Tag Archives: Anatolia

Kayra Cameo Sparkling Wine

Turkish sparkling wine is fairly new to the market. While previously there may have been one or two, it feels like the industry exploded with them over this spring and summer. Now you can find sparkling wine offered by a variety of producers including Vinkara, Pamukkale, Suvla, Kayra, and others.

Previously I posted about Leona Bubble, one of the two sparkling wines made by Kayra. The Kayra Cameo is a blend of the same grapes but is a higher-end version of the Bubble.

Cameo

The winery’s name is taken from the Turkish word “kayra” which means benevolence, grace, and kindness. A family endeavor, Kayra has two main bases in Turkey, one in Elazığ and one in Şarköy. The Elazığ winery in Eastern Anatolia was established in 1942, and the Şarköy winery in Thrace was established in 1996. With assistance from lead winemaker Daniel O’Donnell, Kayra produces an impressive 10 labels each with its own unique characteristics.

Leona Bubble

Part of the Kayra series, the Cameo is a well produced sparkling wine made in the tank, or charmat method. Unlike the traditional method (think Champagne), whereby wine goes through a second fermentation in the bottle to create bubbles; in the tank method the second fermentation happens in a large pressurized tank. The sparkling wine is then bottled and sealed.

I’ve had the pleasure of drinking Kayra’s Cameo several times now. In fact it formed the basis of a yacht-board wine tasting I hosted this summer! It doesn’t get much better than drinking sparkling wine while on a private Bosphorus cruise!

Cameo

Kayra Cameo Tasting Notes:

Like many sparkling wines, the Cameo is a non vintage-meaning it is a blend of wines harvested in different years. The blend includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Misket. Between the lovely flavor and the relatively low alcohol (11.5% abv) this is definitely a wine that is dangerously delicious!

The Cameo has a lovely aromatic nose filled with delicate fruits and cream. White peach, citrus (grapefruit particularly), and pineapple all vied for attention. Bubbles are fine and tight giving the wine a nice, frothy mouthfeel. It almost feels like the flavors of peach, lemon pith, blood orange, and grapefruit burst out of the bubbles as they dissipate on the tongue.

So far my favorite Turkish sparkling wine is the Cameo! While it seems that sparkling wine is often reserved for a special occasion at an average price of 99 TL the Cameo won’t break the bank if your special occasion is as simple as opening a good bottle of wine!

Kayra Leona Bubble

For years I avoided most sparkling wines. I found that almost all of them made me ill; instant migraine. Maybe I’m just getting more drinking practice now because that hasn’t happened in a while; freeing me to explore Turkish sparkling wines like the Leona Bubble.

Kayra, one of Turkey’s largest and most prestigious wine companies, produces two sparkling wines: Cameo and under its Leona label, Bubble. Both are relatively inexpensive although the Cameo (review soon!) is definitely the higher quality of the two.

Leona Bubble

There are six different ways to make sparkling wine: traditional method (Méthode Champenoise, méthode traditionnelle), tank method (or charmat), transfer, ancestral, and continuous (the Russian method) methods, and simply adding carbon dioxide. Wine Folly has a great article detailing each method; but briefly:

Traditional: In 2015 UNESCO awarded the traditional method, used largely to make Champagne, with heritage status. In this most celebrated, and expensive method, the base still wine is made as any other wine would be made then bottled. Then in tirage, the winemaker then adds yeast and sugar to the bottled wine to start the second fermentation and wines are bottled (and topped with crown caps). The second fermentation happens in the bottle. The CO2 gas created by the fermentation process has nowhere to go so it turns into liquid and dissolves back into the wine creating the bubbles. The wine is then aged, riddled, disgorged, a dosage is added (or not depending on the desired style), and finally corked.

Tank: This method, closely associated with Prosecco, starts out similarly to the Traditional method. However the second fermentation happens in a large tank. After the second fermentation ends, the sparkling wine is bottled without additional ageing.

