A tale as old as time. The first traces of viticulture date back 7000 years in the region of Anatolia, Turkey, where wine was indispensable to the daily lives of the Hattis and the Hittites. That did not change when the Phyrgians lived in Anatolia after the Hittites, with wine as part of the daily diet of olive oil, fish and bread. In fact, it was the Phyrgians who introduced wine and wine making skills to the Greece colonizers. By the 6th century BC, Turkish wine was being exported as far away as modern day France. Wine in this region is as old as time and as integral to the history of the land as anything found in a text book. Today, Turkey is plagued by religious laws that cause complexity and confusion in one of the world’s oldest professions. In a region that lies on the same latitude as Napa Valley it is time for Americans to understand and embrace the high quality wines crafted in Turkey.
You will recall our first introduction to Turkish wines came with May’s Winestudio Prelude to Turkey. In the May session we were introduced to US Turkish wine importer VinoRai, grape varietals Emir and Öküzgözü, and Turkish wine producers Turasan, Diren and Gali. Please read my article “May #Winestudio: Prelude to Turkey,” to revisit all the great information we learned about VinoRai, Turkey and its wine production.
“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.”
Who is VinoRai?
From 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.
Week 1 Turkey and VinoRai Today: Our first week we were joined by Sommelier Andrew Stover. Andrew was selected by Wine Enthusiast as “Americas Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers.” Additionally, he is responsible for launching Turkish wines in the Washington DC market. VinoRai has had great success since we last spoke to them in May. They now have their wines in new markets such as Montana, Virginia, Texas, Rhode Island, Maryland, Washington DC to name a few. Furthermore, they have contracted with Whole Foods so keep your eyes peeled. Turkish wines pair beautifully with Mediterranean cuisine; however, the versatility of these wines lends themselves to a variety of cuisines from the old world and the new. VinoRais’s Turkish wines have been met with success in Washington DC. People are open to Turkey’s indigenous grapes. Furthermore, due to an increase in Turkish tourism many US travelers seek out Turkish wines upon returning from vacationing there. Turkish wines are appealing to “self-proclaimed wine geeks, travelers, millennials and the adventurous type.” VinoRai explained, “Turkish wines are uniquely their own,” they do not operate with a mass production market; rather, their wines are crafted from family owned and boutique wineries with love and care. A great way to describe Turkish wines is “honest and authentic.”
Week 2 How Turkish Wineries Juggle the Ancient with the Modern: Turkey’s annual wine production is around 8 million cases. The domestic wine market in Turkey is complicated. The government prefers Turkish consumers not drink alcohol for religious reasons so they levy a high tax on their domestic wine consumption; however, because the high tax benefits the government financially they like it when the Turkish people buy wine. Because of the high domestic tax, for Turkish wines export is king! Turkey has a delicate balancing act when bringing modern winemaking skills, techniques and grapes with international style to ancient grapes and a growing region that is over 7000 years old. Turkish wine makers have brought the indigenous grape Kalicek Karasi grape back from the brink of extinction. They hope to continue this saving process with over 800 indigenous Turkish grapes.
Turasan 2013 Kalicek Karasi: made from indigenous grape Kalecik Karasi; According to VinoRai, “It’s the Pinot Noir of Turkey;” aromatic, fresh, harmonious red fruit, savory herbal notes, vanilla, hint of orange peel, spice, and fresh minerality. The Turasan winery was founded in 1943 and now run by the 3rd generation owner, Hasan Turasan. This wine is “perfect to pair with turkey at Thanksgiving;” and a great conversation started with family and friends. SRP $14.99
Diren 2011 Karmena Red Blend: Crafted from 35% Ojuzgozu, 30% Syrah, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Bogazkere. It’s like a Super Turkan. J This wine is a great intro to the Turkish wine category; a blend of familiar grapes with indigenous Turkish grapes where the flavors mingle in a beautiful tango. Complex, with layers of flavors including red and black fruit, spice notes; its rustic nature offers round acidity and dusty tannins; a wine made to pair with food or to sip on its own. Oak: 12 months in French and American oak, then 1 ½ years in stainless steel before bottling; 13.5% alcohol. SRP $12.99
Would you order these two wines off a wine list? Would you be more likely to order a simi-familiar blend or would you go all out on a new varietal?
Week 3 Investing in Indigenous Grapes: This week we explored one of Turkey’s oldest and largest wineries, Yazgan. Spanning four generations, this family owned winery is located in Izmir on the Aegean region of Turkey. Though they produce many international varietals, tonight we had the treat of tasting a 100% Boğazkere. The Boğazkere grape is a late-ripening, thick-skinned varietal that produces rich, full-bodied wines. Harvesting can be tricky and requires constant monitoring. Overall it was a hit with the Winestudio crowd. Some found it rustic, others refined; get a bottle and decide for yourself!
Yazgan 2013 Boğazkere (Bow-aahz-keh-reh) translates as “throat burner;” inky purple in the glass; red cherries, bramble berry, black berries, plums, licorice, cloves, with a finish of vanilla; comparable to tannat as a familiar grape; well-structured, balanced wine that lingers on the palate but does not, as the name implies, burn; rather it is nuanced wine with dusty tannins and persistent acidity. This hearty red wine was aged in stainless steel tanks and contained 13% alcohol. This wine will cellar well for years. A perfect wine for lamb and wild game.
Week 4 Turkey’s Challenges and Its Future: Though Turkish wines face many challenges VinoRai feels the assistance and support of Wines of Turkey is extremely important. Cathy Huyghe joined our conversation to share her impressions of her recent trip to Turkey as featured in her upcoming book Hungry for Wine. Cathy found indigenous Turkish grapes to a vibrant counterbalance to international varieties. Furthermore, Cathy was moved by how impressed Turkish wine makers are of their wines and how well Turkish wines represent their “place.” Interestingly US consumers are interested in Turkish indigenous grapes, whereas the Turks prefer international varieties. We explored Gali winery, who produces wines popular with Turkish people due to their reputation for quality. Gali is a boutique winery whose name means “beautiful” in Turkish. Gali wines is situated in the Gallipoli peninsula, the European part of Turkey, overlooking the Gulf of Saros. Gali’s focus is entirely on Bordeaux varieties, they do not produce any indigenous wines. Gali’s philosophy is “Quality over quantity;” minimal intervention and natural winemaking.
Gali 2011 Evreshe: This wine was crafted from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, handpicked from a single vineyard with great aging potential. It was layered and complex with intense red and black fruit, mint, anise, and a touch of vanilla; rich dusy tannins with round and persistent acidity that surprisingly has seen no oak; rich and layered wine with an essence of Bordeaux due to limestone clay soil and Bordeaux type climate; full body, long finish. A high quality wine that will delight after an hour or more decant. SRP $25.
October’s Winestudio featuring Wines of Turkey and sponsored by Vino Rai was outstanding. Filled with great information and great wine. Thank you to Vino Rai for their generosity of wine and time. Friends I strongly encourage you to explore wines of Turkey. Many Whole Foods carry some of these wines but also please request them from your favorite local wine retailer. If you are unable to locate these wines near you luck is not lost because you can order these wines online from Original Vine. These great priced wines offer a lot of flavor for a very low price. These wines are perfect for your Thanksgiving meal and all your holiday parties so don’t delay, get your own bottles of Turkish wines today!
My Song Selection: These wines were smooth, mysterious and unique as well as delicious! Pleasing to all the senses.
Get your own bottles of Turkish wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!