Category Archives: Wines by Grape

Wines categorized by their grape type(s)

Trajan Rezerv Kalecik Karası 2011

I was unaware of the existence of Trajan wines until I saw the Trajan Rezerv Kalecik Karası at the Cihangir Suvla shop and bought it on recommendation. Now I am a Trajan fan. And who could not be with its background?

Before we get to Trajan wines though we have to start with the Kalecik Karası grape. Kalecik Karası is a native Turkish varietal. Originally from the Central Anatolian district of Kalecik (Kalecik Karası literally means ‘black from Kalecik) it is now one of three most common native varieties found in Turkish wine (along with Boğazkere and Öküzgözü). However even as early as the 1950s this grape was nearly extinct due to an influx of phylloxera.  

Enter Professor Dr. Y. Sabit Ağaoğlu. After completing his doctoral studies on Kalecik Karası; he consulted with the Ankara University Agriculture Faculty in the early 1970s. With his assistance and with the corporation of Prof. Nail Orman’s ‘Clone Selection Project’; new studies were conducted and clones developed that would literally sew the seeds of the grape’s return. In 1992, Dr. Ağaoğlu helped found Kalecik Viticulture Research Station (KALEBAĞ) as a branch of Ankara University’s Agriculture Faculty to focus on enhancing Kalecik Karası viticulture.

Trajan Rezerv

In addition to his academic work, Dr. Ağaoğlu and his wife Gülcihan founded a small vineyard of their own. Christened Tomurcukbağ after their daughter Tomurcuk, the vineyard consists of 10 acres in Kalecik in the micro climatic region of Kızılırmak River.

All the wines they produce under their Trajan label are vinified using traditional techniques including spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts and without any enzymes or other additives. The Trajan Rezerv wines are vinified entirely from run off juice leaving the pressed juice for the standard Trajan wines.

Tomurcukbağ Trajan Rezerv Kalecik Karası 2011 Tasting Notes:

Pale, medium intense brick-garnet in the glass. The nose is fantastic. Lots of red fruits, raspberry, smoke, a little dried meat, and earthy mushrooms. On the palate it is ever so slightly effervescent. Tannins are low as I would expect from this varietal and the acid is a bit of a smack in the mouth. And I mean that in the best way possible. The flavors are intense and full of meat, smoke, and cedar with the juicy tang of fruit.

This is possibly the most interesting Kalecik Karası wine I have had. I’m not sure if it’s good that I started with the reserve wine and will now work my way “down” so to speak; but I look forward to trying more wines by Tomurcukbağ.  

Delibori Lugana 2014

When I first started my adventures into wine here in Turkey I refused to buy imported wines like this Delibori Lugana. Because alcohol taxes here aren’t high enough; the Turkish Government also levies very high import taxes. So a wine that might cost five Euros in Europe will cost three-four times that here.

However my attitude towards imported wines has slowly changed. They’re still outrageously over priced; don’t get me wrong! But with the falling value of the Turkish Lira and given the high prices I pay for many Turkish wines I find that I’m more willing to buy imports these days.

This Delibori Lugana I found at the Metro shopping center. I had heard stories of this place which resembles an American Costco but had never been. Wine of course is not available at quite the bulk/discount that it would be at a Costco but the selection can at least be diverse.

Delibori Lugana

Lugana is not a grape but an area in Italy; specifically in the Veneto near Lake Garda. Lugana was registered as a DOC (denominazione di origne controllata) in 1967. According to the DOC production rules, a wine can be labelled Lugana if produced with at least 90% of Trebbiano di Lugana (Turbiana) grapes grown in the registered Lugana wine producing area. These are some of my favorite Italian white wines.

Delibori Lugana Tasting Notes:

The Delibori Lugana is a blend of the required Turbiana and Chardonnay. At 12% abv it also follows the Lugana DOC regulations that alcohol not be below 10.5%.

