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red wine

Georgian Wine Tasting in Istanbul

Georgian wine has been gaining in popularity for several years now. Not even Istanbul can resist the charms of neighboring Georgia’s wine and cuisine. While we don’t get a huge variety of Georgian wine here we at least have a steady supply.

While the wine tastings I lead are usually Turkish wine-focused, several months ago we shelved the Turkish wine in favor of some of the Georgian wines available here. Apparently not even sharing a border with a country makes it easier to import alcohol. The selection here is limited to a few basic table wines from a couple of Georgia’s large, commercial producers; particularly Chateau Mukhrani and Telavi Wine Cellar.

Georgian wine

Chateau Mukrani is one of the largest wineries in Georgia. The winery was originally established towards the end of the nineteenth century by Prince Ivane Mukhranbatoni on the family’s Mukhrani estate. By 1896 winery production peaked with twelve wines and international awards and popularity. Unfortunately the chateau and vineyards suffered during the twentieth century. In 2002 an investment group formed to restore the chateau to its former glory. By 2007 they were producing wines from newly invigorated vineyards in the eastern Georgian village of Mukhrani.

In the middle of Alazani Valley, lies Kakheti’s largest city, Telavi. It is just outside the city where, in 1915, Telavi Wine Cellar was founded. Telavi Wien Cellar belnds innovation with a sense of history, keeping faithful to the noble traditions of Kakhetian winemaking, while adapting to modern methods to produce wines that would please the most refined, and discerning global palate.

Georgian food

Of course no Georgian wine tasting would be complete without some traditional Georgian food. I made several dishes including both Imeretian and Megruli khachapuri, a chicken salad, and my favorite Georgian starter: eggplant rolls with garlic walnut paste.

And now, the wines!

Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane

Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane 2014 Tasting Notes:

There are some dozen different grapes with the word Mtsvane in their names because in Georgian, Mtsvane just means “green.”  Many grapes are called Mtsvane Something, and typically the Something part of the name has to do with where the grape is from (or thought to be from).  Mtsvane Goruli (or Goruli Mtsvane) means “green from Gori,” which is a town in the Kartli region in the Caucasus mountains of south-central Georgia.  This and Mtsvane Kakhuri, which means “green from Kakheti” are the two most common varieties found.

We tasted the Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane. Bright and fruity with white and yellow plums and citrus on the nose, the sur lie ageing add some depth of flavor while keeping the wine’s freshness and easy to drink nature.

Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli

Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli 2014 Tasting Notes:

Rkatsiteli is probably the most common white wine grape variety in Georgia; particularly in Kakheti. It is used to make everything from table wine to European-style wines, qvevri amber wines, and even fortified wines.

Like the Goruli Mtsvane above, the Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli was also aged sur lie. Flavors of yellow and white plums, white mulberry, and citrus are highlighted by refreshing acidity. A warm finish hints at both the sur lie ageing and the depth of character of which this grape is capable.

Kondoli Rkatsiteli

Telavi Wine Cellar Kondoli Rkatsiteli 2011 Tasting Notes:

This Rkatsiteli from Telavi Wine Cellar was much more complex than the young and fresh version by Chateau Mukhrani. The wine was aged 70% in French barriques (35% new oak, 35% old oak) and 30% in stainless steel.  Fruity and aromatic, the nose is warm with the scents of apricots, white peach, melon, and toasted nut. Minerality balances the fruit on the palate keeping them fresh instead of saccharine and hints of hazelnuts and slight buttery finish from the oak give this Rkatsiteli some very interesting layers.

Telavuri Saperavi

Telavi Wine Cellar Telavuri Red Tasting Notes:

Unlike the other wines from the tasting, this wine from Telavi Wine Cellar is a non vintage blend from the winery’s Kakheti vineyards. Part of the winery’s table wine line, this dry red is a Saperavi-lead blend of local Georgian grape varieties. While not particularly complex its fruity aromas (largely black fruits like blackcurrants) and velvety texture make it perfectly quaffable.

Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi

Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi 2012 Tasting Notes:

The final wine of our tasting was the Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi 2012. More complex than the non vintage from Telavi Wine Celler, this Saperavi was aged 20% in French, American and Caucasian oak barrels after undergoing malolactic fermentation. A beguiling bouquet of black mulberry, blackberry and cherry tempt you to explore further while light florals, balsamic, and echoes of soft oak on the palate complete this wine’s seduction.

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.