Transfer: This method is nearly identical to the Traditional method until the riddling and disgorging. The bottles are emptied into a pressurized tank and sent through pressurized filters to remove the dead yeast bits (lees). Then, the wines are bottled using pressurized fillers.

Ancestral: This method of sparkling wine production uses icy temperatures (and filteration) to pause the fermentation mid-way for a period of months and then wines are bottled and the fermentation finishes, trapping the CO2 in the bottle. When the desired level of CO2 is reached, wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged.

Continuous: In this method, used by Russian sparkling wine makers, wine is moved from tank to tank each with a different purpose. After the base wine is blended, the winemaker continually adds yeast into pressurized tanks. Wines are then moved into another tank with yeast enrichments. Finally, the wines move into the last set of pressurized tanks where the yeasts and enrichments are settled out, leaving the wine relatively clear.

Carbonation: In this cheapest method, CO2 is added to the base wine in a pressurized tanks.

Leona Bubble

Kayra Leona Bloom Tasting Notes:

The Leona Bloom was made in the cheapest sparkling wine method of simply adding CO2 to still wine. However it is still a pretty decent bottle of fizz. A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Misket; it’s fresh, light, and utterly quaffable.

The nose displays a balance of aromas from the three grapes. A slightly musty aroma underlines peaches, white flowers, and grass resulting in a bouquet that is both fresh and deep. Tight bubbles burst with the ripeness of summer peaches and florals for a warm, albeit brief, finish.

A non vintage blend, like the majority of sparkling wine, this particular one was bottled in 2013. With only 11.5% abv the Leona Bloom is an easy and enjoyable drink.

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.

Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey 2017

February 25 and 26 Istanbul hosted the 2017 Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey at the St. Regis hotel. Organized by Gustobar, the event brought together 179 wines from 34 Turkish wineries and about eight international wineries.

Sommeliers' Selection

It was, as one might expect, rather a mad house.

Sommeliers' Selection

That’s not down to the organizers of course. Big tasting affairs like the Sommeliers’ Selection are always a little bit of a mad house as one jostles for position at the tables to get a sample. And what samples! Wines from across Turkey, Italy, France, and Chile were available. I was impressed with the selection of Turkish wines although I was sorry to not see wine from producers like Arda, Melen, Umurbey, Kutman, or Gülor. I was surprised to not see anything from Paşaeli, Corvus, Turasan, or Prodom but somehow not surprised to not see anything from Chateau Kalpak.

Sommeliers' Selection

To my delight (and frankly a little surprise) there were several wineries there I didn’t know at all. One, the Izmir-based Öküzgözü Winery really impressed with its Öküzgözü Foça Karası. Definitely young, this was a bright purple-red wine with strong acid, and the flavors of red berries, cloves, and herbs. I don’t usually like wines made from Öküzgözü grapes but this one I would really love to find again.

Sommeliers' Selection

A HUGE surprise was Saranta’s Chateau Murou line. I tried, and liked, several of these but what shocked me the most was the fact that I like their Merlot. I know, right?! Surprisingly herbal with big red fruits this was, as my friend said, Merlot with a little evil in it. Definitely something I would drink.

Sommeliers' Selection

Of all the wines I tried I was the most pleased with the selection of white wines. I don’t often have good luck finding white wine that I like so I’m looking forward to picking up some of these, such as Nif’s Aegean blend of Narince, Viognier, and Solaris.

The 2015 Narince by Vinoluş, featured at the Sommeliers’ Selection master class, was amazing. Highly mineral with orange blossom, honeysuckle, stone fruits, and maybe some banana, this was a killer wine. Sadly Vinoluş made only 600 bottles of this so I’m thinking that I don’t have a fantastic chance of getting one for my very own.

Sommeliers' Selection

One of my favorites of the day was the Bona Dea line from Ergenekon-another new winery to me. I liked the red on offer as well but the cloudy, unflitered Sauvignon Blanc was light with crisp acidity and full of peaches was the star for me.

In addition to the general tasting I signed up for the master class with sommeliers Ronan Sayburn MS and Isa Bal MS. A complete departure from the tastings I’ve been attending, this was in English in deference to Sayburn who is British.