In the glass it is a medium, bright yellow. The nose is equally citrus and floral with white flowers and honeysuckle. On the palate the acid feels low giving the wine a silky feeling. The finish is sort but the wine is very flavorful with citrus (lemon and lemon peel), flowers (again honeysuckle), and mineral.

Doluca Alçitepe Cabernet Shiraz 2013

Doluca is one of the largest wine outfits in Turkey. In 1926 the Maison Vinikol at Galata was founded and became the base for Doluca. they began with Yapıncak and Karlahna grapes, then in 1935 brought back Cinsault, Semillon, Riesling, and Gamay from Europe. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the company premiered wines under the name Doluca but they’ve been going strong ever since.

Doluca’s main operations are located in Tekirdağ, part of Turkey’s Thrace. When I said that it is one of the largest outfits in Turkey I was not exaggerating. Doluca has an annual production capacity of 14 million liters. Their production warehouse can manage 1.3 million bottles at a time. Wow.

Alçitepe Cabernet Shiraz

With that level of capacity it’s not a surprise that Doluca produces wine under a number of labels. Seven of them to be exact: Alçitepe, Signium, Sarafin, Karma, Kav, Tuğra, DLC, Verano, Safir, Antik, and Villa Doluca.

Doluca’s website has a list that goes for pages of awards their wines have won. Gold, silver, and bronze medals along with other accolades awarded at international competitions from around the world. The Alçitepe line, which premiered just in the last few years, is already earning some of those awards.

Alçitepe Cabernet Shiraz

Doluca Alçitepe Cabernet Shiraz 2013 Tasting Notes:

To start, the Doluca Alçitepe Cabernet Shiraz 2013 is a lovely color of clear, intense ruby. And at a whopping 15.5% abv it’s intense in more ways than one! It’s a wine definitely in need of some breathing otherwise the alcohol is rather overwhelming in the nose. However once you’re past that you can enjoy the sensuous combination of dark fruits, smoked meat, caramel, and baking spices.

When I first began my explorations into wine I often wondered at some of the descriptions I read. You can find and taste fruits, herbs, spices, etc…but how do you know what some of these other things are supposed to taste like? Wet stone? Ash? Dusty? Sure I don’t dust my bookshelves nearly as often as I should but I can’t imagine I’m supposed to lick them to learn what ‘dust’ tastes like.

What I’ve learned is that you kind of know it when you taste it. Like the Doluca Alçitepe Cabernet Shiraz 2013. Tart black raspberry dominates but is made interesting by notes of smoke and dusty/dried leaves that weave in and out. Beautifully balanced on the palate with round, silky tannins and a long finish. It drinks a bit sweet (although a dry wine) with the sweet spice and vanilla influence of oak. Prior to its release the Doluca Alçitepe Cabernet Shiraz 2013 spent eight months in oak (65% French and 35% American).

The Alçitepe wines are a limited bottling. This particular one was bottle 2,932 out of 10,800. They are also Doluca’s most expensive line running an average price of 175 TL.

A Tasting of Yanık Ülke

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to the Galata Anemon hotel for a tasting of Yanık Ülke wines.

Yanık Ülke  was established by the Akçura family on the rocky volcanic slopes of the Divlit Volcano near Izmir. The terroir in that area is volcanic and similar to that of Mount Etna in Italy. They have 150 hectares (60 under vine) located at 924 meters above sea level. Their site boasts not only vineyards planted with an interesting variety of grapes but also a hotel and onsite restaurant.

Yanık Ülke

Yanık Ülke plants only old favorites such as Muscat, Chardonnay, Viognier, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Boğazkere, and Öküzgözü. They are also the only vineyard in Turkey, to my knowledge, cultivating Cataratto, Gewürtzraminer, Nerello Cappucchio,  and Nerello Mascalese. 

Yanık Ülke Gewurtztraminer

Vineyard manager Çağrı Kurucu lead our tasting of eight Yanık Ülke wines including: Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Nerello Mascalese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Miratus, and Serendipity.

