was one of those wines that I call Dangerously Drinkable.  It slipped down very easily (perhaps too easily!) especially paired with the spicy chipotle chicken salad I was eating.

I see another order to Chamlija in my near future to stock up on this for summer drinking!

Kayra Leona Bubble

For years I avoided most sparkling wines. I found that almost all of them made me ill; instant migraine. Maybe I’m just getting more drinking practice now because that hasn’t happened in a while; freeing me to explore Turkish sparkling wines like the Leona Bubble.

Kayra, one of Turkey’s largest and most prestigious wine companies, produces two sparkling wines: Cameo and under its Leona label, Bubble. Both are relatively inexpensive although the Cameo (review soon!) is definitely the higher quality of the two.

Leona Bubble

There are six different ways to make sparkling wine: traditional method (Méthode Champenoise, méthode traditionnelle), tank method (or charmat), transfer, ancestral, and continuous (the Russian method) methods, and simply adding carbon dioxide. Wine Folly has a great article detailing each method; but briefly:

Traditional: In 2015 UNESCO awarded the traditional method, used largely to make Champagne, with heritage status. In this most celebrated, and expensive method, the base still wine is made as any other wine would be made then bottled. Then in tirage, the winemaker then adds yeast and sugar to the bottled wine to start the second fermentation and wines are bottled (and topped with crown caps). The second fermentation happens in the bottle. The CO2 gas created by the fermentation process has nowhere to go so it turns into liquid and dissolves back into the wine creating the bubbles. The wine is then aged, riddled, disgorged, a dosage is added (or not depending on the desired style), and finally corked.

Tank: This method, closely associated with Prosecco, starts out similarly to the Traditional method. However the second fermentation happens in a large tank. After the second fermentation ends, the sparkling wine is bottled without additional ageing.

Transfer: This method is nearly identical to the Traditional method until the riddling and disgorging. The bottles are emptied into a pressurized tank and sent through pressurized filters to remove the dead yeast bits (lees). Then, the wines are bottled using pressurized fillers.

Ancestral: This method of sparkling wine production uses icy temperatures (and filteration) to pause the fermentation mid-way for a period of months and then wines are bottled and the fermentation finishes, trapping the CO2 in the bottle. When the desired level of CO2 is reached, wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged.

Continuous: In this method, used by Russian sparkling wine makers, wine is moved from tank to tank each with a different purpose. After the base wine is blended, the winemaker continually adds yeast into pressurized tanks. Wines are then moved into another tank with yeast enrichments. Finally, the wines move into the last set of pressurized tanks where the yeasts and enrichments are settled out, leaving the wine relatively clear.

Carbonation: In this cheapest method, CO2 is added to the base wine in a pressurized tanks.

Leona Bubble

Kayra Leona Bloom Tasting Notes:

The Leona Bloom was made in the cheapest sparkling wine method of simply adding CO2 to still wine. However it is still a pretty decent bottle of fizz. A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Misket; it’s fresh, light, and utterly quaffable.

The nose displays a balance of aromas from the three grapes. A slightly musty aroma underlines peaches, white flowers, and grass resulting in a bouquet that is both fresh and deep. Tight bubbles burst with the ripeness of summer peaches and florals for a warm, albeit brief, finish.

A non vintage blend, like the majority of sparkling wine, this particular one was bottled in 2013. With only 11.5% abv the Leona Bloom is an easy and enjoyable drink.

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.