Tag Archives: food pairings

Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane 2014

Tanini was one of my favorite winery finds at Tbilisi’s New Wine Festival this year. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a bottle of their rose to bring home though. The Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane amber wine more than made up for any disappointment though!

Tanini is the brain child of Emzar Vasadze who makes traditional Georgian wines in Kakheti. Using only native grapes, he produces Saperavi, Tavkveri, Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli, Kisi, and Saperavi Rose wines; mostly in qvevri. Georgian wines, particularly qvevri wines, are knows for being pretty tannic and he took the name of his wine, Tanini, for that quality.

Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane

But wait, what are qvevri and amber wines? I am by no means an expert on Georgian wines and recommend checking out Exotic Wine Travel and Taste Georgia. In a nut shell though:

A qvevri (kve-vri) is an egg-shaped earthenware vessel used for making, ageing and storing the wine. They are made in all sizes with large wine producers using vessels large enough for a man to climb into. Usually they are buried in the ground. After pressing the grapes the juice, skins, stalks, and seeds are all poured into the qvevri which is sealed. In this style of wine making the cap is not punched down, nothing is stirred or messed around with. In a few months the seal is removed from the qvevri and the wine is siphoned out.

Amber wine, also known as orange wine, is kind of the reverse of a rose. Whereas rose wines are red wines made in the style of white wine; amber wines are white wines made like red wines. In short; they ferment for a time in contact with the grape skins (and seeds and sometimes stems). The more skin contact the wine has had, the darker amber (or orange) color the wine will achieve. While Georgia is possibly the most well-known for its amber wines; they are not the only ones who make them. You can find amber wines throughout the Balkans, north east Italy, and elsewhere.

Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane

Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane 2014 Tasting Notes:

You can see from the picture what a deep amber color this is. Mtsvane simply means “green” in Georgian and indeed the grapes are very green. So it takes some amount of skin contact to achieve this burnt orange color!

To me, qvevri amber wines always smell overwhelmingly of apple cider. Quite possibly because I grew up drinking fresh pressed, unpasteurized cider so that raw quality that Georgian amber wines have must prick a memory. The Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane had a lot of that aroma for me. I also detected peaches, peach skin, mineral, and a smokey something.

This is also an unfiltered wine meaning no finding took place to clarify the wine. While it’s got only 11% abv, the wine making style ensured that this still packs a big punch! It explodes in your mouth with massive, chewy tannins. Yeasty apple and peach flavors wrap around a solid acidic and mineral core. There’s not a lot of progression in this one; it’s a full attack from start to finish.

There’s a growing movement in the wine world, including Georgia, for “raw” wine. Raw wine takes organic wine making a step further. Basically the rule of thumb, as I understand it, is nothing extra in or out. It’s just the grape and what it brought with it. So no foreign yeasts to aid fermentation, only the yeast that lives naturally on the grape. No fining, no filtering, no manipulation of any sort is done. I believe that that Tanini followed that practice with this Mtsvane. However for me a better description of this particular wine would be not “raw” but “wild”.

 

Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume

In the semi-recent past I lead a tasting called the Four Faces of Papaskarası. We tasted four of Chamlija’s Papaskarası wines: the Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Noirs Fume, Papaskarası, and Papaskarası Reserve. I’ve had the Blanc de Noirs before but this was my first go round with the Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume. It was not only my favorite of the night but everyone’s favorite!

I often feel spoiled as there are a number of wineries that ship directly to me; Chamlija being one of them. However there are a couple Chamlija wines for which I would pay the inflated retail price. The Blanc de Noirs Fume is one of them.

Chamlija Papaskarası

Papaskarası’s story is interesting. Papaskarası is a grape native to Turkey’s Thracian region with a history going back at least 1,500 years. It is not a well-known grape even in Turkey where it’s cultivated by few winemakers-namely Chamlija, Melen, and Edrine. Papaskarası grapes have the ability to make versatile wines that are aromatic, fruit-forward, and naturally highly acidic light bodied red wines and blanc de noir white wines.

Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume

Chamlija Blanc de Noirs Fume 2015 Tasting Notes:

I was really surprised by how light this was for a fume. You can see even in the picture how pale yellow the wine was. Even though I’d had the Blanc de Noirs before I really had no idea what to expect from the Fume. The differences were somehow both subtle and huge.

The nose of the Fume was full of white peaches, tropical fruits, and vanilla. In the mouth it was delightful. Absolutely delightful. Very nice acidity; fresh and lively. The flavors echoed the nose with more white peaches, tropical fruits (mango), and a hint of cream and butter.

At 12.5% abv and the refreshing flavors this was one of those wines that I call Dangerously Drinkable.  It slipped down very easily (perhaps too easily!) especially paired with the spicy chipotle chicken salad I was eating.

I see another order to Chamlija in my near future to stock up on this for summer drinking!

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Recent trips to Rind have netted me a few bottles of New Zealand wine; including this 2013 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc. One of the world’s foremost wine experts, Oz Clarke, once said about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that it is: “Arguably the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world.” Far be it for me to argue with the great Oz Clarke! Anyway in the this case I wouldn’t because I don’t disagree.

I have a tricky time with Sauvignon Blanc because my personal tastes lean towards the riper style that’s more stone fruit and less green in flavor. It’s not always easy to find those or to tell what style you’re going to get when buying from a producer you don’t already know. However there is nothing to not like in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with its zesty and lively acid and bright (typical) flavors of gooseberry, passion fruit, and citrus. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc might just be one of my favorite white wines period. The Seresin Sauvignon Blanc I picked up did not disappoint.

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc

Seresin Estate is located in the famous Marlborough wine growing area on  New Zealand’s South Island. They follow both organic and biodynamic viti and viniculture practices. For example when vinifying their wines the winemakers at Seresin Estate use only the natural wild yeasts already contained in grapes.

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Tasting Notes:

Serensin’s Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (13% abv) is a blend of majority Sauvignon Blanc with a small kicker of Semillon. While the wines were largely aged in stainless steel; 15% received French oak ageing. Clear, pale gold in the glass the nose was aromatic and lovely with hints of grapefruit, gooseberry, and acacia flowers.  On the palate the acid was firm and zingy carrying lots of bright citrus flavors.

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc

M and I paired this with spicy, Cajun salmon and it was beautiful. Less beautiful was the wine with strawberry spinach salad. The citrus and acid of the wine did not at all get on with the sweetness of the berries. As long as we remembered to drink after bites of the spicy fish instead of the salad it was all good. I loved this wine and would happily drop 99TL for it again.

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.

Chateau Kefraya Roussalka

It’s been years since I went to Lebanon but the more Lebanese wines I taste the more I want to visit again! This 2016 Chateau Kefraya Blanc de Blancs (la cuvee de Roussalka) is just one example of why we should be paying more attention to Lebanese wines.

Chateau Kefraya is the lifetime achievement of founder Michel de Bustros (1929-2016). He planted his first vines in 1951 and Chateau Kefraya as been making award-winning wines ever since. The Chateau’s wines even won medals in the early 80s when, despite the Lebanese civil war, de Bustros continued to produce wine.

Kefraya Roussalka

Located in the Bekaa Valley at the foot of Mount Barouk, Chateau Kefraya is home to a variety of soil types. Excellent sun exposure and sharp diurnal temperature changes provide lots of time for grapes to fully ripen before harvest. De Bustros believed that good wine was the result of terroir and blending.

For this line, the Blanc de Blancs, each cuvee since 2000 has been named after an opera bearing the name of a woman. The wine that began it all was ‘La Cuvee d’Aida’. This 2016 vintage is the ‘La Cuvee de Roussalka’. So while the proper name of the wine is ‘Chateau Kefraya Blanc de Blancs La Cuvee de Roussalka’ I’ve simplified it for the purposes of the post. We’ll refer to it simply as ‘Chateau Kefraya Roussalka’.

Kefraya Roussalka

Chateau Kefraya Roussalka Tasting Notes:

I’ll start out with a spoiler and say that I really liked this. The nose was both tropical (mango) and floral. On the palate it was fresh, lively, and full of flavor. I got again the tropical fruits and flowers (jasmine) but also honey and the finish was long and slightly sweet.

