Tag Archives: Thrace

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!

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.

Arcadia Odrysia Narinca 2015

In the spring I attended an Arcadia wine tasting with Murat Mumcoğlu of Şarap Atölyesi. We tried a variety or red and white wines; one of which was the Odrysia Narince 2015. Wine made from Narince is not difficult to find; but finding one as special as the Odrysia is not easy.

Narince is a native Turkish grape. Originally from Tokat in Anatolia it is both a table grape and is used to make wine. “Narince” in Turkish means “delicately” which perfectly describes the wines it makes. Narince wines display sophisticated and elegant fruit flavors and are very ethereal and aromatic. They reveal aromas of orange, grapefruit, lime, white pineapple, quince, plumeria, acaccia, fruit blossom, basil, ripe green apple, and walnut.

In addition, the oh so popular grape leaf dishes in Turkish cuisine are made from Narince leaves. This actually presents an interesting conundrum for wine makers. While Arcadia cultivates its own Narince, not everyone does. Most Narince vineyards in Tokat are owned by independent vignerons. They then sell the grapes to viniculturists and the leaves to people who preserve them for food. The problem is that the leaves mature sooner than the grapes. As a result they’re harvested while the grapes are still maturing and desperately need canopy cover.

Odrysia

Father and daughter team Ozcan and Zeynep Arca established Arcadia Vineyards in 2007 to make and showcase terroir-driven wines from Northern Thrace. From planting the vines to vinifying the grapes, they insist on careful production methods and minimum intervention, so that their wines can express the unique terroir of their beautiful vineyards. Arcadia wines are all made from estate-grown fruit. In 35 hectares of vineyard they grow nine different types of grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Sangiovese, Pinot Gris, Öküzgözü, and Narince.

Odrysia

Arcadia Odrysia Narinca 2015 Tasting Notes:

While Arcadia’s Odrysia is all delicate florals don’t let that fool you! At 13.5% abv this is still a serious white wine. Before bottling Arcadia put the Odrysia through only a limited filtration process. As a result the wine maintained its full aromas. The nose is very floral with perfumed plumeria floating above citrus, mineral, and quince.

Lively mouthwatering acid encourage the flavors to leap off your tongue. Citrus, lemon peel, plumeria, and yellow apple liberally flecked with minerals; like a lemon syllabub graced with a sprinkle of fleur de sal.

Gorgeous. I’ve had quite a few of Arcadia’s wines now and they have never let me down.

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.

Saranta Chateau Murou Merlot 2014

Saranta is one of those wineries in Turkey that I vaguely knew existed. However I had never seen any of their wines in Istanbul until the Sommelier’s Selection Turkey in February. That is when I finally encountered not only Saranta wines, but their brilliant Chateau Murou collection. And to my deep surprise, that’s where I decided the Chateau Murou Merlot was worth breaking my Merlot ban.

Since February I have been on tenterhooks trying to find some Chateau Murou for my very own. Finally in May I was browsing the shelves of La Cave inn Cihangir when I spotted, sitting on the floor in a corner all on their own, a few bottles of Chateau Murou. They had one each of the Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Shiraz. And they all became mine. I suspect I provide great amusement to the gentlemen who work at La Cave when I go into excited raptures over finding new and long-awaited wines.

Chateau Murou Merlot

I hosted a chocolate paired wine tasting in June and knew that the Chateau Murou Merlot would be a perfect match for dark chocolate. I picked up two bottles (100 TL each from La Cave) and paired it with a dark-bitter (72% cocoa) chocolate and a dark chocolate goat cheese truffle. Fantastic.

Given my general attitude towards Merlot it was unsurprising that people were shocked that I put a Merlot on our list. However once they all tried the Chateau Murou Merlot they were willing to follow me to the dark side.

Chateau Murou Merlot

Saranta Chateau Murou Merlot 2014 Tasting Notes:

At only 13% abv this is a medium bodied wine; but don’t let that fool you! It might be medium in body but it delivers in a big way.

In the nose the fruit is secondary for me. I was almost overwhelmed by the earthy aromas of clay and gunpowder supported by green/herbal scents and pepper. Lurking underneath all of that were wisps of dark, black fruits like sugarplum and berry jam. Succulent tannins wrap themselves around the tongue and carry the fruit flavors to a nice, lingering finish.

