Category Archives: Syrah (Shiraz)

Vino Dessera 190 2014

The Vino Dessera 190 has a special place in my heart. It, along with one of the Prodom blends, was one of the first wines I tried here that made me believe Turkish wine could be really good. I do not now remember if it was specifically the 190 2014 … but I enjoy all the 190 blends equally.

Vino Dessera was established in 2012, but to understand the full story of these fields we need to jump a little further back. When the owner’s first grandchild was born, abiding by a very thoughtful Anatolian tradition, he planted approximately 600 walnut trees along the green slopes of Thrace. And, as it turns out, he never stopped. Motivated partially by self-competition, when his second grandchild was born, he planted wine grapes in 2000. And, so too Vino Dessera was born. Today, the vineyard is a family-run operation growing both international and local grapes and producing approximately 100,000 bottles every year.

190 2014

I got to visit Vino Dessera in September where I met Doğan Dönmez; the man responsible for the 190. I learned that each vintage of the 190 is a different blend. This is not a chateau-style winery aiming for a steady blend year after year. While that certainly has its merit there’s also something exciting about the flip side. Challenging yourself year after year to make a new blend. The same invariable quality but different grapes and different blends.

The Vino Dessera 190 2014 is a blend of Shiraz and Merlot sourced from their vineyards in both Kırklareli (Thrace) and Kilis (Anatolia). Matured for 12 months in oak before bottling it blends the flavors of the grapes, their terroir, and oak. My friend M said that the wine’s flavor is that of a kiss. Not a kiss of passion but one of romance.

Who doesn’t want to drink a wine described like that?!

190 2014

Vino Dessera 190 2014 Tasting Notes:

The Vino Dessera 190 2014 is a big blend with 15% abv and an opaque, inky purple-ruby color. The nose is full of intense forest fruits, dark chocolate, and cloves. Generally well-balanced with a nice tannic structure the palate is a little jammy with the added depth of sweet, baking spices.

Vino Dessera wines are always excellent quality but it’s the 190 blends that I like the most. In fact it might be fun to gather a number of vintages and do a comparison tasting. I might just do that!

Ergenekon Bona Dea Rouge 2013

The Sommeliers Selection Turkey 2017 is the gift that keeps on giving. Seriously. I discovered so many wines and wineries there that I hadn’t heard of before. It’s taking a little time but they are slowly trickling into retail shops in Istanbul now.

Şeyla Ergenekon, one of the founders of Ergenekon winery, has written some of the first and only books available on Turkish wine including: Şarapla Tanışma and Türk Şarapları. I’ve had the pleasure of reading both of these. The second, Türk Şarapları is also available in English as Wines of Turkey and can be found online or, if you’re in Istanbul, at Vinus Wine & Spirits.

Bona Dea Rouge 2013

Luckily for wine lovers, Şeyla established her own, eponymous vineyard in Çanakkale. Initially this boutique vineyard sold its grapes to licensed producers but now Ergenekon wines are available commercially. 

In their organic and biodynamic vineyard Ergenekon cultivates Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Franc,  and Sauvignon Blanc.

Bona Dea Rouge 2013

Ergenekon Bona Dea Rouge 2013 Tasting Notes:

The Bona Dea Rouge 2013 is a blend of Ergenekon’s red grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet Franc. Whatever they’re doing at Ergenekon they’re doing it right because this wine is beautiful.

The wine appears a deep, dark ruby in the glass. The nose is complex and displays black fruits, vanilla, sweet spices, sweet tobacco, earth, and mint. The tannins were initially like slightly rough silk but they, and the flavors, rounded out after the wine had a chance to breathe. On the palate the attack was heavy ripe fruits (blackberry) and creme de cassis moving to clove and coffee and ending in a long herbal finish of licorice.

On a final note; I was so surprised when I unwrapped the foil and discovered a glass stopper instead of the expected cork. After a little research I discovered that these new glass corks have been around for a couple years now. These elegant stoppers are one of the ways to attack the problem of cork taint, which is caused by the chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA. TCA can develop in corks because corks are from trees, and plants have phenols, which are one of the ingredients of TCA. But glass doesn’t carry this risk. They don’t seem to have caught on a whole lot yet but I hope to see more of them!

Chateau Nuzun 2011

In September I had the opportunity to visit Chateau Nuzun where I tasted the Chateau Nuzun 2011. The tour, through Piano Piano and lead by expert Turkish sommelier Murat Mumcuoglu took us to five vineyards in Turkey’s Thrace.