Yanık Ülke Viognier

Yanık Ülke Chardonnay Tasting Notes:

This is a nice, light Chardonnay from Yanık Ülke, perfect for people like me who don’t like a lot of oak in their white wines. A bright, medium lemon in color and a medium intense nose of sweet florals and tropical fruits. Medium-bodied with a medium plus finish the wine is generally well-balanced. It finish rather warm and really shows off both Chardonnay’s characteristic tropical fruits and the distinctive minerality from volcanic soils.

Yanık Ülke Viognier 2016 Tasting Notes:

I am unabashedly a fan of Viognier. I first discovered this grape while living in DC as several Virginia wineries are doing great things with it. Here in Turkey there are fewer options with my favorites being from Kayra and Chamlija so it’s nice to add Yanık Ülke to the line up (which also includes wines from Selendi and Kastro Tireli).

A lovely light but intense lemon color, Yanık Ülke’s Viognier has a delicate but aromatic nose filled with white flowers, yellow apple, mineral, and ripe fruits. A very soft mouthfeel and elegant fruit flavors make this an ideal wine as an aperitif or for summer sipping!

Yanık Ülke

Yanık Ülke Gewürztraminer 2016 Tasting Notes:

I am not going to lie; this was my favorite of the whites. As far as I’m aware Yanık Ülke is the only winery here currently experimenting with Gewürztraminer. This is one of my favorite white wine grapes so I was very excited for this.

Do not let the delicacy of this wine fool you! At 14% abv it’s bigger than it seems. The nose is aromatic; white flowers, ripe stone fruits, and tropical fruits. Sur lie aging lends a lightly creamy mouthfeel here carrying the warm peach flavors to a long finish. Don’t get this thinking you’ll be drinking a German or French Gewürztraminer; this is an entirely Turkish Gewürztraminer!

Yanık Ülke Nerello Mascalese

Yanık Ülke Nerello Mascalese 2015 Tasting Notes:

Nerello Mascalese is another grape that I’ve seen only from Yanık Ülke in Turkey. For good reason. This native Italian grape is best known for being cultivated on Mount Etna so Yanık Ülke’s volcanic soil is the perfect place in Turkey for it.

This bright, plum-purple wine has a fruity nose. Rich, full of forest fruits, sweet spices, and vanilla. The palate surprises with a little more attitude from this unoaked, medium-bodied wine. The slight bite of black pepper keeps it from veering too far into jammy territory and compliments the fruit flavors well.

Yanık Ülke Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Tasting Notes:

This Cabernet was aged in both French and (majority) American oak and I think Yanık Ülke has reached a good balance of the two in their blending. The different oak influences are obvious while being harmonious. The nose carries opulent red fruits, sweet spices, cinnamon, and hints of leather and perfumed violet. Fruit-forward on the palate with soft, round tannins and a slightly bitter, green stem finish.

Yanık Ülke Serendipity

Yanık Ülke Serendipity 2015 Tasting Notes:

Serendipity is Yanık Ülke’s Bordeaux blend. A coupage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc makes it a classic blend. There was a prodigious use of oak in this blend. The Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot were aged in old oak and the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot aged in new oak prior to blending. Perhaps the wine needs more bottle or breathing time but for me this was a little like drinking oak syrup. Nose and palate are heavy with caramel, vanilla, baking spices and cooked fruits.

Yanık Ülke Shiraz Reserve 2014 Tasting Notes:

Yanık Ülke’s Shiraz Reserve is intensely purple-ruby color. I found the nose to be very floral initially giving way to big clove aromas with the fruit being almost an afterthought. The palate at this point is still a little unbalanced. Like the Serendipity it needs a little more time and patient decanting. The tannins are quite aggressive and there’s an acrid green stem flavor up front. The clove is very pronounced on the palate which I enjoyed.

