Category Archives: Kalecik Karası

Wines made from Kalecik Karası grapes

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.  

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.

Turasan Kalecik Karası 2015

This Turasan Kalecik Karası 2015 was part of a shipment of wines I got from Turasan a while back. Kalecik Karası was the first wine made out of native Turkish grapes that I really liked and while I’ve come to love what Turkey does with international grapes more, I still try a new one from time to time.

Turasan is possibly one of the most well known wineries in Turkey. Certainly the most well known in Cappadocia. The winery produces a wide range of styles, grapes, and quality levels. I’ve mostly only had the wines from the low and mid price ranges but would really like to try some of the higher end wines soon. One of the things I love about Turasan is their Emir. Not a lot of wineries in Turkey produce Emir wines which makes Turasan’s extra special.

Turasan Kalecik Karası

On its own, for me, the Turasan Kalecik Karası was a little bit of a disappointing drinking experience. While it might not have been my favorite stand along drinking wine; it was a great food wine. It did go pretty well with our dinner of cold pasta salad with grilled vegetables, Greek pork sausage, and white cheese. Not all bad, and cheap (only about 25 TL directly from Turasan).

Turasan Kalecik Karası

Turasan Kalecik Karası 2015 Tasting Notes:

This is a pretty standard Kalecik Karası in the nose with aromas of red berries and candy. The palate is berries, licorice, and black pepper. Fairly well balanced but with something of a cliffhanger finish. One minute it’s there but the next it’s gone.

In the end the Turasan Kalecik Karası is a simple wine that isn’t going going your palate. Also nice drinking for the summer if you’re not quite a rose person (like me). This would not be hurt at all by a little chilling before you open it.

Chamlija Kalecik Karası 2015

My visit last year to Chamlija’s tasting restaurant near Kırklareli in Turkey’s Thracian wine region was more of a “flying” visit than anything else. However while there I discovered that Chamlija has a much larger range of wines that I was seeing in Istanbul; including the Chamlija Kalecik Karası. 

Since my visit last summer more and more Chamlija wines are easily available in Istanbul. La Cave in Cihangir has an entire wall section for their stock now. And I believe that the Chamlija Kalecik Karası is one of them.

Chamlija Kalecik Karası

Tasting notes 2015 Chamlija Kalecik Karası:

Chamlija’s Kalecik Karası was treated with French oak for six months and will age well for about 10 years. While the oak treatment was not extensive, it really heightened the inherent aromas of the grape. The nose was really quite lovely-black cherry, forest fruits, and chocolate.

On the palate the Chamlija Kalecik Karası showed a lot of earthiness which I didn’t expect at all. My experience with this grape previously has been more of the light weight and bright fruits variety. At 13.5% abv this had a solid, medium body with light tannins. And while it didn’t have much in the way of a finish, the flavors of mulberry, blackberry, and chocolate were quite lovely.

This would probably go really well with tomato-based foods. For whatever reason that I don’t understand, high acid wines want high acid food so tomato-based sauces and pizza would pair really well this!

Anfora blush

Anfora 2014 Kalecik Karası Shiraz Blush

While I still approach pink wines warily I am more open to at least trying then than I used to be. That does not mean that I go out of my way to buy them; particularly not the cheaper brands like Anfora.

I have recently started holding Turkish wine tastings; informal parties at my place for my friends where the only rules are that you must bring a wine that is Turkish and is not DLC. If you don’t live here and you don’t know what DLC is count yourself lucky. As one of the goals of the tasting is to try a wide spectrum of Turkish wines at least one pink wine should make the roster.  At the very first tasting I did, the pink wine was Anfora 2014 Kalecik Karası-Shiraz Blush from Pamukkale.

Pale peachy pink in the glass the nose is very fruit forward with a lot of strawberries. On the palate the Anfora blush was off-dry with a subtle acidity and minerality. While I want to be diplomatic and say that while I don’t see this particular blush bringing me any closer to being a fan of pink wines it wasn’t bad…I just can’t say that. I don’t like pink wine-full stop. I have tried and as there are two more bottles in my fridge I will keep trying…but really just avoid this one.

