Turkish Wines – From Cradle to Adolescence
The jury is still out on the question of the birthplace of the winemaking – Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran – I think Middle East was “the place”, but will any single country be ever able to claim the prize? Probably not. “You know, we were making wines 8,000 years ago” is a great conversation opener, but what really matters is what is inside the glass. It is quite possible that the wines made 8,000 years ago were absolutely amazing – don’t know if we will ever know that for sure, though – but that is not even important. What is important that today, even if you make a wonderful wine, the road to the consumer’s glass is long and winding, simply due to the sheer abundance of wines already available at any given moment to any consumer at any wine store.
If you have historical advantage, how do you prove your point? You have to educate people, you have to make them interested, and most importantly, you have to make them to try your wines. Based on my experience, Turkish winemakers and importers of Turkish wines are doing exactly that, and they seem to be determined to succeed.
I recently had an opportunity to taste Turkish wines made by Vinkara winery, and to talk to the winery’s founder, Ardıç Gürsel. First of all, talking about education, Vinkara’s web site offers wealth of information about history of winemaking in the Turkey. For my internal grape geek, it was fascinating to learn that Turkey has about 1,200 indigenous grape varieties (I wonder how would they call a 1000 grape level in The Wine Century club, huh?). Also according to the article on Vinkara’s web site, the winemaking originated about 15,000 years ago in Central Anatolia, which is now Turkey (may be that explains my obsession with wine, simply based on the name matching). Anyway, I will leave it for you to explore the web site, and let’s talk about the wines.
Vinkara seems to be very focused. They only grow 2 grapes, and they only make 4 wines. The two grapes are the white grape called Narince, and the red called Kalecik Karasi. As Vinkara takes great care in educating people, they are making sure you would know how to properly pronounce the names of the grapes, as they are not anything you would expect just by looking at the words themselves. As suggested on the Vinkara’s web site, Narince should be pronounced “Nah-rin-djeh, meaning “delicately” in Turkish”. And Kalecik Karasi is pronounced “Kah-le-djic-car-ah-ser as in British “Father”“. Vinkara makes two regular and two reserve wines, with both reserve wines spending 14 month in oak. I had an opportunity to taste all 4 wines, and here are my notes:
2013 Vinkara Narince Erbaa-Tokat, Turkey (13% ABV, SRP $16, 3 month resting on the lees)
C: Beautiful light yellow
N: grassy, inviting, hint of white fruit
P: touch of white fruit, refreshing, good acidity, excellent balance.
V: 8-, would gladly drink it any time
2010 Vinkara Narince Reserve Erbaa-Tokat, Turkey (13.5% ABV, SRP $28, 14 month in oak, 6 month in bottle)
C: Bright golden
N: Vanilla, butter, inviting, delicious
P: Nice acidity, touch of hazelnut, white plums, medium to full body, silky smooth, good balance
V: 7+, very nice but may be needed a bit more time in the glass to open up
2013 Vinkara Kalecik Karasi Kalecik-Ankara, Turkey (14% ABV, SRP $16, 12 month in stainless steel)
C: bright ruby
N: Touoch of spices, crushed berries, blackberries, tobacco
P: perceived lightness, medium body, long finish, good acidity, touch of ripe raspberries and smoke
V: 8-, food friendly and literally beggin for the grilled meat
2013 Vinkara Kalecik Karasi Kalecik-Ankara, Turkey (14% ABV, SRP $28, 14 month in oak, 6 month in bottle)
C: dark ruby
N: vanilla, baking spices
P: sweet cherries, soft tannins, medium body, sweet finish, touch of spices, hint of chocolate, reminiscent of Grenache
V: 7+, again it possibly needed more time to open up in the glass
As you can tell from my notes, these were definitely the wines I would gladly drink myself and offer to my guests – and the fact that they come with the story is definitely a bonus. As with any “young adults”, it is not easy to establish yourself and become noticeable. However, with the focus on education and on making good, honest, authentic wines, I think Turkish wine industry will make it just fine in this world – at least judging by Vinkara wines, they will.
Next time you are in the wine store and having an urge to try something new – ask for the Turkish wines, you might be pleasantly surprised. And leave me a comment after. Cheers!