Tag Archives: Marmara

Büyülübağ Ada Karası 2015

I have not explored Büyülübağ’s wines as much as I should have. My first introduction to them was with one of their Vedat Milor* wines. It wasn’t until one of my first all Turkish (language, not wines) tastings with Monşer Ilhan‘s group that I really discovered these wines.

It was Christmas Eve and Alp Törüner, founder of Büyülübağ, lead us through a vertical tasting of his Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Törüner’s family has had a huge French influence, two of his aunts are French and brought a lot of French culture to the family; including the practice of drinking wine with meals. This is why he decided to work largely with French varietals.

Despite this, his goal is to make more widely known Turkish varietals and to improve their quality. As the only winemaker on Avşa Island he is also the only producer making wine from the local variety, Ada Karası. And it is about the Ada Karası that we’re talking today.

Ada Karası 2015

Büyülübağ Ada Karası 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Ada Karası is a light-medium bodied wine with 13% abv. The nose on this jeweled garnet colored wine is intense with eucalyptus, black pepper, and black fruits. Think black cherry and blackberry. Racy acid with lowish tannins, the palate displays a lot of black fruit and black pepper flavors. 

Mr. Törüner seems to not believe that he has quite yet perfected his Ada Karası. If and when he does get it any more “perfect” though I will be thrilled to try it because I quite liked this one the way it was.

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.


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.


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.

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 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.

Amadeus MMX 2015 Gelber Muskateller

What is Gelber Muskateller? you ask. It’s Muscat, or technically yellow Muscat. How is that different from any of the other Muscats I’ve reviewed? It’s not really, it’s the same grape. It just happens to be one of the German names (there are unbelievably almost 300 variations on the grape name!) and therefore a fitting name for the Austrian owner of the Amadeus winery to give his wine.

German white wines like Riesling and Gewürztramiener often get a bad rap as being syrupy sweet dessert wines when really that’s not the case. German, Austrian, and Alsace Riesling, Gewürztramiener, and Muscat wines are usually produced as dry wines, not sweet. While Austrians tend to grow more of their native Grüner Veltliner, they also produce dry Riesling, Gewürztramiener, and Muscat.

Amadeus Muskateller

To be honest I was more than a little hesitant to buy this even though it was only 45 TL. I’ve had a bad Amadeus experience before which made me a little gun shy and the guys at the Cave were pushing this one hard. They do annoy me a bit sometimes. If I ask for a recommendation please give me one, but if I go in an tell you that I know exactly what I’m looking for and I want only those specific wines, stop trying fob other wines off on me.

Rant aside, this wasn’t too bad. At 14.5% this wine by Amadeus has a rather high alcohol content for a white wine but made for some beautiful legs in the glass as I swirled the bright gold wine. The nose was very tropical with floral, possibly honeycomb tones. It also felt really good in the mouth with a nice mouthwatering acid to balance the sweetness coming from the high alcohol and a smooth, clean, medium finish that carried through the aromas from the nose.

Amadeus Muskateller

This Amadeus Gelber Muskateller was a lot nicer than I was expecting considering my reluctance to purchase Amadeus wines in general and the less than suave, beat you over the head with the wine bottle sales tactic from the guys at the Cave. I think I need to give Amadeus wines another try.

Amadeus Cabernet

Bozcaada: Amadeus 2013 Cuvee and Cabernet

On our second day on Bozcaada we shared a fantastic Turkish breakfast with our hosts that included products from the island and their own gardens as well my new obsession: tomato jam. But tomato jam Turkish style which means they were whole, kind of candied tomatoes in sugar syrup.Apparently they’re soaked in lye to give them their crunchy texture?

Follow our hosts on social media!

After breakfast we headed for our first wine adventure of the day-to the Amadeus Winery. Amadeus is owned by an Austrian man who grew up in Turkey who turned a family hobby into a business. I was very luckily to be able to talk to the owner for a while about his philosophy behind wine making and the processes he uses. At Amadeus they do not age wine in oak. Partially because of the expense-barrels are not cheap but also because while oak imparts flavor components to wine, it also takes away some of the natural flavors of the fruit. At Amadeus they prefer wines that are more fruit forward so at most they use wood chips in some of their wines.