Sommeliers' Selection

With the two sommeliers participants tasted through a series of 13 wines selected by them [the sommeliers] during a blind tasting. All but one of the selected wines were Turkish. Of these for me the most remarkable were Likya’s Acıkara and Edrine’s Papazkarası. The most surprising? Mon Reve Marselan by Domaine Lucien Arkas. I have openly hated on Mon Reve wines before but this minty, slightly meaty, smokey red wine full of tart blackberries has me thinking again. Yet another wine that I need to find.

Sommeliers' Selection

I was surprised to discover how many people there I already knew from vineyard visits, other tasting events, or social media. It was very nice to see and meet so many people. I will definitely make good on the promises I made to visit wineries, especially Edrine and Vino Dessera as well as to stop in at the Kastro Tireli storefront near Bebek.

Not wanting to ruin a great event by getting drunk I did a fairly decent job of taking only small sips of wine and pouring out the remainder of the glass. As much as it hurts my feelings to spit and/or pour out wine there’s no way I could have tasted even the fraction of wines on offer I did and lived to tell about it had I drunk everything. By the time I got to the master class late in the afternoon though all bets were off and I no longer left wine in the glass. It probably would have been fine if we’d stopped there but there was still a little time after the class before everyone was herded out and most of the wines were left unattended!

Even though today I feel like I won’t even be able to look at wine for at least a week this was a fantastic event. I am so glad I had the opportunity to go and would definitely come back from Italy for the 2018 event!!

The 2012 Kayra Vintage Zinfandel

I was so excited when I found this Kayra Vintage Zinfandel at La Cave (66 TL)! It’s been ages since I’ve had a Zinfandel-not only my favorite American wine but the only reason I think the California wine industry should exist. I was really looking forward to seeing what Turkey could do with a Zinfandel.

And then I had and my hopes were dashed. I haven’t had a Zinfandel since moving here. Not because they aren’t available. In fact one of my favorite California Zinfandels is available right at La Cave. I just cannot stomach paying a 300% mark up for a wine I know shouldn’t cost more than $12. I’ve had really good luck with Kayra though and had hoped that the Kayra Vintage Zinfandel would come through for me.

The Kayra Vintage Zinfandel was a lovely bright, clear ruby red in the glass. In the nose it was a little plummy with jammy and raisin fruit scents along with some nutmeg. The palate felt, to me, really thin for a Zinfandel though-more of a light-bodied than a medium-bodied wine and there was no finish to speak of. There were none of the big fruit, tobacco, or leather flavors that I love in a California Zinfandel. What the Kayra Vintage Zinfandel had was more of a cherry juice box flavor.

I don’t mean to say that this is a bad wine; but it was a bad Zinfandel. It was an easy drinking, approachable, totally uninteresting wine for anyone who doesn’t want their palate challenged.

Assyrian Wine: Levy Matiat 2012

This was another case of letting the guys at La Cave talk me into something. I figured for 40 TL I wasn’t taking that big of a risk with the Süryanı Şarabı Levy Matiat. I am so glad it wasn’t a larger investment.

Süryanı Şarabı is a traditional Assyrian wine maker from Mardin, Turkey. There are very very few Assyrians left in Turkey, many have fled due to the Kurdish conflict which has hit Mardin particularly hard. The tiny population that remains has been trying to revive the wine industry which is both a fantastic and difficult undertaking. Not only do they have to replant vineyards torn out long ago but they have to deal with the very conservative Muslim local government and population which heavily restricts the making and sale of alcohol in Mardin.

Süryanı Şarabı has managed to overcome these difficulties and Assyrian wine is now fairly easily available-at least in Istanbul. Made in small batches due to its labor intensity; traditional Assyrian wine is made by stomping on grape filled bags which are left in the sun to begin the fermentation process. The juice is gathered and strained and…that’s pretty much it.

