Category Archives: G

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.


Celler del Roure Vermell 2014

This bottle of Celler del Roure from Valencia’s Vermell DO came to me by way of my friend K. She spent the new year in Valencia and this was her favorite find there.

My experience with Spanish wines is largely limited to Tempranillos from Rioja. I’d fall all over myself to get a good Garnacha from Priorat. Unfortunately in Turkey it’s largely Rioja or nothing. So I jumped at the opportunity to share this Celler del Roure with K. With a blend of Garnacha Tintorera with 15% Monastrell and 10% Mandó; it is quite outside what we usually have access to here.

Celler del Roure

Celler del Roure 2014 Tasting Notes:

Right from the off think the Celler del Roure is an interesting wine. Initially fermented in stainless steel – with indigenous yeasts no less! Then, rather than tank, oak, or extended bottle ageing it is matured in 2,600-liter amphorae for six months.

The nose is fruit-driven with slightly black fruit, some red berries, liquorice, and a hint of sweet tobacco. Slightly jammy on the palate with a smooth, medium body and hints of clove under a lot of fruit.

The Celler del Roure does not display any particular depth or complexity but it is a wine of subtle elegance that is easy to drink and can be enjoyed upon release.

Tzora Vineyards Or

Have you ever done something that you later really deeply regret? There have really been rather a lot of things I’ve regretted doing. However I feel that none were so deeply as felt as the mistake I made to share my half bottle of Tzora Vineyards Or.

We did not try the Or during our visit to Tzora. Had we I think I would have bought more than just the one half bottle! I knew I would like it because I love both Gewürztraminer in all its forms and dessert wine. I only bought one of the half bottles (they were not available in full bottle) because even with a 30 kilo weight limit I knew I had to moderate my wine purchases. Especially since Tzora was our first winery of the day.

When I got back to Istanbul I had over two of my best girlfriends to help me drink the Israeli wine and eat the cheese (4 kilos!) I bought. I broke out the Or at the end. After the first sip I was mentally smacking myself. Why did I share this?! Drinking the Tzora Vineyards Or is like holding spicy liquid gold on your tongue. I had only one tiny half bottle and I shared it.

Lesson learned. Be selfish.

Tzora Vineyards Or

Despite being somewhat significantly closer to the equator than are Germany and Austrian (home to Gewürztraminer) the grape seems to flourish in Israel. The Or is part of Tzora Vineyards‘ Shoresh line. The Gewürztraminer grapes used for this wine are grown in the Judean Hills at the highest point of the winery’s Shoresh vineyard; 700 meters. Perhaps it’s the elevation that allows the Gewürztraminer to develop so well here.

Although winemaker skill is not to be ignored here either. One key to producing excellent dessert wines is to balance the sweetness level with acid. Winemaker Eran Pick MW has done that brilliantly with the Or. And if you’re wondering how anyone manages to make ice wine in a warm country like Israel… The grapes are harvested late but are then artificially frozen before crushing.

Tzora Vineyards Or

Tzora Vineyards Or 2015 Tasting Notes:

‘Or’ is French for gold and there could not be a more appropriate name for Tzora’s sweet Gewürztraminer. For one thing the color! It’s a deep, brilliant gold. The nose is full of honey, apricots, and white peaches with a slight nuttiness. On the palate…wow. The Or is thick without being cloying and again flavors of honey and apricot that are joined by Gewürztraminer’s characteristic spiciness. Ginger I think.

Tzora Vineyards Or is everything a dessert Gewürztraminer should be. It’s simultaneously sweet and spicy and familiar and exotic. Truly a treat to drink. If you can get your hands on a bottle (limited production of 1,800 bottles!) don’t share like I did. Be selfish!

Barbare Reserve Premier IX XI XII

The Barbare Reserve Premier is the second wine I’ve had by this organic wine maker and the first non vintage blend I’ve not only had, but remember even seeing here in Turkey. It’s a fancy wine with an equally fancy price tag; it will set you back 130 TL give or take depending on where you get it.

With a whopping 15% AVP, the Barbare Reserve Premier is not fooling around. It’s a big wine and it wants you to know that right away. The wine is blend of 2009, 2011, and 2012 vintage Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot which is aged for 36 months in French oak. Thirty-six months-that’s three years! That’s crazy.

This particular Barbare Reserve Premier is also a limited production; I had bottle 1616 or 3600 so if you want it; find it now.

Barbare Reserve Premier

Barbare Reserve Premier IX XI XII Tasting Notes:

In the glass, the wine is a deep, dark, opaque garnet with fabulous legs and equally deep and dark nose. Aromas of both black and dried fruits followed by sweet, baking spices and chocolate seduce you before you even take a sip of this full bodied wine.

On the palate…wow. Tannins; beautiful, velvety tannins you could practically make a meal out of that lead to a long, long finish. Flavors of clove, chocolate, vanilla, black cherries, plums, and dried fruits make the Barbare Reserve Premier a rather remarkable bottle.