Amadeus Vinothek on Bozcaada

From Amadeus we headed into town. Bozcaada reminds me a lot of Mykonos which, given the historic Greek population, isn’t really surprising. The town is separated into two parts, the part that used to be all Greek and the part that used to be all Turkish. The Turkish side is organized typically, in that it’s not; streets and buildings are laid out all higgledy-piggledy. The Greek side in contrast is laid out in very precise grids (however only because that side of town was lost in a fire and a visiting American made a city plan for them).

In our wanderings around town we ended up at Talay, the owners of the vineyard we hiked through the previous day. Talay produces a pretty wide range of wines but I’d never heard of them before. Since my trip I’ve noticed one or two bottles at La Cave but Talay is not a widely known name. They have a very laid-back island attitude in regards to advertising: people who we know who we are will drink Talay. Happily I was there on the island to try some of them. I went away with a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon because it took me a full 10 minutes to figure out the (to me) most outstanding flavor: green pepper. I can’t believe it took me that long to put my finger on what it was but I have never had a Cabernet with such a clear green flavor like that.

After our visit to Talay it was back to Lavender Breeze Farm where I was put through my paces on a blind tasting of the house wines. I had two tasks:

1. Identify which was the Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon
2. Match them to three other glasses of Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon

I failed miserably. Miserably!! To be fair even my host seemed a little confused as to which was which. In any case there was a lot of laughter and fun. I need to start practicing this skill at home!


You would think that I would really love a wine maker who generally does not use oak and who lives by the fantastic motto of “Life is a Cabernet” would be one of my favorite makers-unfortunately not so. I’ve had a very up and down relationship with Amadeus and while I thought I liked a couple of their wines well enough to buy them and haul them home, I think I might have been partially under an island influence, making me perceive them more favorably than I normally would.

Quite some time ago I tried the Amadeus 2012 Cuvee and really did not like. Really did not like it a lot. And yet while at Amadeus I rather did like the 2015. Did I like it as much when I got it home and was no longer under a possible situational influence?

I actually rather did. I mean I only paid 30 TL for the bottle directly from Amadeus and I think it’s a decent 30 TL bottle. Would I have liked it if I’d paid twice or more that amount at a shop in Istanbul? No.

The Cuvee Rouge is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. In addition to not aging wines in oak, Amadeus also doesn’t filter its wine (again in order to keep as much of the fruit flavor as possible) but despite that the wine was a nice, clear red-no cloudiness. In the nose it was very dark cherries, cacoa, vanilla, and coffee. On the palate it’s a medium-bodied wine with some soft tannins. Lots of red fruit and coffee flavors with a slightly sweet undertone from the vanilla. It went very nicely with strong Turkish cheeses.

The 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (also 30 TL directly from Amadeus) was also a decent wine for 30 TL. Like the Cuvee Rouge it’s a medium-bodied wine, so it’s not your typical big, full Cab.

There’s lots of heavy spices in the nose including green peppercorn and I think some jalapeno. Once you get past that you’re treated to both black and dried fruits like prune and a little baking spice from the oak chips used in the aging. On the palate smooth tannins accentuate the fruit and pepper flavors giving you a pretty decent drinking experience. Although like the Cuvee Rouge-a decent 30 TL drinking experience.

Corvus winery

Bozcaada: Corvus 2012 Vinium

My adventure at Suvla was only a small part of my recent trip. I was invited with my friend T to visit some friends of hers (happily now also of mine) at their beautiful home, Lavender Breeze Farm on the island of Bozcaada where we visited the Corvus and Talay winemakers.

We were invited to stay in The Priest’s House, a beautiful house they’ve rebuilt on their property which they rent out on AirBnB (check out the link!). Look at these rooms! T and I were prepared to stay forever.

