Tag Archives: Vinkara

Vinkara Hasandede 2015

Perhaps my biggest beef with the Turkish wine industry (well aside from active government oppression) is that I feel that many of the best wineries here put too little effort into cultivating and vinifying native Turkish grapes. Quite possibly five to 10 years ago this is what they had to do to attract consumers both domestically and abroad. But the last years have demonstrated that wine drinkers are drawn more and more to native grape varieties and winemaking methods.

Turkey is home to dozens of grape varieties. Certainly not all of them are cultivated for wine but many are. They are capable of creating wines with perfumed elegance and wines of power and structure. And by no means are all winemakers ignoring them. Many like Kayra, Suvla, Chamlija, Tempus, Likya, and more are not only vinifying native grapes but in some cases even rescuing them. However one winery has dedicated itself to making wine with native grapes: Vinkara.

Vinkara Hasandede

Founded by Ardıç Gürsel in 2003, the mission of Vinkara is to introduce and build awareness of native Anatolian grapes. Red varieties like Kalecik Karası, Öküzgözü and Boğazkere are made in their house, Reserve, and Winehouse styles as is the white grape Narince. Vinkara even produces blanc de noirs and rose sparkling wines called Yaşasın out of Kalecik Karası.

Located in special mesoclimate in the Kızılırmak River Basin outside the village of Kalecik; Vinkara’s vineyards could not be more perfectly located to take advantage of the Anatolian soils. Planted 2000 feet above sea level in sand, clay, and limestone with high mineral content the soils have excellent natural drainage. Cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers with sharp diurnal temp fluctuations all provide excellent growing conditions for these native grapes.

Vinkara Hasandede

The newest Vinkara wine to cross my path also introduced me to a new Turkish varietal: Hasandede. Part of the winery’s Winehouse style, the Hasandede is a thin-skinned, medium sized grape. Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes describes this grape as “humdrum”. All respect to Ms. Robinson (who really is the master of all wine knowledge) but Hasandede is anything but humdrum. Or at least it is in the hands of Vinkara’s winemakers.

I first encountered the Vinkara Hasandede at Demeti, one of the best meyhane restaurants in Cihangir (Istanbul). My friend K and I were treated to a beautiful meal and wine tasting of both Turkish and international wines by our friend Ali. I’m a big believer in the “if it grows together it goes together” wine and food pairing philosophy and it is certainly true in the case of Turkish foods. The Hasandede paired beautifully with the

Vinkara Hasandede

Vinkara Hasandede 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Vinkara Hasandede has a surprising amount of alcohol (13% abv) for how relatively light it is. In the glass it shows a brilliant, clear, pale lemon color. Distinctive tears suggest the hint of residual sugar for which I think the Vinkara Winehouse wines are known.

The nose is initially reminiscent of a Misket; delicately perfumed with florals and citrus aromas. The development on the palate shows so much more than the nose. And edge of zippy acid balances beautifully with the slight sweetness while flavors of smokey minerality, cream, and gooseberry delight the tongue.

An absolutely delightful wine from Vinkara! Excellent for either pairing with food or enjoying on its own.

Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey 2017

February 25 and 26 Istanbul hosted the 2017 Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey at the St. Regis hotel. Organized by Gustobar, the event brought together 179 wines from 34 Turkish wineries and about eight international wineries.

Sommeliers' Selection

It was, as one might expect, rather a mad house.

Sommeliers' Selection

That’s not down to the organizers of course. Big tasting affairs like the Sommeliers’ Selection are always a little bit of a mad house as one jostles for position at the tables to get a sample. And what samples! Wines from across Turkey, Italy, France, and Chile were available. I was impressed with the selection of Turkish wines although I was sorry to not see wine from producers like Arda, Melen, Umurbey, Kutman, or Gülor. I was surprised to not see anything from Paşaeli, Corvus, Turasan, or Prodom but somehow not surprised to not see anything from Chateau Kalpak.