I did not buy this so I cannot confidently say how much it was but my experience with Pamukkale wines said that this Anfora blush was probably around 25TL and widely available at many of Turkey’s grocery stores if you want a bottle of your very own despite my advice that don’t.

Likya Podalia

The 2012 Likya Podalia

The 2012 Likya Podalia has become my go-to bottle when I take people to Dai Pera – which is my go-to restaurant. It’s a nice medium bodied wine that suits just about any palate and isn’t challenging for people who don’t have a lot of wine experience. Likya Podalia is a Kalecik Karası Malbec blend (75TL from La Cave) which has the added benefit of being both exotic for people who don’t know Turkish wines but also comfortingly familiar.

The nose is fascinating…cotton candy and tobacco all swirled together with raspberry undertones. Sounds a little weird but not uncommon for these wines. Kalecik Karası is known for having cotton candy scents in the nose. On the palate the wine is low on tannins but there’s a lively level of acid, and has a nice, medium-length finish that makes my mouth water like I’ve had something savory. It tastes like savory red berries.

Unfortunately the Likya Podalia did not pair well with my chosen foods, it really overpowered my port salut and did not like the tartness of the green apples. Even though it’s a medium bodied wine it’s got some big flavors and needs stronger flavored foods (like the fantastic mezzes at Dai Pera. So pair this with garlic, tomato, spicy peppers and stronger cheeses like Parmesan.

Even Sherlock is getting into the tasting! Although really she probably just wanted the cheese. Dairy products are not safe around her if left unattended. Thankfully she doesn’t demand a share of the wine too!

I am liking Likya more and more with every bottle I have so I think we’re going to be trying a lot more of these in the coming months!

Prodom Syrah Kalecik Karası

The 2012 Prodom Syrah Kalecik Karası

The Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc blend is not Prodom’s only red blend. There is also the Prodom Syrah Kalecik Karası blend (also 120TL at La Cave) and, thanks to my awesome neighbor who wanted to do a comparison of the two, I had a chance to try it.

I’m not a huge fan of Syrah in general, or of blends that are majority Syrah, as I find that many of them are too tart for my liking. So I was pleasantly surprised to find enjoying this one from the first sip.

The nose of the Prodom Syrah Kalecik Karası was spice, cherries, red fruit, and something sweet that I couldn’t quite identify, perhaps cotton candy coming through from the Kalecik Karası? Cotton candy as a scent/flavor in wine kind of freaks me out a little. It does not seem like a natural flavor for a grape to have.

Possible cotton candy aside, the flavors on the palate were very nice: blackberries, dark fruits, clove, allspice, and a little tobacco. This Prodom is nicely tannic with medium-high acid (I got a little bit of the Coke burn from it) with a long, clean finish.

It did mellow nicely so eventually that Coke burn went away. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m usually too impatient to let a wine breathe for more than a count of 10 so that’s quite likely why I was getting the Coke affect.

While we opened both bottles that evening we never did get around to doing a proper comparison. One bottle was probably enough but caution was thrown to the winds and we opened the other bottle anyway. Unfortunately my neighbor was already three sheets to those winds so actual comparing didn’t happen. We’re going to give ourselves a second chance at the comparison sometime this winter when he returns to Istanbul. While I remember being surprised by how much I liked this Prodom Syrah Kalecik Karası I now don’t remember which one I liked more! And since the Turkish Lira is once again gaining ground (good for Turkey if bad for me) I’m less willing to run around buying 120TL bottles of wine willy nilly.

Mahra

The 2013 Yazgan Mahra

I found a cork in one of my purses the other day and remembered that I got the cork at Solera some time back when E&M and I were there. We had a wine that night I liked a lot and kept the cork to remind myself.

Unfortunately the cork was marked with only the maker’s name and not the exact wine so when I finally remembered to go back to buy a bottle I bought the only Yazgan on hand at the time-the 2013 Mahra Kalecik Karasi-Syrah blend.