Of the several bottles of Süryanı Şarabı available at La Cave I chose the Levy Matiat. How could I resist a wine labeled with the Last Supper? A very appropriate label for wine makers who come from one of the oldest Christian communities. Unfortunately there wasn’t much else I liked about the wine.

I let this breathe for a full hour before we drank it. The nose was very perfumey: heavy sweet scents, spices, and dried fruits. In the mouth it had fairly high acid, little to no tannin, and not much of a finish. The flavor was…interesting. Actually M really liked it so E and I gave him our share. The flavors of the Levy Matiat were very much dried fruits with lots of raisins and prunes and one other thing that I just could not put my finger on. There was something so familiar in the flavor and it drove me nuts that I couldn’t name it. Despite being a dry wine it drank very sweet-but not like a light Muscat sweet-like a thick cloying sweet; rather like a dry port. I really don’t like port.

For me this Levy Matiat was a huge miss but that’s not to say it was a bad wine. If you’re a port lover I hazard to say you might enjoy this. It just wasn’t for me. As I have such limited time left in Turkey to drink the Turkish wines I love, I doubt I’ll be risking any other Levy wines.

Kayra 2013 Versus Syrah Viognier

I have only recently started exploring Kayra wines so they’re not wines that jump out at me when I’m shopping but when I saw this Kayra Versus Syrah Viognier blend I had to have it. A red-white grape blend? What?!

I did some Googling and discovered that this particular blend is not all that unusual. It’s not all that usual either so I suppose it’s more accurate to say that this blend is not unheard of. The tradition of blending Viognier into Syrah has its roots (haha, see what I did there?) in France where the grapes are grown side-by-side in the  Côte-Rôtie region of the Northern Rhône Valley. French law allows winemakers to blend up to 20% of Viognier into their Syrahs and still label it as Syrah. The same holds true for Australian Shiraz (although I believe they’re capped at 15%).

So that gives us the history lesson but doesn’t answer the why. Short answer is that Viognier is awesome. The longer answer is that these two grapes are not just grown side-by-side, they’re fermented together. This process will then (theoretically) imbue the Syrah with some of the Viognier’s characteristic aromatic, perfumey nature while also, oddly enough, giving the Syrah a deeper color.

Whatever the reasoning I am entirely behind the theory. I don’t usually care for Syrah but this Versus Syrah Viognier by Kayra blew me away and I’m now on a mission to find and try all available vintages. It will set you back roughly 80 TL a bottle but the Kayra Versus line is quality wine and I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Kayra Syrah Viognier 2013 Tasting Notes:

To me this was a fascinating wine. In the glass it was a dark, inky purple. The most prominent aromas in the nose were red fruits, leather, and tobacco backed by green peppercorn and maybe some camphor.

I really liked the mouth feel of the Versus Syrah Viognier. It ticked all my tannin boxes with nice round, velvety tannins and a fair amount of acid behind them. On the palate of the Versus Syrah Viognier I got a little more black fruits than I did in the nose, specifically blackberries and while the tobacco was still there, like a cigar box actually, the leather was more prominent.

I’ve had this one twice now and have enjoyed it both times. I’m still a little stunned by the red-white wine mix but if this wine is an example of what that kind of blending produces I am on board!

Kayra Versus Viognier

Kayra Versus Viognier

I found the Kayra Versus Viognier, a real gem, originally at Eleos on Istiklal. Aside from a truly respectable wine list, Eleos is worth a visit if you’re a fan of fish, awesome views, and ridiculous amounts of free mezzes and desserts. Not paying for those leaves you free to pay the rather high ticket price of the Kayra Versus Viognier. Luckily if you buy it in a shop it’s significantly less expensive (76 at Macro Center and 67 at La Cave-seriously). Regardless of what you pay though this wine is totally worth it, it’s one of the most gorgeous wines I’ve had in a while.

In the glass the 2012 Kayra Versus Viognier is a pale, clear yellow with no hints of green. The nose is white pepper, honeysuckle, orange flower, and vanilla bean. The latter two aromas I didn’t pick up right away, I found them to be more subtle than the pepper and honeysuckle, but they are there and they are delightful.