Kastro Tireli Karkaia 2013

I haven’t yet dived fully into Kastro Tireli’s wines. Outside of the Narince-Viognier I previously reviewed I’ve only also had this Karkaia, a Bordeaux-blend style wine. However I’m so pleased to see that their wines are pretty widely available now. Especially as I’m a fairly lazy individual and still haven’t made it to their storefront in Bebek.

Committed to quality over quantity, Kastro Tireli, which began planting in 2004, does everything by hand. The winery is also dedicated to organic viticulture. If you cannot visit them in Akhisar and want a bigger experience than just picking up something in the bottle shop-head to Bebek. And then mock me with how great your experience was. Maybe then I’ll stop being lazy and finally make a visit!

Karkaia

Kastro Tireli Karkaia 2013 Tasting Notes:

The Kastro Tireli Karkaia is a big, bold blend of traditional Bordeaux grapes. This beautiful, deep ruby wine combines not only Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but also Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

The alcohol is quite high (14.9%!) so you’ll want to give this some breathing time or otherwise aerate it. Without the benefit of breathing the nose is initially quite tight and alcoholic. However once it does have a chance to settle, the nose is redolent with fruit and spice. Black fruits (black currant, blackberry, and black plums) are mingle with vanilla and sweet, baking spices. It’s saved from being too sweet any syrupy by a zing of green bell pepper. Beautiful, round tannins support rich fruits and spices on the palate.

Overall the Karkaia is a well-balanced and elegant wine that only increases my estimation of Kastro Tireli as a whole. I look forward to trying more of their wines!

Suvla Reserve Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012

As with the Suvla Sur, I’ve tasted multiple vintages of Suvla’s Reserve Petit Verdot Karasakız. Is the Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012 my favorite of the vintages? I honestly do not know since they are all beautiful.

Suvla is a family owned wine producer established by Pınar Ellialtı and Selim Zafer Ellialtı in 2003. The vineyards are nestled in the historical Peninsula of Gallipoli, between the North Aegean coast and the Sea of Marmara where they cultivate a wide variety of grapes. The whites include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne. The reds include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache Noir, Petit Verdot, and Pinot Noir. In addition Suvla produces several indigenous grape varieties, including Kınalı Yapıncak and Karasakız. In 2013 Suvla switched to organic viticulture. As a result they received a certification of ‘Good Agriculture Practice – GAP’.

Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012

I love Petit Verdot. It is highly prized as a blending grape because it adds color, tannin, and floral aromas. However as part of a Bordeaux blend you never really get to appreciate it since it’s usually only 2-7% of the blend.

Petit Verdot is a late ripening grape. Probably for that reason it has never been used to its full potential in France where it originates. The Bordeaux growing season is too short to allow it to fully ripen. However, lucky me, the grape has made a resurgence and warmer countries are now producing varietal, or blend-led Petit Verdot wines. Including Turkey!

Suvla Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012 Tasting Notes:

The Suvla Reserve Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012 is a medium bodied wine with a full-bodied attitude. While not completely opaque, its dark ruby color hypnotizes as you gaze deeply into the wine; like it holds your future.

Blending the Karasakız with the Petit Verdot brings out some of the Petit Verdot’s brighter fruit and earthy flavors. The nose was ripe with blackberry and black cherry, walnut, cinnamon, earth, and meat. Gorgeous, velvety tannins seduce the palate with black fruit and earthy, meaty flavors linger on the finish.

As long as Suvla continues to produce Petit Verdot I will be there to drink it!

Nıf Sangiovese 2012

Nıf is one of the Turkish wineries I have only recently become interested in. This is due in large part to its 2012 Nıf Sangiovese.

Based in Ege, Izmir, it’s one of Turkey’s Aegean region wineries. What makes Nıf especially interesting is that more than any other winery here I know, it focuses heavily on Italian grapes. In a country which favors French grapes the Italian grapes we see here are few and far between.

Nıf’s wines are not inexpensive. They run a gambit from about 70 TL (the Nıf Sangiovese was 69 TL at the Savoy Tobacco shop in Cihangir) to 140 and above. They are worth it.

Nıf Sangiovese

Nıf Sangiovese 2012 Tasting Notes:

I really liked this Sangiovese. It was pretty in the glass with a brilliant, clear ruby color and thick, fast legs. The nose was very rich, due I suspect to the eight months it spent in both French and American oak and the bottle time it had. Scents of raspberry and blackberry, vanilla, cinnamon, and a nutty aroma drew me in.