Sommeliers' Selection

To my delight (and frankly a little surprise) there were several wineries there I didn’t know at all. One, the Izmir-based Öküzgözü Winery really impressed with its Öküzgözü Foça Karası. Definitely young, this was a bright purple-red wine with strong acid, and the flavors of red berries, cloves, and herbs. I don’t usually like wines made from Öküzgözü grapes but this one I would really love to find again.

Sommeliers' Selection

A HUGE surprise was Saranta’s Chateau Murou line. I tried, and liked, several of these but what shocked me the most was the fact that I like their Merlot. I know, right?! Surprisingly herbal with big red fruits this was, as my friend said, Merlot with a little evil in it. Definitely something I would drink.

Sommeliers' Selection

Of all the wines I tried I was the most pleased with the selection of white wines. I don’t often have good luck finding white wine that I like so I’m looking forward to picking up some of these, such as Nif’s Aegean blend of Narince, Viognier, and Solaris.

The 2015 Narince by Vinoluş, featured at the Sommeliers’ Selection master class, was amazing. Highly mineral with orange blossom, honeysuckle, stone fruits, and maybe some banana, this was a killer wine. Sadly Vinoluş made only 600 bottles of this so I’m thinking that I don’t have a fantastic chance of getting one for my very own.

Sommeliers' Selection

One of my favorites of the day was the Bona Dea line from Ergenekon-another new winery to me. I liked the red on offer as well but the cloudy, unflitered Sauvignon Blanc was light with crisp acidity and full of peaches was the star for me.

In addition to the general tasting I signed up for the master class with sommeliers Ronan Sayburn MS and Isa Bal MS. A complete departure from the tastings I’ve been attending, this was in English in deference to Sayburn who is British.

Sommeliers' Selection

With the two sommeliers participants tasted through a series of 13 wines selected by them [the sommeliers] during a blind tasting. All but one of the selected wines were Turkish. Of these for me the most remarkable were Likya’s Acıkara and Edrine’s Papazkarası. The most surprising? Mon Reve Marselan by Domaine Lucien Arkas. I have openly hated on Mon Reve wines before but this minty, slightly meaty, smokey red wine full of tart blackberries has me thinking again. Yet another wine that I need to find.

Sommeliers' Selection

I was surprised to discover how many people there I already knew from vineyard visits, other tasting events, or social media. It was very nice to see and meet so many people. I will definitely make good on the promises I made to visit wineries, especially Edrine and Vino Dessera as well as to stop in at the Kastro Tireli storefront near Bebek.

Not wanting to ruin a great event by getting drunk I did a fairly decent job of taking only small sips of wine and pouring out the remainder of the glass. As much as it hurts my feelings to spit and/or pour out wine there’s no way I could have tasted even the fraction of wines on offer I did and lived to tell about it had I drunk everything. By the time I got to the master class late in the afternoon though all bets were off and I no longer left wine in the glass. It probably would have been fine if we’d stopped there but there was still a little time after the class before everyone was herded out and most of the wines were left unattended!

Even though today I feel like I won’t even be able to look at wine for at least a week this was a fantastic event. I am so glad I had the opportunity to go and would definitely come back from Italy for the 2018 event!!

Vinkara Quattro Dömi-Sek Misket

Vinkara is fairly widely available here in Istanbul and produces several labels: Winehouse, Reserve, Vinkara, and Quattro. They’re not my favorite producer but since I’m I’ma  drive to try all the Miskets made in Turkey I decided to give the Vinkara Quattro Dömi-Sek a go.

This is the first of the Miskets I’ve tried that has truly been a semi-dry. Quite probably that’s why the  Vinkara Quattro Dömi-Sek wasn’t a favorite for me. It was not at all bad and I think, even at 35TL a bottle, I might like to give it another try and see what I think of it a second time around. I went into this with a preconceived idea about what the taste was going to be and when something completely different happened I couldn’t quite keep up.

I think the view might have improved the flavor!