Yanık Ülke Miratus

Yanık Ülke Miratus Oak Blend 2015 Tasting Notes:

When they told us that the Miratus was the ‘oak blend’ I was frankly a little terrified. After the oaky syrup flavors I got in the Serendipity I wasn’t sure what to expect from this blend of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Bogazkere, and Shiraz. Despite my initial trepidation I rather enjoyed this one. But first-what do they mean by oak blend? Each variety is oak aged prior to blending as usual, but the wine is aged in oak again after blending as well. The Miratus spends a total of two to three years in total. You can definitely smell the oak. There’s little subtlety as you’re all but swamped with aromas of vanilla, baking spices, and cooked fruit. However the wine finds its balance on the palate where hints of black pepper cut through the oak providing an interesting edge. The flavors are also a lot brighter than I expected after the nose giving the impression of a wine that is rich with round tannins, red fruits, sweet spices, and pepper.

Overall this was a really interesting look into Yanık Ülke. It seems they are doing some interesting things; not the least of which is cultivating grapes otherwise not seen in Turkey. I’m looking forward to getting to know this producer better.

 

Porta Caeli Ament Bordeaux Blend 2013

Porta Caeli is one of my favorite new wineries here in Turkey and its Ament Bordeaux is as hefty as the bottle is. But more on that later.

Porta Caeli is a relatively new winery. Based in Eceabat on the Gallipoli peninsula, it has only recently released its first vintage (2013). The idea for Porta Caeli came from a wine loving family. Knowing that Turkey is capable of producing wines to rival those from anywhere in the world they established their winery in 2002. After traveling across Turkey and testing soils in various regions they settled in Ecebat where they have 170 hectares.

They implement Good Agricultural Practices and GLOBALGAP procedures in their vineyards where 80% of their grapes are red. Cabernet Sauvignon leads the charge with smaller parcels 0f Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The remaining 20% is dedicated to white varieties Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier.

Ament Bordeaux

If you’re noticing a lack of native varietals you’re not wrong. Their goal at Porta Caeli is to make Bordeaux-style wines that rival not the sea of Bordeaux blends made in Turkey, but those in France. With assistance from flying winemaker Michele Roland this goal may not be as laughable as many who don’t know Turkish wine think. 

Grapes are hand harvested before being processed through the winery’s gravity-fed system.  A system that includes, incredibly, both steel and large wood tanks for maceration. Wines are aged for a minimum of 18 months in oak before their release. Currently Porta Caeli produces wine under four labels: Ament (red), Pacem (white), Felici (rose), and Porta Diverti (red and white). I’ve had just about all of them now and will go back for more. Even of the rose. I know. The world is ending.

If that’s not a large enough goal, Porta Caeli also offers onsite luxury. The onsite hotel is stunning. I kind of want to live there. With a spa and restaurant there really would be no reason to leave. Porta Caeli will also be premiering a line of gourmet products made from produce grown onsite.

Ament Bordeaux

Porta Caeli Ament Bordeaux Blend 2013 Tasting Notes:

I mentioned earlier that the wine is as hefty as the bottle. At 14.5% abv the Porta Caeli Ament Bordeaux blend packs a serious punch. But the bottle? I don’t think I’ve ever held a (standard-size) bottle that heavy before. When it’s empty it still feels full.

The Ament is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  The color is a deep, dark mystery but if color has an aroma then this smells the way it looks. The aromas burst into the air as I poured the wine. Intense purple/black fruits, fig, tobacco, cedar, and baking spices with a hint of wood smoke curling through the nose. Big, full body with supple tannins and finish that didn’t finish. Sticky, dark fruits and slightly sweet on the attack with lingering dark chocolate. Beautiful.

I am absolutely Porta Caeli’s wines so look out for future posts about the rest of their collection!

Badagoni Pirosmani White 2014

I don’t know why but there’s a fever among the expat population in Istanbul for all things Georgian. Both Pop-Up Istanbul and Popist Supper Club have held Georgian nights. I served as the tamada at the latter (but that’s a different story). I, like several friends, have two kilos of khinkhali in my freezer. And we’re mad for Georgian wine (although really who can blame us?). So when my friend K came home from London with a couple bottles of wine from Badagoni I was thrilled to share the Pirosmani White with her.