In the mouth there’s a nice amount of acidity balancing the flavors and a long finish of honeysuckle and vanilla. I think I may have also detected some melon and/or tropical notes and some citrus in the flavor.

It’s lighter than Chamlija’s Viognier which has more oak characteristics and while they’re both gorgeous in their own ways, the Kayra Versus Viognier is the far more easily drinkable. In fact it’s dangerously drinkable as I proved by killing the bottle in one sitting. Go buy this. Like, right now.

Turasan Misket

Turasan Misket and A Bosphorus Cruise

Recently I discovered that a new friend owns a yacht. And while I would love to be friends with the idle rich O is not idle, she and her husband have a travel agency here in Istanbul and the yacht is one of the services they offer. She kindly offered to take a bunch of us out a couple weeks ago for a Sunday Bosphorus cruise, and what goes better with a cruise than a nice, sweet wine like the Turasan Misket?

Ortakoy Mosque & the First Bridge

So on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon we all met at the Kabatas dock to board the Zoe in what was going to be a three hour tour (and don’t think the Americans didn’t giggle at that). Three hours turned into four and half as we cruised up the Bosphorus admiring the palaces and architecture along the way and stopping near the Black Sea, practically underneath the infamous Third Bridge, for a swim.

Anadoluhisari

Of course I wasn’t going to miss the chance to sip a wine as I pretended to be idle rich myself. It’s not everyday a girl gets invited aboard a yacht (although if anyone does have those days often please tell me how!). What wine would go better with a Sunday summer cruise than a semi sweet? So I broke out one of the Turasan wines I had shipped from the winery in Cappadocia: Turasan’s 2015 Misket.

One of the things I like about Turkish Misket (or Muscat as most of us know it) is that they are generally of the semi sweet variety; they’re not cloyingly sweet dessert wines. Turasan’s isn’t quite dessert-level sweet but it is sweeter than I like my Miskets.

In the glass it’s, a bright, extremely pale yellow and smells, of all things, like champagne. I love aromatic white wines and Muscats usually deliver in that respect with a lot of floral and tropical notes. On the palate there was little acid and it felt a bit thick however some of that might well have to do with the fact that I wasn’t drinking it at ideal serving temperature. A few degrees colder would have made a world of difference. The flavor was very nice following the aromas from the nose: tropical, citrus, and white flowers. I did not get the orange blossom though that I love so much in Miskets.

Maiden’s Tower

Pricing on this one is a little difficult. I ordered directly so I got the winery price of 28TL for the Turasan Misket. The Cave sells these for mid/upper 30s, and Solera has a mid 50s price tag. It’s worth the 28. At the risk of sounding like a credit card commercial, drinking it on a yacht on the Bosphorus, priceless!

The best thing about it? You can do it too if you’re in the city! The Zoe is for hire for private events of I think 10-12 people. It was recently written up in The Guide Istanbul magazine and you can contact them for hire information via the Zoe Yacht Cruise Facebook Page. Bon Voyage!

Kocabag Emir

Kocabağ Emir 2014 from Cappadocia

Last fall while in Cappadocia with my brother we stumbled upon the Kocabağ winery. I don’t recall ever seeing this wine in Istanbul so I took advantage of being there and picked up several Kocabağ Emir wines. Previously the only Emir varietal I’d seen was Turasan’s so I was excited to see how many Kocabağ had.

Kocabağ Emir 2014 Tasting Notes:

One of the things I continue to like about Emir wines is that it does not match well with oak so in all likelihood your Emir has been steel-aged. This Kocabağ Emir (40-something TL I think) was pale and brilliant in the glass with a lot of pineapple in the nose. On the palate it was light with some lively acidity, more pineapple, and faints hints of minerality which gave it a lightly salty and ashy flavor.

This is not my favorite variation of an Emir. I suspect that it may have been briefly oaked or had some oak chips passed through it. For me the Turasan is the Emir to beat and Kocabağ has not done that here.