Final thoughts on the Barbare Reserve Premier: wow. Really, wow. If you are willing to make the investment you won’t be sorry. In fact I think I need another bottle…

Selendi Moralı 2015

As part of a wine tasting with Şarap Atölyesi I had the opportunity to taste the Selendi Moralı 2015 which came on the market only this summer (2016).

Selendi, one of Turkey’s Aegean wineries, is based in Akhisar province of Manisa (near Izmir). It has vineyards in various locations and often names its wines for the village where the vineyards are. The grapes for the Moralı were grown in the villages of Sarnıç and Moralı.

After six months in French oak barrels, this Grenache, Mourvèdre, Merlot, and Cinsault blend is a very European-influenced wine; but the earth (toprak) and sun (güneş) are all Turkey.

Selendi Moralı

Imagine from Selendi Wines

Selendi Moralı 2015 Tasting Notes:

This was a medium-bodied wine with 13.7% abv and a purply-red color that reflected how young it is and thick, slow legs.

The nose-wow where do I start. Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. There was lots of green (bell) pepper, smoke, petrol, vanilla, and red and black berries. After a nose like that I was a little disappointed with the palate. Relatively high acid with light tannins and a medium finish it was somehow both complex and thin.

This is still a pretty young wine. I think it needs a couple more years in the bottle for the body to catch up to the promise the nose made. If that happens then this will be one heck of a wine.

2010 Kutman Gamay Cabernet Sauvignon

I have not yet explored Kutman wines much but when I saw this Kutman Gamay Cabernet Sauvignon at Carrefour I couldn’t resist trying buying it. It’s the first Gamay I’ve seen in Turkey and I was curious both as to what Turkey would turn out in a Gamay as well as how it would blend with a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Kutman Gamay Cabernet Sauvignon

It blends really well as it turns out. This Trakya-based winery has produced a really pretty nice blend with these two grapes. Fairly low alcohol for a red, at only 12.5% abv, this Kutman Gamay Cabernet Sauvignon was a medium-bodied wine that has spent eight to twelve months in oak resulting in a clear, purple-red wine with red fruits, spices, hibiscus, and rhubarb in the nose.

The palate of the Kutman Gamay Cabernet Sauvignon was quite tart revealing a relatively high level of acid and some good tannins. The flavors were a lot earthier than the nose was with some raspberries but also truffles and potting soil. I’ve found earthy flavors in wines before but never have I been so clearly able to identify them. I was really pretty blown away by them.

Kutman Gamay Cabernet Sauvignon

Considering how hesitant I was going in, the Kutman Gamay Cabernet Sauvignon was a nice surprise; especially at only 53 TL. I would definitely drink this again. I think I need to start looking for other Kutman wines to try!

2009 Barbare Elegance

Everything you need to know about the 2009 Barbare Elegance is right in the name: elegant. Barbare is a top-shelf, organic wine producer here in Turkey; I’ve only had two of their wines so far but they were both amazing.

Of the two, the Barbare Elegance is my favorite. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvédre, this gorgeous red wine will set you back a pretty penny; about 89 TL at Macro Center, 140 TL at Solera, and somewhere in between at La Cave.

Barbare Elegance

I brought this over to M’s a while back and we both swooned over it. The nose, reflective of the Barbare Elegance ‘s color is very dark. I got a lot of leather, tobacco and coffee from this. We had almost no fruit in the nose but what I did get was dark and black fruits.

The palate of the Barbare Elegance was stunning: gorgeous, velvety tannins, mouth-watering acid, and a long, smooth finish.  Like the nose, the palate was driven more by oak than by the fruit with dominating flavors of leather, vanilla, sweet spices, burnt sugar, and clove.

At 14.5% APV, this is a big wine in more than just flavor. The 2009 Barbare Elegance is one of those bottles you splurge on for either a special occasion, or to make a special occasion. It might be a little rich for some pocketbooks but you will not regret getting it.

Suvla Sır

The 2011 Suvla Sır

The problem with back log reviews is that they get really back logged! This has apparently been neglected as a draft for a rather embarrassing amount of months. And while a few wines may deserve that, the 2011 Suvla Sır is not one of them.

There was a period a few months back during which I’d banned myself from drinking for a few weeks…and this Suvla Sır was the culprit. Once again I lost a bet that I could drink an entire bottle of red wine in one sitting and not regret it the next morning. Sadly I did regret it the next morning…but it was a bittersweet regret.

The 2011 Suvla Sır is a complex wine that was interesting right out of the bottle with a deep, dark red/burgundy color that did not let me down in the nose. Dark fruits, lots of berries, and depth. But what else would you expect from a complicated blend of Syrah, Merlot, Karasakiz, Grenache Noir, and Cabernet Franc?

And then the tannins! Oh they were beautiful. Right away on the attack the Suvla Sır acts like it lives for a good tannin the same way I do. Once I was finished swooning over them I was able to pay attention to other things. Like the way the flavors burst on my tongue like a rain drop and then lingered for a nice medium finish.