Priest's House

Priest's House

Priest's House

I found it a unique house in that the living room/kitchen and both bedrooms were independent from each other. Both bedrooms have their own en suite bathroom and independent entrances out onto the porch.

Priest's House

Priest's House

And did I mention that the porch overlooks some of their vineyards?

With our hosts at Lavender Breeze Farm I had the opportunity to learn about traditional vine growing on Bozcaada. Grapes have been growing on Bozcaada since just about forever. Also known by its Greek name, Tenedos, Bozcaada is in the northeastern part of the Aegean near the entrance to the Dardanelles. Not only does it have a long history, it’s firmly rooted in mythology and classical Greek literature, making an appearance in both Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid.

Bozcaada vineyard

Bozcaada vineyard

Grapes have been growing here for about that long and while none of the vines can lay claim to that much history, if Bozcaada wine makers were to talk about ‘old vine’ wines (which sadly isn’t a trend in Turkish wine making) they would certainly have bragging rights with vines aged 40, 50, even 100+ years old.

Bozcaada vineyard

Bozcaada vineyard

Bozcaada vineyard

Many vines are trellised trained now but some vineyards, like Lavender Breeze Farm and Talay still use the traditional island goblet style in which vines are not attached to trellises but two to three cordons (i.e. branches) are trained to grow out and up from the trunk in such a way as to resemble a goblet.

Corvus winery

Corvus winery

A day spent among the vines wouldn’t be complete without a tasting! While I didn’t have the chance to visit the Corvus vineyard we did stop in at the winery’s restaurant for a tasting. Corvus, which is Latin for ‘crow’, was named for the many crows that make the island their home. They’re more numerous than the people I think. Due to the owner’s clever marketing, Corvus is a very popular wine brand here in Turkey; its never been my favorite but I enjoyed the opportunity to try several of their wines I wouldn’t normally have bought.

Bozcaada beach

Bozcaada beach

And of course we couldn’t go to Bozcaada and not enjoy the beach! We took a break from hiking through vineyards and wine tasting to relax on one of Bozcaada’s beaches. Even though it was about 38C during our entire visit it luckily never felt that hot, not even on the beach, because there are such strong winds on the island. So while I did not take a swim I was able to stay cool and relaxed under the shade with my book.

Corvus wine

As it happens, one of the wines I tasted at Corvus Wine & Bite on Bozcaada I have had on my wine rack since forever. So when I got home from my island getaway I opened it right up.

Vinium is made from Karalahana which is a native Turkish grape and if you can find any information about it online please let me know because I for sure couldn’t. In the glass it’s an opaque cherry red indicating a medium bodied wine. The nose was very fruit forward with red fruits, particularly cherry, and I think some oaky elements. On the palate there were noticeable tannins, unfortunately they didn’t stick around to be appreciated. It has a short, dry finish with lots of juicy, tart cherry flavors.

Not bad, not my favorite.

More on my short Bozcaada adventure and the wines I discovered there coming soon!

Çamlıbağ Cabernet Sauvignon

2013 Çamlıbağ Cabernet Sauvignon

I seem to unwittingly be on a mission now to try all the Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Turkey. As far as missions go I don’t suppose this one is so bad. Certainly it hasn’t been a hardship! This week it’s the 2013 special reserve Çamlıbağ Cabernet Sauvignon from the warm climate of Bozcaada (near Çanakkale).

In the glass the Çamlıbağ Cabernet Sauvignon was ruby red with no hints of purple. With a nose and flavor profile that includes blackberry, berry jam, tobacco, baking spice, and what I think were violets it’s pretty stereotypical of a warm climate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lowish tannins and low alcohol don’t make for a big Cabernet and this was no different. However for a medium-bodied Cab it did okay. I can’t be positive but oaky flavors of baking spice and tobacco in the finish hint that this wine spent at least a little time in oak.

For 45TL (from La Cave) this wasn’t too bad. Comparatively I prefer the similarly priced Arda Cabernet Sauvignon or the more expensive Ma’adra and the next time I want a Cab I’m far more likely to buy one of those instead of this one. However after tasting this one I am far more willing to try the other wines offered by Çamlıbağ.


