May #Winestudio: Prelude to Turkey

April’s Winestudio took us across the Atlantic to discover the wonderful world of Spanish Garnacha from Cariñena; if you missed it please read, “April Winestudio The Next Great Grape The Cariñena Garnacha.” May’s WineStudio took us further east past the Mediterranean to introduce us to the mysterious world of Turkey through the eyes of VinoRai. This was part one of a two part Turkish journey: May wet our palate on the journey of an importer and Turkish wines; October will take us on a deeper dive into the region and the relationship between an importer and supplier, so stay tuned.

Winestudio May Turkey-Terroir-+-Wine-Grapes

From the Protocol Wine Studio web site: Imagine a company that focuses solely on Turkish wines.  How a honeymoon trip to a “far-away” land led to an uncommon business model. Our guests are Olga and Shane Rai, co-founders of VinoRai. We’ll aim our focus on VinoRai and how the company is changing the face of wine importing.

Protocol Wine Studio“What is #WineStudio? PROTOCOL Wine Studio presents an online twitter-based educational program where we engage our brains and palates! It’s part instruction and tasting, with discussions on producers, varieties, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching and what all this means to us as imbibers.”

Winestudio May Wines of Turkey

Who is VinoRai?

Winestudio May Turkey VinoRai logoFrom their web site: Founded in 2013, VinoRai is a fine wine importer that is focused on emerging wine regions. Currently VinoRai is bringing Turkish wines to wine lovers in America, with exclusive rights to represent Turkey’s finest wineries. We believe that understanding leads to appreciation. Our mission at VinoRai is to allow wine lovers a new experience with wine, with new varietals and regions that are anything but the ordinary. It is our commitment to only select the very best wines for each category and to represent a wide range of varietals so that the wine adventure seekers such as yourself can try a new wine region without reservations. We are equally meticulous about preserving the truth of the wine by getting it to you in the same condition it left the winery. Provenance matters. 

Winestudio May Turkey VinoRai photo

Week 1: Welcome to Turkey – We began with an introduction to one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world. The grapevine is believed to have been domesticated in Turkey; nevertheless, Turkey represents a modern winemaking community. Turkey is located at the same latitude as Napa Valley allowing for a perfect place for “vinifera growth.” That perfection is evident by the over 800 varieties of grapes that grow in Turkey’s diverse climate and soil. Turkey has four wine regions: Anatolia, Mediterranean, Aegean and Marmara; they are all unique and diverse. Turkey ranks the fourth largest vineyard area in the world behind Spain, France and Italy. However as VinoRai explained the political climate in Turkey is causing some issues.

From VinoRai’s blog: The changing winds of the political climate have had a direct impact on the wine industry. Last year, the Turkish government passed restrictive laws that limit promotion of alcohol to consumers in an attempt to discourage consumption. Some say that this political gesture was meant to appeal to the predominately Muslim majority at the time of the re-election campaign period. Turkey has a rich history in winemaking, dating back to 9000 B.C., and many unique varietals to offer, but has routinely found itself responding to the political climate. In the last ten years, wine production has reached new levels of sophistication, propelling the industry (and export market) forward. Turkish wine industry has weathered these political storms in the past and has embraced a delicate balance between the producers, wine thirsty tourists, the ruling party of the time and the Muslim conservatives. With Turkish wines growing in both quantity and quality more and more each day, Turkish producers are turning to international markets. With the US being one of the largest wine markets in the world, it is only natural that the Turkish wines would come here too.

“VinoRai represents our love for all things international, travel, and wine. We believe that a beautiful glass of wine can instantly transport people to another part of the world, allowing them to learn about foreign regions, culture, cuisine, history and values. Enjoy your discovery.” ~ Olga and Shane Rai

Winestudio May Cappadocia

Week 2: How the Media and Trade View Turkey – This week we addressed the question: “What will it take to see Turkish wines on US wine lists?” VinoRai explained Turkish wines are new to the export market; “the industry was elevated approximately 10 years ago.” However, the wines and grape varieties are still largely unfamiliar to the US market. We discussed how to educate Sommeliers on Turkish wines because ultimately it will be up to them to promote these wines on wine lists. Furthermore, Turkish wines are very versatile and food friendly, as consumers become more familiar with them they will embrace Turkish wines with a large variety of cuisines.

Winestudio May EmirTurasan 2013 Emir: This 100% Emir poured a clean yellow into the glass and opened with aromas of orchard fruit, citrus, fennel and floral notes along with a distinct yet soft saltine aroma. This very mineral driven white wine offered flavors of apples, pears and grapefruit with a touch of Meyer lemons and limes, and ending with crushed stone. It offered crisp acidity and a nice structure. It paired very well with the homemade Chicken and Honey Mustard Pinwheels I made for dinner; creating a light spring meal. This wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged an additional 6 months in bottle before release. This was a very versatile wine that would pair very well with a large variety of foods. I encourage you to buy and try this wine. A fun fact is the word “Emir” means “Ruler/Lord.” The grape was named “Emir” because it used to be the table grape served to royalty. This wine is approachable and easy to remember and pronounce; VinoRai anticipates it having a bright future in the US and I agree! SRP $14.99


From the VinoRai web site: The Emir grape only grows one place in the world – Cappadocia, Turkey. Emir thrives in Cappadocia’s volcanic soils and benefits from its unique microclimate: high altitude, hot days and cool nights. The Turasan winery is located in the heart of Cappadocia giving it a natural advantage in producing the freshest and finest Emir. It is often compared to Torrontes and has been grown and made into wine since the Hittite era (1700 BC).