Our first stop was at Chateau Nuzun where we were greeted by one of the winery’s founders, Nazan Uzun. Nazan showed us around the vineyards where the Cabernet Sauvignon and Öküzgözü grapes were still ripening.

Chateau Nuzun 2011

Chateau Nuzun is a boutique winery where they believe that good wines can only be made from excellent grapes. Hence, they concentrate on good viticulture practices. All their grapes are certified organic. They practice minimal intervention in their vineyards and let nature do its thing. Gravel and sandstone soil over clay allows them to dry farm. The majority of the vineyards sit at an altitude of 110m to 140m, all facing south with a slope of 18%. The Pinot Noir parcel is the exception; it which faces north with an 8% slope.

Nazan and Necdet first planted their vines in 2004 and four years later made their first wine with the 2008 vintage. They’ve been going strong every since.

Chateau Nuzun 2011

I’ve tried Chateau Nuzun wines in the past but it’s been a few years. Honestly I was not entirely sure why people made such a fuss. However since my first encounter with Chateau Nuzun I’ve learned a lot about wine. My palate has developed and I’ve learned how to enjoy wines that are more complicated. I am now a Chateau Nuzun convert.

Chateau Nuzun 2011

Luckily Chateau Nuzun wines are pretty widely available in Istanbul. Comedus, La Cave, Rind, MacroCenter, İncirli Şaraphane… I bought three bottles, including the Chateau Nuzun 2011 blend when I visited the vineyard. Soon I’ll be heading to these shops to buy more!

Chateau Nuzun 2011

Chateau Nuzun 2011 Tasting Notes:

The Chateau Nuzun 2011 is a big blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Noir. And when I say big…14.3% abv. The nose is complicated with layers of fruit, herb, spice, and earth. On the palate it’s well-balanced with round, velvety tannins. Beautiful fruit expressions on the attack with intriguing underlying tones of earth and cinnamon on the finish.

There are so many reasons to love Chateau Nuzun wines. Nazan and Necdet’s enthusiasm for what they do is reflected in their wines and contagious! Furthermore by drinking their wines you get to support a small business that emphasizes sustainable practices. And most of all…the wines are amazing.

Büyülübağ Shah 2010

Before we talk about the Büyülübağ Shah, let’s talk about Büyülübağ itself.

Located on Avşa Island, Büyülübağ is one of Turkey’s Marmara region wineries. Alp Törüner founded the winery there in 2003 with a view of continuing the island’s wine making history. Working with an architect and an oenologist, by 2005 he built Turkey’s first (and I believe only) gravity-flow winery.

So new question: what’s a gravity-flow winery? First of all, it’s not a legally defined term which means there’s a lot of room for variation. The idea behind a gravity-flow winery is to cut out all the pumps, conveyors, and other machinery most wineries use to move grapes, must, and wine during the wine making process. Instead gravity moves the wine through the process. Rather than cutting costs by eliminating pumps and conveyor belts, gravity-flow wineries are expensive to build though. Theoretically you would need to put each process on a different level. Which also means workers are scrambling up and down ladders all day, every day.

shah

If it’s potentially more expensive and more work then why do it? According to Wine Spectator, gravity-flow wineries allow wine to be moved around much more gently. Too much force, too much rough-and-tumble handling, and a wine might become overextracted or too tannic, or experience too much oxidation.

Is it worth it? Well my experience with Büyülübağ wines says yes. Törüner produces some really nice wines. However other vintners in Turkey are also producing really nice wines without this system. For now let’s say that it works well for Büyülübağ.

shah

Büyülübağ Shah 2010 Tasting Notes:

The Büyülübağ Shah is a Syrah-lead blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. We all know that I’m not a Syrah fan and often avoid them. I’m not gonna lie here; I bought the Shah because I love the label. Thumbs up to Büyülübağ’s marketing and design team!

Velvety black fruits and black pepper dominate the nose. Twelve months in French oak add an underlying toasty sweetness of clove. Elegant tannins and a strong acidic core lead to a long finish with plump, juicy blackberries.

Chateau Nuzun 2009

Established in 2004, Chateau Nuzun is one of Turkey’s boutique wineries. Only an hour drive away (depending on the insanity level of traffic!) it is possibly the closest one to Istanbul. I’ve had a few of their wines over the years but the Chateau Nuzun 2009 blend was by far my favorite.