Corvus Aegea Kuntra 2011

I have not had a great deal of Corvus wines. I think I had a cheaper one ages ago, didn’t like it, and wrote off the entire winery. Which was really pretty stupid. I recently found a few bottles of Corvus that I had not seen before and decided to give them a try, including the 2011 Aegea  Kuntra.

I hadn’t heard of the Kuntra grape before but a little Googling later discovered that it is in fact the Greek name for the Karasakiz grape. Seeing as how Corvus’s home base is the island Bozcaada, which history knows better by its Greek name Tenedos; it makes sense that Corvus would use the grape’s Greek rather than Turkish name.

Gotta respect a nicely decorated cork.

Despite my trepidation going in, I think I liked the Aegea with its dark, dark garnet color and wafty scents of red fruits and spice. The Aegea doesn’t burn exactly, but it’s definitely somewhere on the jammy/hot side of the fence.

Niiiice tannins: well integrated, velvety, stick to tongue and we know that I pretty much enjoy anything with some good tannins. Medium+, well integrated acid help give the Aegea a long finish and while the red fruits from the nose followed through in the palate I think I also detected some apple?

For 43-ish TL at Carrefour this was a decent find. If I keep sipping my way through Corvus wines as enjoyably as I did the 2011 Aegea I will be in danger of becoming a Corvus fan!

Amadeus Cuvee Rouge

The 2012 Amadeus Cuvee Rouge

I suffer so that others do not have to. That’s what I remind myself when I get a bottle of truly bad wine. Such was the case with the 2012 Amadeus Cuvee Rouge.

Amadeus was another new wine label to me when last I was at Comedus. At 43TL I thought that the Amadeus Cuvee Rouge, a Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz blend, would be a good try. I mean, how wrong can you go, selecting a wine named after one of the greatest composers who ever lived? Really super wrong apparently.

To describe the basics of the wine: oak in the nose, dark cherries, and black currant followed by a fruity flavor with medium low tannins and  long finish in no way prepares you for how horrible it was. Thick and syrupy, this Amadeus Cuvee Rouge was a red wine hangover waiting to happen. In point of fact it did not wait to happen. I not only refused a second glass but poured out the remains of my first. It was actually offensive.

Make a bad-tasting wine was apparently not enough for the makers of this abomination. It seems they wanted to take a leaf from the Cracker Jack book and included a surprise in the bottle. Not sediment, I think we would have been happy for some sediment. But no, we got this large sliver of, what we assumed was part of the barrel in which it was fermented. Luckily E noticed it before she swallowed.

Avoid. Much like, but really so many times worse than Mozart Kugeln, the Amadeus Cuvee Rouge is a slanderous use of a famous name. I wouldn’t even recommend this to people I don’t like.

Corvus Tenia 2012 Çavuş

It’s so hot and humid in Istanbul these days it seems that even the Internet can’t be fussed to work. Knock on wood but it seems to have recovered at least a little today, although I have to compose all my emails in advance so I can hit ‘send’ during one of its working moments.

But to the point: I’ve had a couple wine now from Corvus and I’m not sure that I’m a fan. Could be I’m just picking the wrong grapes. The Corvus Tenia is a varietal wine made out of the Çavuş grape.

Çavuş is a greenish-gold grape native to the Turkish island of Bozcaada. The wine making culture on Bozcaada, or to give it its Greek name, Tenedos, stretches back thousands of years. Çavuş grapes generally make table style wines that are aromatic but without a remarkable presence.

Even Sherlock is skeptical

The Corvus Tenia had a nice color which is probably the last good thing I’ll say. The nose was very aromatic with florals and citrus. I tasted mostly the florals with a little lemon. While the nose was really quite lovely but it didn’t translate to the palate very well.

I’m not saying that the Corvus Tenia was terrible, just that it wasn’t to my taste. But if this ever made its way back into my wine cupboard here I’d probably save it for use as a cooking wine.