Winestudio May Turkey Turasan winery photo
Turasan winery

Week 3: The Consumer’s Vital Role in Shaping the Turkish Wine Scene – The role of the importer is paramount in introducing and promoting unique wines from regions such as Turkey. The importer is crucial to providing access to these wines to the US market. VinoRai explained, “Every importer wants to have the best portfolio to give their region best chance at being discovered.” In the US we take for granted the difficulty of a small importer to a small wine region because we have access to so many diverse wine regions. VinoRai’s goal is to represent their brands, so they often have to influence all the tiers above them to bring the consumer these great Turkish wines. VinoRai’s job is made easier by the great history of Turkish wines and the great stories of the wineries. The consumer’s role is to ask for Turkish wines at your local wine retailers and at restaurants. Furthermore, seek these wines out online and buy them; see the link below for discounted rates on delicious Turkish wines. We can work together with importers like VinoRai to bring these wines to the US.

Winestudio May DirenDiren 2012 Öküzgözü: This wine was crafted of 85% Öküzgözü and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. It poured an elegant ruby with violet tones into the glass and opened with soft aromas of red fruit, spice and floral notes. On the palate this wine delivered flavors of cherries, plums and strawberries along with round spice notes, a touch of mocha and hints of violets on the finish. It was light in body but offered a round mouth feel with lots of acidity, well integrated tannins and a lingeringly dry finish. VinoRai explained the Öküzgözü grape is often compared to Beaujolais wines; I agree in body and coloring but felt this Öküzgözü offered more richness and spiciness on the palate with a deeper acidity. This was a very enjoyable and easy drinking wine, perfect chilled for spring and summer or room temp for fall and winter; furthermore, a great addition to any medium bodied meal such as poultry or pork. A fun fact is Öküzgözü is one of Turkey’s 5 most important native grapes; it translates as the eye of the bull due to its color. SRP $14.99

Winestudio May OkuzgozoFrom the VinoRai web site: Founded in 1958, Diren’s focus has largely been on indigenous varietals. The 2012 Öküzgözü incorporates Cabernet Sauvignon but mostly highlights the native mid-eastern Anatolian grape – Öküzgözü. By boasting a large portfolio of indigenous varietals, the Diren wines are a natural complement to Mediterranean flavors such as lamb, kebabs and fish. The wines are known to be inspiring as European chefs and sommeliers alike have found surprising and delightful pairings when presented with the wines of Diren.

Winestudio May Gali winery
Gali vineyards

 Gali 2012 Gali Blend: Although I did not receive this wine it was enjoyed by those who did receive it. This wine was crafted of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Flavors described included umami, dried plums, cedar, and earth. This wine appeals to lovers of old world wines because the region produces premium Bordeaux blends in the great style of Turkish wines.

From the VinoRai web site: Gali wine is made with minimal manipulation, both in the vineyard and in the winery. Gali wines are produced using the “gravitaire” method. The winery itself is constructed using local rocks and stones, which are well suited to regulate the temperature and humidity. The grapes are all hand-picked, and then undergo a cold-maceration. After fermentation the wines are aged in French oak barrels, which imparts a distinct, rich taste to their wine. Hakan Kavur is the winemaker.

Featuring World War I shelters, the Gali estate vineyard is a must-see if you want to experience a part of history. Also near the area is Lysimachia, an ancient city built by Lysimachus, successor to Alexander the Great. It is said that King Lysimachus wanted to honor his brave friend Alexander the Great (who hunted lions with bare hands), so he ordered that coins be minted with Alexander’s face on one side – henceforth known as the Lysimachus coin. This was the first coin in history with a human face impressed on it, and in reference to its history, Gali wines are printed with the lion coin symbol on their bottle labels.

Winestudio May Gali vineyards
Gali vineyards

“Wine historians and ampelographers believe that the southeast part of Turkey was the origin of grape domestication, dating back to 9,000 BC.” ~ VinoRai

Winestudio May originalvine.comTo purchase these and other Turkish wines visit and get 10% off with code “GETMY20.”

As you can see this was an outstanding introduction to Turkish wines by VinoRai and Protocol Wine Studio. Please visit to order your own Turkish wines in preparation for Protocol Wine Studio’s part two of Turkish wines in October. I cannot wait!

My Song Selection: Turkey is such a beautiful country; furthermore, it represents a unique experience of tradition and modernity coming together in its people, food, wine and culture. Both of the wines I enjoyed were modern in production and food friendliness yet historical and filled with tradition and very unique. Therefore, the song I have chosen I feel pulls all these unique aspects of Turkish wine, food, people, and culture together: In God’s Country by U2. I can visualize listening to this song high above Cappadocia in a hot air balloon sipping on a lovely glass of Turkish wine!

Go to and get your own bottles of Turkish wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!

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