Chateau Nuzun is an organic vineyard located in Tekirdağ. The vineyards (in Çeşmeli) enjoy a terroir made up of gravel and sand stone soils over layers of compacted clay and breezes from the Marmara Sea (5 km away). Half of the estate is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon; one third with Merlot, and the remaining plots are Syrah and Pinot Noir. The Chateau Nuzun 2009 is a blend of the varietals planted there.

Chateau Nuzun 2009

Chateau Nuzun 2009 Tasting Notes:

Like its other wines the Chateau Nuzun 2009 blend is organic. The wine spent about 13 months in French oak and then another year in the bottle before being released. So no wonder this vintage will set you back about 100 TL give or take. It’s also unfiltered so I recommend decanting over a candle. I didn’t get a lot of sediment at all but better safe than sorry! Because if you’ve ever accidentally swallowed a mouthful of sediment you know that is not pleasant.

In the glass this super blend is a dark, opaque ruby. The nose was super involved. We got black pepper, jam, blackberry, black currant leaf, violets, cinnamon, and vanilla. You can tell that I broke out the Aromaster kit with this one! The palate was all velvety tannins, well-balanced, with a nice, somewhat jammy finish. The flavors followed from the nose especially the fruit, vanilla, and baking spices.

This was a really nice wine, absolutely worth the price tag.

A Visit to Flam Winery

Some time ago I posted a review of Flam’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Since I was able to visit the Flam Winery, located outside Jerusalem. While there I tasted wines, bought wines, and got to meet the charming founder and owner, Israel Flam.

Flam Winery

Flam Winery is a family business. Israel’s wife, two sons, and daughter are all involved in the business. They planted their vineyards in the Upper Galilee and Judean Hills. Like many Israeli wineries Flam shares a dedication to creating terroir-driven, quality wines.

They insist on low-yield harvests that are then hand harvested and sorted. Established in 1998 Flam emphasizes quality over quantity. This is especially evident in the winery’s annual production numbers. Flam continues to produce a limited amount every year; averaging 150,000 bottles.

Flam Winery

Flam makes two main lines: a classic blend and a reserve. There is also the Flam Noble however production is so limited I wasn’t able to get my hands on any. I did get to taste two of the classic blends and the three reserves. Also not on offer for the tasting was the Flam Rose (Cabernet Franc and Syrah) but since I don’t particularly like rose I was okay about that.

Flam Winery

Flam Classico Tasting Notes:

Flam Classico is a single vineyard blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Syrah. Aged 30% in American oak and 70% French oak this is a drink it soon wine. By which I mean it is not ageable.

The nose is fruity with some soft spices. It’s a medium-bodied wine with 13.5% abv. The palate is again fruity with green pepper, spice, good tannin structure, and fairly high acid. This is a food wine and would probably pair well with meat, tomato-based, and rustic dishes.

Flam Winery

Flam Merlot Reserve 2015 Tasting Notes:

One interesting thing I learned at Flam is that Israeli wine laws require that single-varietal wines have to be 85% that wine to be labeled as such. So Flam’s Merlot is not 100% Merlot, it’s at least 85% Merlot. I was naturally prepared to not like this, because Merlot.

After 12 months in French oak, the Flam Merlot Reserve had a nose of spices, violets, and red fruits. The tannins were slightly sharp but some bottle time would make this really elegant. The wine was fruit-driven with soft spices and a slightly sweet finish. All in all not bad for a Merlot. But not exciting enough to get me to buy any.

I did walk away from the visit with a few bottles: another Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, the Syrah Reserve (which surprised me), and the Flam Blanc. Reviews on the latter two soon!

Kybele 2011 from Şen Vineyards

One of the best, medium-priced Turkish wines I’ve had in a while was the Kybele 2011 from Şen Vineyards.

I picked up the Kybele for 42 TL at Comedus on Meşrutiyet (it might be less at La Cave in Cihangir). Honestly it was the label that caught my eye. I think it’s fantastic. Much like the art on Chamilja’s wine bottles I’d love to hang a print of this in my apartment. The other reason I bought it is because I’d never heard of Şen Vineyards and I am always on the look out for new Turkish wine.

