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.
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.
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 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.