And how I picked up hints of what I think was tobacco which, combined with the fruit flavors, gives the Suvla Sır a nice balance making a truly elegant wine.

The notes I took while drinking this tell me to be poetic; that I drank the entire bottle while listening to Yo-Yo Ma, and to stop making bets with myself that I can drink entire bottles of red wine and wake up hangover free. I’ve lost that bet a few too many times so drunk me is obviously wiser than sober me. Although it’s easier to say no once temptation is gone (or more precisely after you’ve drunk it all).

At 88 TL per bottle (at the Suvla Shop-there’s a horrifying markup everywhere else) this isn’t an everyday bottle for me but I so wish it could be. Maybe I just need to set lower goals for myself so I can justify having the Sir as a reward more often. Hurrah! I learned and used a new Turkish grammatical construction! Hurrah! I did yoga everyday for a whole week! Hurrah! I got out of bed this morning!

Seriously, can I marry into the family? I grew up on a farm, I could be semi useful in viticulture. Maybe more on the drinking the end product side but still…someone’s got to do that!

Vedat Milor

Büyülübağ Vedat Milor 2012

Since my Carrefour has remodeled and renamed itself a Carrefour Gourmet (which as far as I can tell means that it simply has a less well designed interior and higher prices) I have found a few new wine labels. I was thrilled when I saw this Büyülübağ Vedat Milor (30-ish TL if I recall) was one of the new options. When asked which country I think produces the best wine I will always say Spain first (Italy second and Argentina third) so seeing a Turkish wine blend that includes Tempranillo and Grenache made me do a little happy dance right there in the Carrefour Gourmet wine section.

Unfortunately the happy dance ended when I got it home and tasted it. The Vedat Milor was a crushing disappointment from its murky garnet color to its syrupy finish.

While the nose held the promise of berries the palate was a sad imitation The Vedat Milor was a crushing disappointment from its murky garnet color to its syrupy finish. of what Tempranillos and Grenaches should be. I’ve happily owned up to my love of a jammy wine in the past but in this instance I understand why ‘jammy’ is a four letter word to wine experts. I was surprised by the lightness of the tannins the way this wine stuck to my tongue, coating my mouth with its cloying flavor.

Thankfully Carrefour has not completely renovated away its selection of Turkish mezes as the spicy acili ezme and icli kofte made the Vedat Milor far more palatable. However for the first time in a long time I found myself pouring the remainder of the bottle down the sink.

The 2005 Kutman Ipsala

This week we’re diverting from Suvla. Largely because I saw a bottle of wine at Carrefour last week that I don’t recall having seen before. The Kutman Ipsala Gamay – Cabernet from 2005.

Gamay is about the only wine for which I will forgive the French. In fact I was fairly well set on making France a parking lot for Europe or giving it to Germany after I take over the world; but my friend L pleaded for it. She gets France and Ireland and my interference in her rule will be minimal. Ish. But I digress.

At 38TL the Kutman Ipsala is right around the price point I have come to grudgingly accept as the minimal amount for quality wine here. *Sob* I miss Trader Joe’s.

From the gorgeous purply red color to the smooth finish, this Kutman Ipsala was a winner. The nose was what I would expect from a Cabernet; pepper/spice and red fruits. The spice was also the first thing I got on the palate; almost overwhelmingly so. Then, after I sat for a bit mulling through the tannins the fruit flavors make themselves known: raspberry, grape*, maybe a little plum.

The label did not specify what the blend percentages are; but the very dry, acidic, and medium tannins make me want to say that, whatever the percentages, the Cabernet is the dominant grape.

This paired nicely with both Parmesan and cheddar. Despite the French origin of the grapes I felt tempted to treat the Kutman Ipsala more like an Italian wine. It had all the bigness I associate with a lot of Italian reds and I I don’t think you’d go wrong pairing it with the same foods as you would an Italian.

I love cheese. Almost all of them really but cheddar remains my favorite. Specifically proper white, sharp cheddar. Which I could buy here if I wanted to sell my kidney or something to pay for it. So when L and I found a cheese booth at a Christmas craft fair in Inverness I was, needless to say, excited. Possibly a little too excited. L said you could see the vendor’s demeanor change from ‘friendly salesman’ to ‘oh dear this person could be dangerous; no sudden moves now’.

I must admit my excitement over hand crafted cheddar likely seems disproportionate when you don’t know that I live in a cheddarless desert. My Montgomery Burns plotting glee combined with my back injury and consequently odd posture and semi permanent grimace of pain did probably send the wrong message. After sampling several marvelous cheddars L and I both bought three (at 3 of 10 GBP). I got: sharp, caramelized onion, and garlic chive. I now regret not getting the chili as well.

I heartily recommend Damn Fine Cheese if you’re in an area where it’s sold or can be shipped to you.

*I know it seems odd to cite grape here. Wine is (usually) made out of grapes. But how often do you hear or read a wine description that actually mentions the flavor? Not often at all. Gamay is known to be a little grapey though.