Located in Balıkesir, in Turkey’s Marmara region, Şen Vineyards plants Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Semillion. The Kybele is a Merlot-lead blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz. The vineyard has kind of an interesting website. It includes a page with a list of wine terms. So if you’re interested in talking about wine in Turkish this will help kick off your practice!

Kybele

Kybele 2011 Tasting Notes:

The Kybele is a very dark, opaque ruby in the glass. The nose was not particularly layered but the red fruits (berries especially), vanilla, and nutty aromas were pleasant. On the palate it was balanced with light, silky tannins and a medium, nutty-vanilla finish.

Overall the Şen Vineyards 2011 Kybele is not a particularly complex blend but it was a very enjoyable drink and held its own against some of the higher quality wines we drank that night.

Psagot Peak Blend 2014

My first night in Jerusalem I was too tired to do more than stumble to the Mahane Yehuda to grab provisions. Luckily the mahane had several wine stores! So with a list of wine recommendations in hand I made friends at a wine shop and picked up a bottle of Psagot Peak.

Mahane Yehude

While Psagot Peak was not on my friend’s list of recommendations I was enticed by the label and the gold medallion stuck on the bottle. I’m a total magpie so my eyes went straight to the Psagot bottles and really never left.

Psagot Winery is located very near Jerusalem. Yaakov Berg founded the winery in 2003 and since then it has grown rapidly from 3,000 bottles in its first vintage to over 200,000 now. All the wines they make are kosher and many are award winners.

Mahane Yehude

From there I found the Basher Fromagerie. Also known as the greatest place on earth. They were closing up so I just grabbed a couple cheeses and headed back to my AirBnB. However two days later I was back. I must have spent three or four hours in there during which time I bought about four very nice bottles of wine and about four kilos of cheese. Everyone was so lovely. They put a glass of wine in my hand and I tasted and bought cheese like I’d never had any before. Then they made me the best sandwich I’ve ever had, set me up in their little balcony, and brought me more wine. At the end I just handed over my credit card and told them I didn’t want to know what the damage was.

Sadly a few weeks later I saw it on my credit card statement. Eesh. Totally worth it though.

All that to say that my first night in Jerusalem I spent relaxing with beautiful wine and cheese. Really a pretty great first night!

Psagot Peak

Psagot Peak 2014 Tasting Notes:

The Psagot Peak is a fairly high alcohol wine at 14% abv a blend of 42% Syrah, 16% Mourvedre, and 42% Petite Sirah. Drinking this back in my AirBnB definitely made me rethink future packing strategy, I always travel with a corkscrew but now I think I’ll start also packing an aerator. Without proper breathing the first sip of the Psagot Peak was a little bitter and harsh. After it had a chance to open up though: lovely.

The nose was very fruity; lots of black fruits like berries and currants. On the palate the tannins were velvety and long. The flavors were again of fruit but with some spice, and smoked meat/game.

Add to the wine some of the double cream brie I bought at STORE and it was a good first night in Jerusalem!

Yedi Bilgeler 2013 Phytagoras Reserve

The Yedi Bilgeler 2013 Phytagoras Reserve is why I fell in love with this winery. The first time I had it was at Solera where it caught my eye both because it was new and because I really liked the label. I have enjoyed it several times since and included it in one of my wine tasting events.

Phytagoras 2013

Yedi Bilgeler is based near the village of Selçuk; home to the ruined city of Ephesus. Due to Turkish alcohol laws wine tourism next to impossible.  As a result the native wine industry has suffered. Possibly the best way to stay in concert with current law and yet still attract people to a winery is to build a concept winery. Yedi Bilgeler has done this. By building a boutique hotel and restaurant on site people can visit the winery, try wines in the restaurant, and have a beautiful place to stay away from the more touristy areas in Selçuk.

Yedi Bilgeler has several wines on the market. To my sadness I have only been able to get my hands on a couple. The 2013 Phytagoras Reserve has been my favorite so far. It seems that it’s other people’s favorite too. in 2013 the 2013 Phytagoras Reserve won a silver medal at the Consours Mondial wine competition in Brussels.

Phytagoras 2013

This is a big blend wine: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot. At 14.8% abv it’s not a shy wine either. Nor is it terribly expensive running about 75 TL at Cihangir’s La Cave.

Yedi Bilgeler 2013 Phytagoras Reserve Tasting Notes:

The nose on the 2013 Phytagoras is beautiful. There are black fruits, a little jam, spice, leather, and a little smoke. Soft, medium tannins on the palate open up to a balanced wine. Dark flavors featuring black raspberry, cinnamon, smoke, and leather lead to a long finish.