We drank this with a bunch of left over Turkish mezes I had in the refrigerator and it paired rather well with them. Even with the spicier mezes. It also paired well with the ever tricky asparagus!

I got this from a friend who went to Lebanon but Chateau Kefraya wines are available in several countries. I’d check out their website to see if yours is one!

Szabó Pince Turán Sweet Red

I bought this Szabó Pince Turán about a year and a half ago when I spent a miserable week in Balat, Hungary. The only thing that made that trip bearable was the Hungarian Festival with all its food and wine booths.

Szabó Pince

While I do like a sweet wine, I don’t normally lean towards sweet reds. Even though I quite liked this Szabó Pince Turán when I tried it at the festival (although to be fair I was likely rather in my cups at the time) I’ve hesitated to open it since bringing it home. However when my girlfriend over at Multiculturally Wed sent me a recipe for red wine brownies I knew I’d found the perfect excuse to open it.

Using a sweeter red wine for the brownies and the red wine glaze gave great balance to the darker chocolate I used in the recipe and the left over wine paired really well with the finished brownies!

Szabó Pince Turán

Tasting notes Szabó Pince Turán:

In the nose the Szabó Pince Turán is largely raspberry and sweet candy aromas. With only 12% abv it’s not a thick, cloying sweet wine; more of a semi sweet and not a dessert wine. There was a bit of tannin on the palate with a fair amount of acid. In addition to the raspberries which were the dominate flavor I also got some baking spices.

I still have no idea what grape this was so this isn’t the most informative review as reviews go. I don’t read Hungarian and if I was told what grape was used for the Szabó Pince Turán I have no memory of it. I can tell you that it goes very well with chocolate though!

Lewinsohn’s 2014 Garage de Papa Rouge

Last fall a friend visited me on her way back from Ramallah. She brought me the gift of a couple bottles of Israeli wine including Lewinsohn‘s 2014 Garage de Papa Rouge. It was my first Israeli wine and now I need to get my hands on more.

Grown in the historical Upper Galilee and the Jerusalem Hills, the 2014 Garage de Papa is a blend of 60% Petit Sirah, 20% Marselan, and 20% Carignan and aged 18 months in French oak. From Lewinsohn’s tasting notes on this vintage: “Half of the Petite Sirah grapes were fermented with their stalks (as “vendange entière” or “whole bunch” fermentation). Skin contact is limited to the duration of fermentation extracting the purest expression of the carefully chosen fruit.”

2014 Garage de Papa

2014 Garage de Papa Rouge Tasting Notes:

In the glass the Garage de Papa was a bright, garnet red with purple highlights. The nose was really beautiful showing off both the quality of the grapes and the effect of the oak. It was full of red fruits, black pepper, greens like bell pepper and arugula, clove, and herbs.

The palate felt rather less developed than the nose. It seems like the 2014 could possibly use some more bottle time before it reaches it peak. Despite that, soft tannins, a long finish and flavors of tart fruits, and black and green bell pepper made for a very nice (and at 14% abv slightly dangerous!) drinking experience.

I’m somewhat horrified to admit that M and I drank this kosher wine with pork. Speck risotto to be precise. They went really well together. So while you might not choose to be as irreverent as we were I believe Lewinsohn’s 2014 Garage de Papa would pair well with other risottos, hearty, rich dishes, and salty foods and cheese.

Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee

A colleague recently brought two bottles of this 2012 Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee back from Beirut for me to try. While she prefers the 2010, the 2012 was all she could find but apparently the Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee is one of her favorite Lebanese wines. Being as she herself is Lebanese I will trust her judgement.

The 2012 Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee is a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon with 14% abv. Between the hand harvesting and oak treatment the grapes receive you can tell that they care about their wines at Marquis des Beys and if this is any example of the quality of their wines then the 2010 my colleague prefers must be stunning.

Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee

There’s quite a complex nose happening with the Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee. At the top I got quite a lot of black fruits but underneath was baking spice, cedar, and vanilla with hints of tobacco and chocolate.

The mouth was gorgeous with beautiful, velvety tannins and a long finish. Those tannins and the wine’s high acidity will allow this cuvee to age for a good amount of time. I got more fruit on the palate: black currents and blackberries again with tobacco and even a little leather.

Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee

So many people make the mistake of cooking with cheap wine. Like any other ingredient, the quality of the wine you use will be reflected in the quality of the dish you make. You should always cook with a wine that you would drink, and if you’re not drinking a wine that’s too precious you could even cook with it. So that’s what I did with the Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee.

I recently made a gorgeous red wine spek risotto and used some of the Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee. Not only was the risotto gorgeous, but the Marquis des Beys Grand Cuvee was both a fantastic addition to the dish and pairing.

Suvla tasting

A Visit to Suvla Winery!

I recently had the opportunity to spend time on Bozcaada and was able to visit the Suvla winery in Ecebat. First of all, I wish I’d realized years ago how easy it is to get to the Suvla winery. The main reason I don’t visit Turkish wineries is because I don’t drive and it’s not like they’re exactly conveniently located. Suvla, in Eceabat, is a short ferry ride away from Canakkale which in turn is serviced by a daily flight out of Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul. Had I but known!

Walking into Suvla was a little, as my friend put it, like arriving at the mother ship. The Suvla store in Ecebat is gorgeous. I approached the wine filled walls like an eager kid in a candy shop wishing I could take a little of everything with me. Thanks to Nusret in the Cihangir Suvla shop we were armed with the name of someone to help us during out visit. Unfortunately after arriving we learned that was her day off! However as proof of how fantastic Suvla is, someone called her and Ecem very kindly came in to provide us with some VIP treatment!

First we had a tour of the factory with one of Suvla’s new wine makers, Hıkmet. He toured us through the factory showing us the grape presses and fermentation tanks (I particularly liked the Dalek-shaped tank in the back) answering my pesty questions all the while. Then he took us into the barrel storage room, a blessedly cool contrast to Eceabat’s 38C heat! Suvla uses oak from France, America, and Hungary I believe he said and the barrels are used for five or so wines before being retired.

Of course we couldn’t be at the home of Suvla and not do some wine tasting! Unfortunately Turkish laws have made it difficult, if not downright impossible, for wineries and shops to provide tastings free of charge, however the Suvla restaurant offers a long list of flights for tasting at reasonable prices as well tastings by the glass. T and I got two different red flights, one from Suvla’s mid priced range of wines and one from the higher end. While I was not surprised that we both loved the Petit Verdot-Karasakız blend; I was shocked, and not a small amount horrified, that I actually kind of liked the (2014) Merlot!

After our tasting and tour of the şaraphane, we refreshed ourselves with a coffee break before heading out for a tour of the vineyards with Suvla’s Australian viticulturist, Mark.

red globe table grapes

I suppose it’s possible that I could have been more excited by this, but not a whole lot. The first thing I learned which was very different for me was that wineries in Turkey don’t own large tracts of land where all the grapes are planted. They have bits of land here and there which enable them to plant different grapes in different types of soils and conditions. As a result, driving between the various Suvla plots we also passed a few individually owned farm plots as well as some of Doluca’s vineyards.

Sad stressed grapes

Suvla plants more than just wine grapes in its vineyards. They also have large sections dedicated to different table grapes that are used in workers’ lunches and farm plots where they grow ingredients for the restaurant and the Kilye line of oils, jams, preserves, etc they produce and sell. Mark stopped often so we could roll out of his Range Rover to get an up close view of the various grapes and so I could pester him with questions about canopies, soil types, drainage, grafting, root stock, and harvesting. We also used the stops as opportunities to try the various grapes. A regular grape will never taste as amazing as will a sun-warmed grape plucked from the bunch on the vine.

A young vine grafted onto American rootstock
Looking over Suvla’s vineyards

After a few hours in the vineyards Mark asked if we’d ever been to Gallipoli and seen the war memorials there. T has been but I’d never been to this part of Turkey at all so he very kindly offered to drive us around on a tour of the area.

Ari Burnu Cemetery

While most of the graves in the Ari Burnu cemetery face the sea, three graves belonging to British Indian Muslim soldiers have their headstones pointing towards Mecca.

Atatürk’s ‘Johnnies and Mehmets’ speech memorial at Anzac Cove

Find Atatürk’s iconic speech here.