Badagoni is a fairly new winery in Georgia all things considered. While established in only 2002 it has quickly become one of Georgia’s largest wine producers. With help and support from well-respected enologist Donato Lanati, Badagoni wines have won awards both domestically and abroad.

Located in the Zemo Khodasheni village in Kakheti, the most famous of Georgian wine  regions, Badagoni produces wine in both the traditional Georgian and European styles. Their product line up is extensive. If you have time to visit Kakheti you can book a tour at Badagoni. However if you’re just breezing through Tbilisi their wines are widely available. I believe there’s even a Badagoni office/shop on Freedom Square.

Pirosmani White

Badagoni Pirosmani White 2014 Tasting Notes:

Named after arguably one of the greatest Georgian artists, Niko Pirosmani, the Pirosmani White (there’s also a red) is a semi-dry wine. It is a blend of Rkatsiteli, Kakhetian Mtsvane, and Kisi. In the glass it’s almost perfectly clear with barely a hint of discernible color. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting from this wine. It was not however this lovely, light and delicate but still flavorful wine. Which despite its delicacy was still a rather surprising 12% abv.

The nose here was full of vanilla, cream, and white peaches. These were reflected on the palate with the addition of tropical/mango flavors. As a semi-dry wine K and I agreed that it was best served quite cold (around 5C) but the presence of strong acidic backbone kept the wine from sliding too far into the sweet category.

I would definitely go back to this one and can only hope to lay my hands on more wines from Badgoni in the future!

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.

Saranta Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Saranta is one of the new kinds on the block of the Turkish wine industry. While established in 2007 and with a debut vintage in 2010 we’ve only really seen Saranta wines in Istanbul over the past year.  Happily for wine lovers Saranta is hiding no longer. They exploded on the main stage at the Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey 2017. A few months later Saranta wines were popping up in Istanbul bottle shops.

Located in Turkey’s Thrace, just a stone’s throw from another Thracian jewel, Vino Dessera, Saranta is producing quality wines under two labels: Saranta and Chateau Murou.

Saranta

Saranta sources grapes from its own vineyards in Kırklareli as well as from other growers in the Thracian region. After processing in its state of the art facilities wines are aged and stored in the beautiful cellar. Wines with the Saranta label are aged entirely in stainless steel. Wines labeled Chateau Murou age in French oak barriques.

Saranta

Saranta will soon offer not only tours and tastings in its beautiful tasting room but also a place to stay. Right next door to the winery’s facilities stands a lovely, nearly complete boutique hotel.

Saranta Sauvignon Blanc

Saranta Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Saranta Sauvignon Blanc has a flinty nose with undertones of citrus. The acid is rather on the high side but the overall wine is nicely balanced. On the palate there’s lots of citrus (lemon peel and grapefruit) with a slightly warm, lemon curd finish. The Kırklareli terroir makes itself known in the wine and you can taste the distinctive minerals from the quartz-laden soils.

I’m really looking forward to more of Saranta’s wines!

Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec

When I lived in the US I never really understood the point of Duty Free shops; I never saw deals that were any better than the US retail prices. Then I moved to Turkey and I got it. Now I make liberal use of duty free whenever I’m abroad including picking up a bottle of the gorgeous 2012 Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec.

While it wouldn’t have been my first instinct to pair it this way; it turns out that the Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec goes beautifully with roasted tomato soup. This was a case of pairing based more on what I wanted to eat and drink vs what made pairing sense. And yet it worked amazing well.

Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec

Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec Tasting Notes:

I’ve had one or two pretty decent Turkish Malbecs recently but the Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec…this is what Malbec is supposed to taste like. The nose is deep and dark dark, mostly black pepper, tobacco, and cocoa. After it opened we caught also some of the big, black fruits for which Malbec is so famous.

So, so beautiful, the tannins envelope you like a velveteen hug and lead to a finish that is long and smooth. It tastes like jam made with black plums and black cherries that has been liberally spiced with black pepper.

This is a Malbec that takes some time to get know and it’s worth every moment of the journey!