Has this changed my mind about Merlot in general? No. However the Chateau Murou Merlot is not just another Merlot; it’s a Merlot with attitude.

Chamlija Kalecik Karası 2015

My visit last year to Chamlija’s tasting restaurant near Kırklareli in Turkey’s Thracian wine region was more of a “flying” visit than anything else. However while there I discovered that Chamlija has a much larger range of wines that I was seeing in Istanbul; including the Chamlija Kalecik Karası. 

Since my visit last summer more and more Chamlija wines are easily available in Istanbul. La Cave in Cihangir has an entire wall section for their stock now. And I believe that the Chamlija Kalecik Karası is one of them.

Chamlija Kalecik Karası

Tasting notes 2015 Chamlija Kalecik Karası:

Chamlija’s Kalecik Karası was treated with French oak for six months and will age well for about 10 years. While the oak treatment was not extensive, it really heightened the inherent aromas of the grape. The nose was really quite lovely-black cherry, forest fruits, and chocolate.

On the palate the Chamlija Kalecik Karası showed a lot of earthiness which I didn’t expect at all. My experience with this grape previously has been more of the light weight and bright fruits variety. At 13.5% abv this had a solid, medium body with light tannins. And while it didn’t have much in the way of a finish, the flavors of mulberry, blackberry, and chocolate were quite lovely.

This would probably go really well with tomato-based foods. For whatever reason that I don’t understand, high acid wines want high acid food so tomato-based sauces and pizza would pair really well this!

Melen Tempranillo 2014

Melen is one of those wineries tucked away in Hoşköy of which I had some nebulous knowledge, but had never seen any of their wines. Until a trip to Migros in the Cevahir mall. Migros had two or three of Melen’s wine including the Melen Tempranillo 2014. I was gun shy as I’ve been burned by Turkish Tempranillo before; but for 29 TL what could it hurt?

Nothing that’s what. This was a shockingly good wine for the price. The inflated retail price no less.

The Melen winery has been a family venture around since the founding of the [Turkish] Republic. Their website is written rather poetically and absolutely worth a read through. One of the topics it addresses is the Melen logo about which I had been curious. From the website:

The source of inspiration for the Melen Logo is the maker’s mark that appears on ancient amphorae discovered in excavations of local potteries which, since ancient times, provided the means of exporting the wines of the region. With an abundance of wine and olive oil and clay from the river beds Hoşköy was able to export its produce to many different countries including Egypt and Russia. Today, Melen carries on this age old tradition.”

Melen is absolutely one of the wineries I’d love to visit as soon as I find someone to chauffeur me around Turkey.

Melen Tempranillo

Melen Tempranillo 2014 Tasting Notes:

At 14% abv this is not a little wine. Similar I suspect to a Spanish Crianza-style Tempranillo, it was an inky, opaque ruby in the glass. The nose was redolent of raspberries and chocolate. Even though the nose was lovely I braced myself for disappointment in the mouth. A disappointment that did not come!

Wow. Really big tannins that I wasn’t expecting. The tannins smoothed out well with some decanting time and balanced well with mouthwatering acid. The flavors also deepened quite a lot with the decanting time and picked up more black and dried fruit essence.

I am now actively on the look out for more wine by Melen! I have a couple on the racks already and can’t wait to get to them.

Visiting Edrine Winery

In February at the Sommelier’s Selection Turkey event I discovered several wineries of which I was previously unaware. One of those was the Edrine Winery. I was lucky enough to meet one of the family, Demir, and their brand ambassador Ali who invited me and my friend K to visit.

Edirne wines

Located in the village of Havsa outside Edirne, Edrine (not to be confused with Edirne!) is a family run winery. Founded in 2007 their first vintage came out in 2010. What started as a boutique winery has expanded rapidly and Edrine now produces some 2 million liters of wine annually. The owners, the Öktem family, concentrate on creating quality and affordable wines. Affordable they are! The average price per bottle is 20 TL. Quality? We shall see.

Unfortunately it was raining heavily the day we visited so we weren’t able to visit the vineyards. Instead we were treated to an amazing paired tasting at the Edrine restaurant. They have their own butcher and raise their own animals. They make the best sucuk (Turkish sausage) I have ever had. Ever.