In the glass the Mahra is a nice clear red/garnet color. On the nose…red berries, cherries, maybe a little vanilla and clove. Is it possible for a wine to be both cliff edge AND have a medium finish? The bulk of the flavor drops off quickly but the tannins stick around a bit on the tongue and roof of the mouth letting the flavor linger.

The flavor is largely cherry/boysenberry, leaning a little to the tart side evened out by some nice spice. It’s a decent blend of these two grapes with the Syrah providing a bit of backbone to the Kalecik Karasi. I do like standalone Kalecik Karasi wines, they’re generally a safe bet here, but blending gives them firmer legs.

Any wine is considerably enhanced by this view

In the end the Yazgan 2013 Mahra was…fine. There was nothing really distinguishing or memorable about it either good or bad really. I can’t say I would buy it again but I will be looking for more of Yazgan’s wines to see if I can find what so impressed me that night.

Gordias Kalecik Karası

The 2012 Gordias Kalecik Karası

Tuesday morning I was sitting in the local tax office when the power wet out. I hoped it was just a flicker but we soon learned that it was all of our neighborhood. Then we heard that it was all of Istanbul…then 50 cities across Turkey. Dude. What could we do but drink wine?

Earlier I’d stopped in Solera, the wine house just up the street from my apartment, where they offer 25% discount on bottles that you buy for take away, and picked up a couple new reds, including the Gordias Kalecik Karası. Country-wide power outage, candle light, and Turkish homework seemed a great excuse to break out one.

I was thrilled to discover a new Kalecik Karası. An award winning (Decanter Bronze) one no less. The 2012 Gordias Kalecik Karası is actually not a 100% varietal but a blend of 85% Kalecik Karası, 10% Syrah, and 5% Cabernet Franc.

Against the romantic glow from my Carrefour tea lights, the Gordias Kalecik Karası was the pretty red of sweet cherries just before they’re fully ripe. One the nose it was lovely: all red berries with strong cherries, undertones of strawberry, and for the first time ever I actually smelled the cotton candy.

Is someone working on alcoholic cotton candy? Shouldn’t someone be?

The flavor followed the nose nicely with cherries being the strongest and most obvious flavor. Soft with very low tannins, medium high acid, and a long finish rounded out the delightful flavor.

The 2012 Gordias Kalecik Karasi is for me a real winner and I think it’ll become a regular in my cellar (i.e. the half-case wine box I keep all my reds in. classy, I know). And at 45TL with the Solera to-go discount won’t break my bank. Which is great since I kind of owe the Feds some money.

Sava Premium

Sava Premium Kalecik Karasi, Shiraz, Merlot

Two of my best friends have just moved to Istanbul and I haven’t had time to take them through the do’s and don’ts of Turkish wine yet; so I wasn’t really shocked when I turned up for dinner and found them with a bottle of Sava Premium. “Premium”. Snort. I love them but they are very much ‘wine tastes like wine’ people; at least they sprang for the premium. I’m always game to try a new wine though so here we go.

Perhaps I was predisposed to give it bad notes but for me the Sava Premium was awful right from the start with a vinegary nose; or maybe that was the banana? I cannot say I’ve ever encountered a wine with self-proclaimed aromas of banana.

In the end it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought it would be; although that’s not to say that it was good. Despite some sharpness to the flavor, the flavor of cherries and light tannins made it fairly palatable. Especially when paired with the vegetable, walnut, haloumi, and bulgar stuffed eggplants we had for dinner.

What shocked me was the cork-while it’s not marked on the bottle as far as I could see, it seems that Sava, that most reviled of Turkish wines, is produced by my favorite cheap Turkish winery-Pamukkale. Did not see that one coming.

By the time dinner was over and I had drunk two modest glasses; I thought I may have too harshly judged all things Sava. However the next morning I saw the light. Or rather hid from it as the case were. Two glasses of the Sava Premium was all I had and I woke up with as vicious a red wine hang over as I’ve ever had. Well no, that’s a bit of hyperbole, I’ve had worse. But it was a whole lot worse than the one I got from drinking an entire bottle of Suvla in one sitting.

Unfortunately price point really does matter when it comes to Turkish wine. You’re far better off splurging a little than saving money and regretting it the next morning.