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!