Kemekli (bone) beach

As an American the battles at Gallipoli and along the coast now known as Kemekli Beach hold less significance. In fact I dare say that we mostly know it as the unpronounceable Mel Gibson movie. However for the allied armies, particularly Australia and New Zealand, it was an unwinnable blood bath into which Winston Churchill pushed soldiers even while knowing he couldn’t win. Significantly for Turkey, it’s also where a young officer names Mustafa Kemal would distinguish himself and what would begin his path to becoming the father of modern Turkey.

We cannot end this on a melancholy note and of course there must be more wine! So let’s talk about two of Suvla’s wines.

We’ll begin with one that I bought a while ago at the shop in Cihangir. I keep trying the pink wines even though I really just can’t get behind them. In the glass Suvla’s 2015 Merlot, Karasakız Rose is the soft peachy-pink of a sunset. To me the nose was basically pink oak. I did however also get some summer berry and floral scents. On the palate it’s dry with crisp acidity and a decent finish. Not a long one, but it stays with you. There are some nice raspberry and strawberry flavors which normally I love in a wine but the Merlotness of it overwhelmed me.

For 45TL this is not a bad investment and I really think the only reason I didn’t like it is because I just really don’t like the pink wines. However if you don’t share my pink prejudice this would be perfect on a hot summer day!

While actually at the Suvla winery I treated myself to two of the high-end wines that I normally wouldn’t let myself buy in the shop. In fact I’ve managed to forget the cost of them both but suffice to say they’re priced over 100TL/bottle. Really rather somewhat over actually. I am a sucker for Turkish Cabernet Sauvignon though and I really wanted to try Suvla’s award-winning 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Unless you have a disposable income far greater than my own, this is not an everyday wine but a special occasion wine. My special occasion happened to be last Tuesday when I made a particularly good truffled chicken and parmesan panino…

After 12 months in oak this gorgeous deep red Cabernet has a nose redolent with prunes, blackberry, cherry, chocolate, and tobacco. In the mouth the tannins are velvety and luscious and the wine has a long finish with more of those dark fruits, some coffee, and smokey flavors. Wow. If you’re looking to treat yourself to a premium Turkish wine you can stop here. I might not have liked the rose but this one knocked my socks off. So much so that I’m actually letting that previous sentence end with a preposition.

Two years after I began my love affair with Suvla wines I finally visited the winery and it could not have been a more fantastic experience! Thank you to Suvla, especially Nusret, Ecem, Hıkmet, and Mike for a fantastic day!

Umurbey

Umurbey 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

While I have discovered that Solera, my favorite wine bar in Istanbul, does not always have the lowest prices on bottles, they still win for service. I was in there not too long ago looking for more white wines for summer drinking and I fell into conversation with one of the guys about the variety of flavors found in Sauvignon Blanc wines. He suggested the Isa Bey but Isa Bey’s leans a little green and I like a riper Sauvignon Blanc. He kind of squints at me, tells me “I know what you want” then proceeds to open an 85TL bottle of Umurbey Sauvignon Blanc so I can taste it. And he was right, that was what I wanted so I left with a bottle of my very own (63.75 TL after the 25% to go discount).

In the glass the Umurbey Sauvignon Blanc is a brilliant, pale straw color with lots of pineapple in the nose. On the palate it’s got lively acid and has a medium-long finish. It’s a great example of a very ripe Sauvignon Blanc and is very fruity with lots of pineapple and melon flavors. It’s really gorgeous and entirely too drinkable as it turned out. I drank the entire in one night. It’s a good thing I work from home and didn’t have to get up especially early the next morning!

It paired beautifully with brie and prosciutto, although to be fair what doesn’t pair beautifully with brie and prosciutto? Being on the riper/sweeter end of the Sauvignon Blanc scale the Umurbey also paired well with desserts; in my case chocolate and butterscotch oatmeal cookies.

I get really excited when I find white wines I like because it is a fairly rare occurrence; at least compared to how often I find red wines I like. the Umurbey 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was one of those exciting discoveries. I didn’t just like this wine, I really liked it a whole lot. I’ll be back for more.