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 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.
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 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 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 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 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 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.