While the nose and flavor profiles were within the same family as the sweeter Miskets I’ve been drinking, the taste was quite a lot drier and the orange blossom and honey flavors I’ve come to expect much less evident. Instead the flavors of the  Vinkara Quattro Dömi-Sek were more heavily citrus with lemon and grapefruit, and herbs.

The  Vinkara Quattro Dömi-Sek went quite well with a dessert Stilton I picked up recently in London and with chocolate; however it went far less well with peaches and nectarines. Shudder. That I won’t do again. But the wine I just might; just not any time soon…

Vinkara Kalecik Karası

And we’re on another Vinkara wine this week; this time the Vinkara Kalecik Karası. I’m going to say that by and large there isn’t (or I haven’t found it yet) a bad Kalecik Karası, but this would be close. I begin to suspect that Vinkara just isn’t producing a lot of winners.

Since I don’t have a great deal to say about the Vinkara Kalecik Karası I looked up the grape on my new favorite website, Wines of Turkey, to get a little bit more information about it.

Apparently we must all pretend to be British when we talk about this wine and add an -er at the end of it: Kah-le-djic-car-ah-ser. Grown largely in Anatolia (semi-central Turkey), Kalecik Karası produces a medium-bodied wine, low tannins, with a fruity flavor, and red fruit in the nose. Which would be why I like it so much. I lean towards the reds that have more of a berry flavor profile. Kalecik Karası also has something that I’ve never seen as a wine description before…a top note of cotton candy. Yup. Cotton candy.

I’d say that this is probably the “Chianti” of Turkey as it pairs best with pasta, pizza, tomato sauces etc. Although having just recently been in Italy where I was reminded of the complicated flavors of some of the more complex Italian wines I’m not saying that you could compare this to one of them. I had one red in Venice, a Schioppettino, that just about knocked me off my chair.

I did in fact have this with a pizza I ordered from one of Beyoglu’s premiere pizza places: Miss Pizza. And after I finished the pizza, Sherlock tried to eat the box.

Like the Vinkara Öküzgöz, the Vinkara Kalecik Karası was not particularly remarkable and is my least favorite of all the Kalecik Karası wines I’ve tried. So while not horrible, I’m not going to recommend this particular iteration to anyone since there are so many better Kalecik Karası out there. In fact I think I recently did find my favorite and the review for that will be up soon.

All things cardboard belong to Sherlock.

The Vinkara Öküzgözü

I need to keep better track of my wine notes rather than scribbling them illegibly (to be fair all my scribbles are illegible) in the same notebook that I write everything else in. When I finally found the notes for the Vinkara Öküzgözü (pronounced: Oh-kooz-goe-zue) they were hidden in notes I’d made about a Marxism lecture I’d seen. The wine and lecture notes made about the same amount of no sense.

Öküzgözü grapes are grown largely in Eastern Turkey in Anatolia. They make generally nice, easy drinking wines that medium bodied, high in acidity, which would explain why it felt somewhat tingly on the tongue after first opened but also means they have the potential to age well.

The Öküzgözü has an interesting aroma profile. Some of them are not surprising, like raspberry, plum, dark and sour cherries, and chocolate; but then it gets more interesting with pomegranate, cherry marmalade, mint, eucalyptus, clove, and cardamom. I definitely got the plum and cherries (although I couldn’t tell you if I were smelling dark, sour, or marmalade) and I think the clove but the rest was sadly lost on me.

Flavor-wise, while the Vinkara Öküzgözü was quite low in tannins I would let it breathe a bit before drinking to calm down the tingly acid feeling. Unless you like that. I cannot say that I found the flavor to be particularly remarkable but it also wasn’t objectionable. Öküzgözü is going to go well with grilled meats and probably really flavorful dishes so that the wine is more of an accompaniment rather than an enhancer.

So not a fail per say on the Vinkara Öküzgözü. There certainly are more interesting Turkish wines out there and I’ll probably try a lot  more before I go back to this one. I will definitely look for some other Öküzgözüs and see what a difference, if at all, the vintner makes.