The palate was full of slightly tart fruits, tobacco, and meat with an earthy, medium finish. Tannins were full and round opening up into an elegant and balanced wine.

Ktima Papaioannou Terroir Agiorgitiko 2004

Before E&M left Turkey they had a going a way party that really was just a ‘eat and drink whatever is still around’ party. Included in that were a few bottles of Greek wine they’d picked up while there visiting family.

This Terroir Agiorgitiko comes from Ktima Papaioannou. An organic vineyard, Ktima Papaioannou’s vineyards are located in the AO (Appellation of Origin) of Nemea. They grow a fairly wide variety of both native and international grapes including: Agiorgitiko, Cabernet Sauvignon, Roditis, Assyrtiko, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Touriga, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Verdot.

Terroir Agiorgitiko

The Terroir Agiorgitiko is a limited edition wine with only 4,500 bottles produced. It spent two years in oak and another in the bottle before going on the market. A high quality wine, it can age for another 10 years beyond its release date (i.e. until 2017). So having drunk it at the tail end of 2016 we got to it just before it would (theoretically) start to decline.

Before I jump into the tasting notes…Agiorgitiko? Like Öküzgözü and Bogazkere weren’t difficult enough? You could and call it by its more pronounceable alternative name: St. George. But once you get the hang of it it’s not all that difficult. Agiorgitiko is one of GReece’s most ubiquitous red wine grapes so learning how to get your tongue around the name is a good place to start if you’re exploring the Greek wine industry:

Ah-yor-YEE-te-ko

Terroir Agiorgitiko

Ktima Papaioannou Terroir Agiorgitiko 2004 Tasting Notes:

The Terroir Agiorgitiki is an intense wine. Everything from the deep garnet red color to the alcohol level (14% abv) clamors for attention. The nose is a sensuous dance of cherry syrup, chocolate, and nutmeg with a depth of oak. Elegant and balanced with silky tannins and a long finish the flavors melt together like a chocolate covered cherry.

My very first trip to Greece did not leave me with an overly favorable impression of Greek wine. As in any country table wine is a world away from thoughtfully-made quality wine. After trying more and more of these I am quickly becoming a fan of Greek wine.

Barbare Libra 2012

Barbare is perhaps one of my favorite Turkish wineries. Their wines range from perfectly lovely to truly special and the Libra is no exception.

Sitting between the villages of Barbaros and Yazır in Tekirdağ, Barbare grapes are cultivated with organic and biodynamic farming methods. Founder Can Topsakal focuses on international, red variety grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

Barbare’s most important ideology and conviction is “to give back to the soil what it has taken” and as a result, is dedicated to cultivating the choicest grapes and organic farming. To endorse this commitment, Barbare received the hard-won Ecocert certification. Ecocert was established in France in 1991 and is an independent inspection and certification body recognizing and certifying organic farming and has been a benchmark in organic certification worldwide ever since.

Libra

Recently I hosted a wine and chocolate pairing tasting. I needed a Bordeaux blend to pair with the bitter chocolate so I took myself off to La Cave in Cihangir to find one. I had a few ideas in mind but as soon as I saw the Libra label all those ideas flew right out of my head. A Barbare wine I hadn’t yet tried?! How could this be??

It’s rare that I offer a wine at a tasting I haven’t already drunk myself. What if it’s bad? Or worse-what if I’m stumped and can’t provide accurate tasting notes to my group?! With a Barbare though I knew I wouldn’t have to even remotely worry about the first possibility. As for the second…it’s Barbare. I could tell people it smells of unicorns and they’d believe it because it’s that good.

(Because it’s that good. Not because I’m that convincing of a talker).

Libra

Barbare Libra 2012 Tasting Notes:

To begin, the Libra is not a shy wine. At 15% abv it is a big, powerful velvety fist. The nose changes and evolves a lot. Each time I went in for a sniff the Libra revealed new layers. Aromas of blueberries and herbs gave way to earthy tones of leather and tar which softened to reveal the wine’s oak influence. If deep, purple red could be a sensation then that’s how this would feel in the mouth. Luxuriant, velvety tannins wrap themselves around the tongue and linger for a long, rich finish.

This is a limited addition from Barbare with only 20,000 bottles produced.  I really hope that the Libra is part of a planned Zodiac series of wines. If it is; please you beautiful people at Barbare, make the Leo amazing!!