Edirne wines

Edrine produces several lines. The main label is the vineyard name: Edrine. Under this label they make two whites: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and four reds: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Papazkarası. It was the latter, a native Turkish varietal, that originally caught my attention at the Sommelier’s Selection. Very few producers bother with this ancient Thracian grape. Chamlija makes four (two blanc de noirs, a Papazkarası, and a reserve) and Melen and Paşaeli also make a Papazkarası.

Edrine wines

Very BIG tanks!

When we finished tasting our way through their main six wines (notes below!) it was time for the winery tour. Because at Edrine they believe strongly in the flavor of the “naked” grape they use very little oak. In fact they have one oak barrique but it sits sadly in the corner. There is no Patrick Swayze here to dance with Baby. At most they add oak chips for a few days. Otherwise everything is aged in steel.

Edrine wines

After the generous pours in the formal tasting we tasted all the wines again; this time directly from the tank. Everything we tried was from Edrine’s 2016 vintage; they have nothing left from 2015 or earlier.

Edrine wines

Then it was up to the slightly damp and chilly deck for more wine. This time Ali broke out the good glasses from Zalto. I have never held a glass more perfect and delicate than these. I was terrified that just by holding it would I snap the stem. These need to be in my life. Although at about 45 Euro per glass this is not an investment to make willy nilly.

Edrine wines

Edrine Tasting Notes (the reds):

Edrine 2016 Merlot: Fresh and fruity with slightly rough tannins, elevated acid, and a short finish. This 14% abv wine has seen no oak so the black fruit flavors of blueberry and mulberry are completely grape-driven.

Edrine 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon: The Cabernet was oddly sweet even though the wine has less than 1 gram of sugar per liter. Treated with oak chips for just five days there is a slight influence in the flavor. However the black currant/cassis flavors typical of Cabernet grapes were very much at the forefront with some cedar and cocoa in the back. Tannins were quite grippy. The odd sweetness of this Cabernet makes it an excellent pairing for lamb though.

Edrine 2016 Papazkarası: Loved. Edrine’s Papazkarası is a very special wine. A friend of mine said that you can’t really say what is a “typical” Papazkarası because no one really knows. But of those I’ve had in Turkey Edrine’s is how I’m setting my standard now. It was surprisingly tannic, although not on the same level as the Merlot or Cabernet. Compared however to other Papazkarası wines I’ve had I wasn’t expecting the tannin. It was also very pepper in both the nose and on the palate with a light, juicy finish.

Edrine 2016 Shiraz: The Shiraz had 10 days of oak chip treatment giving it a slightly sweet flavor of baking spices. However like the Merlot and Cabernet it was very fruit driven, particularly blue fruits. The tannins were pretty chewy and therefore right up my alley. This they paired for us with their own sucuk and it was a match made in Heaven.

Final notes: Edrine should be pretty proud of what they’re doing here. Each of the wines we tried (more reviews about those later!) was easy and enjoyable to drink. And if you can get these for the vineyard price they’ll set you back a whole 20-22 TL (+VAT).

Barbare Reserve Premier IX XI XII

The Barbare Reserve Premier is the second wine I’ve had by this organic wine maker and the first non vintage blend I’ve not only had, but remember even seeing here in Turkey. It’s a fancy wine with an equally fancy price tag; it will set you back 130 TL give or take depending on where you get it.

With a whopping 15% AVP, the Barbare Reserve Premier is not fooling around. It’s a big wine and it wants you to know that right away. The wine is blend of 2009, 2011, and 2012 vintage Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot which is aged for 36 months in French oak. Thirty-six months-that’s three years! That’s crazy.

This particular Barbare Reserve Premier is also a limited production; I had bottle 1616 or 3600 so if you want it; find it now.

Barbare Reserve Premier

Barbare Reserve Premier IX XI XII Tasting Notes:

In the glass, the wine is a deep, dark, opaque garnet with fabulous legs and equally deep and dark nose. Aromas of both black and dried fruits followed by sweet, baking spices and chocolate seduce you before you even take a sip of this full bodied wine.

On the palate…wow. Tannins; beautiful, velvety tannins you could practically make a meal out of that lead to a long, long finish. Flavors of clove, chocolate, vanilla, black cherries, plums, and dried fruits make the Barbare Reserve Premier a rather remarkable bottle.

Final thoughts on the Barbare Reserve Premier: wow. Really, wow. If you are willing to make the investment you won’t be sorry. In fact I think I need another bottle…