The 2013 Phytagoras is easy and enjoyable to drink. I’ve joked in the past that I seem to be aiming to set a world record for most visits to Selçuk (eight at last count). However after getting to know some of Yedi Bilgeler’s wines I am looking forward to visit nine!

Visiting Edrine Winery

In February at the Sommelier’s Selection Turkey event I discovered several wineries of which I was previously unaware. One of those was the Edrine Winery. I was lucky enough to meet one of the family, Demir, and their brand ambassador Ali who invited me and my friend K to visit.

Edirne wines

Located in the village of Havsa outside Edirne, Edrine (not to be confused with Edirne!) is a family run winery. Founded in 2007 their first vintage came out in 2010. What started as a boutique winery has expanded rapidly and Edrine now produces some 2 million liters of wine annually. The owners, the Öktem family, concentrate on creating quality and affordable wines. Affordable they are! The average price per bottle is 20 TL. Quality? We shall see.

Unfortunately it was raining heavily the day we visited so we weren’t able to visit the vineyards. Instead we were treated to an amazing paired tasting at the Edrine restaurant. They have their own butcher and raise their own animals. They make the best sucuk (Turkish sausage) I have ever had. Ever.

Edirne wines

Edrine produces several lines. The main label is the vineyard name: Edrine. Under this label they make two whites: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and four reds: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Papazkarası. It was the latter, a native Turkish varietal, that originally caught my attention at the Sommelier’s Selection. Very few producers bother with this ancient Thracian grape. Chamlija makes four (two blanc de noirs, a Papazkarası, and a reserve) and Melen and Paşaeli also make a Papazkarası.

Edrine wines

Very BIG tanks!

When we finished tasting our way through their main six wines (notes below!) it was time for the winery tour. Because at Edrine they believe strongly in the flavor of the “naked” grape they use very little oak. In fact they have one oak barrique but it sits sadly in the corner. There is no Patrick Swayze here to dance with Baby. At most they add oak chips for a few days. Otherwise everything is aged in steel.

Edrine wines

After the generous pours in the formal tasting we tasted all the wines again; this time directly from the tank. Everything we tried was from Edrine’s 2016 vintage; they have nothing left from 2015 or earlier.

Edrine wines

Then it was up to the slightly damp and chilly deck for more wine. This time Ali broke out the good glasses from Zalto. I have never held a glass more perfect and delicate than these. I was terrified that just by holding it would I snap the stem. These need to be in my life. Although at about 45 Euro per glass this is not an investment to make willy nilly.

Edrine wines

Edrine Tasting Notes (the reds):

Edrine 2016 Merlot: Fresh and fruity with slightly rough tannins, elevated acid, and a short finish. This 14% abv wine has seen no oak so the black fruit flavors of blueberry and mulberry are completely grape-driven.

Edrine 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon: The Cabernet was oddly sweet even though the wine has less than 1 gram of sugar per liter. Treated with oak chips for just five days there is a slight influence in the flavor. However the black currant/cassis flavors typical of Cabernet grapes were very much at the forefront with some cedar and cocoa in the back. Tannins were quite grippy. The odd sweetness of this Cabernet makes it an excellent pairing for lamb though.

Edrine 2016 Papazkarası: Loved. Edrine’s Papazkarası is a very special wine. A friend of mine said that you can’t really say what is a “typical” Papazkarası because no one really knows. But of those I’ve had in Turkey Edrine’s is how I’m setting my standard now. It was surprisingly tannic, although not on the same level as the Merlot or Cabernet. Compared however to other Papazkarası wines I’ve had I wasn’t expecting the tannin. It was also very pepper in both the nose and on the palate with a light, juicy finish.

Edrine 2016 Shiraz: The Shiraz had 10 days of oak chip treatment giving it a slightly sweet flavor of baking spices. However like the Merlot and Cabernet it was very fruit driven, particularly blue fruits. The tannins were pretty chewy and therefore right up my alley. This they paired for us with their own sucuk and it was a match made in Heaven.

Final notes: Edrine should be pretty proud of what they’re doing here. Each of the wines we tried (more reviews about those later!) was easy and enjoyable to drink. And if you can get these for the vineyard price they’ll set you back a whole 20-22 TL (+VAT).