Chateau Kalpak BBK 2011

Even before our trip to Chateau Kalpak with Em and AJ I’d had a few of their wines. One of them being the AWC Gold Medal winner BBK 2011.

Chateau Kalpak is the love child of Bülent Kalpaklıoğlu who began developing the vineyard in 2003. It was not until 2010 that he released his first vintage. His goal for Chateau Kalpak is to create a single chateau-style wine from a single vineyard. In order to achieve this, he picked the best root-stocks and clones of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot to match the vineyard terrior.

Only two blends are released annually: Chateau Kalpak and BBK. They harvest, ferment, and age (30-36 months) each parcel (about 1 hectar) separately. At Chateau Kalpak they use Hungarian oak barriques made out of wood selected for their balance, bouquet, and character. This establishes the basis of their “Chateau Wine”. From their they spend months conducting extensive blend studies for the Chateau Kalpak label. The remaining wines are re-blended to create the BBK label.

BBK 2011

Chateau Kalpak’s story and process are absolutely worth a deeper look and I suggest checking out the website (link above). Bülent Bey elevates wine making to a form of fine art with his thoughtfulness and attention to detail. All of which has paid off for him. Not only does he make beautiful wine but he has the gold medals to prove it. Chateau Kalpak is the only vineyard in Turkey to win a three star rating (2014) from the International Wine Challenge (AWC) in Vienna. Additionally they received six gold and three silver medals from the AWC and three gold medals from the Concours Mondial Bruxelles.

Chateau Kalpak BBK 2011 Tasting Notes:

The BBK might be Chateau Kalpak’s second wine but that in no way means it’s an inferior wine. In fact personally I liked the BBK 2011 more than I did the same vintage Chateau Kalpak. A bold blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot with a 14.7% abv, the BBK 2011 is a wine to be taken seriously.

The nose is a dark, romantic mystery. Aromas of black fruit, baking spices, dark chocolate, and mocha wrap your senses like a silken cocoon. Beautifully balanced with velvety tannins, the BBK held us in thrall and continued to develop and open as we sank into its spell. In addition to the black fruits and dark chocolate from the nose; clove, vanilla, and caramel each vied for their turn to take center stage. The long finish lingered with flavors of smoke and a hint of meat.

We made a pilgrimage in that bottle and found the light. It might have been a brilliant ruby light, but we found it.

The Suvla Sur 2012

I have been lucky enough to try three different vintages of Suvla’s Sur: the 2010, 2011, and 2012. A few years ago I wrote about the 2010 and 2011 side by side so it’s time to tackle the Sur 2012. They’re all beautiful wines. I wish I could get one of each for a vertical tasting but I believe the 2010 is sold out. It hurts no one’s feelings though to drink the Sur 2012!

Suvla is a family owned wine producer. In 2003 Pınar Ellialtı and Selim Zafer Ellialtı established the winery in Eceabat. Because of their location along the Çanakkale Strait (also known as Dardanelles); they named the winery after a bay in the north coast of the Aegean Sea. In 2006 after the first harvest they named the main vineyard ‘Bozokbağ’ after their newborn son ‘Bozok’.

Sur 2012

The Suvla vineyards are nestled in the historical Peninsula of Gallipoli, between the North Aegean coast and the Sea of Marmara. They produce a wide variety of grapes. The whites include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne. The reds include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache Noir, Petit Verdot, and Pinot Noir. In addition they also produce indigenous grape varieties, including Kınalı Yapıncak and Karasakız. In 2013 Suvla switched to organic viticulture and as a result received a certification of ‘Good Agriculture Practice – GAP’.

Sur 2012

Suvla Sur 2012 Tasting Notes:

The Sur 2012 is a Bordeaux blend of Merlot (73%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Cabernet Franc (7%), and Petit Verdot (5%). After fermentation it spent 12 months in oak barriques before being bottled and released.

The Sur is a balance of power and elegance regardless of which vintage you get. At% abv there’s no denying the power certainly! Blackberry, spices, jalepeño, and mocha mingle in the nose. The palate is perfectly balanced with smooth, elegant tannins and mouthwatering acid, Sweet, ripe blackberries, black pepper, and mocha invite you on a romantic journey.

This is one of those wines you could drink in one sitting without noticing what you’ve done. The Suvla Pied Piper beckons you deeper into the bottle until you’ve drowned in it. Happy way to go!

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.