What You’re Missing: Turkish Wines

 


Turkish wines aren’t exactly at the forefront of our collective fine wine consciousness in the West. That’s a shame, because in Turkey we are seeing one of those pleasant ironies that often crop up in the wine world: an ancient wine producing region that is re-emerging as a quality player in the modern wine market.
And when we say “ancient” here, we mean ancient: Turkey has vied with Greece during the last several years as the ampelographic source of all human viticulture. As of 2015, southeastern Turkey is believed to be the home of grape domestication, originating in 9000 BC. Evidence of viticulture in Anatolia, central Turkey, dates back about 7000 years, and Phrygians from the region probably introduced wine to the Greeks (and enjoyed a robust wine trade in the sixth century BC, with its wares exported as far afield as Italy and France).
 
Although the indigenous Turkish grape varieties (of which there are about 800!) are nigh unpronounceable for Americans, that hasn’t slowed Turkey down in terms of churning out vino, thanks largely to its grape-friendly Mediterranean climate: it ranks sixth in worldwide grape production, and fourth in vineyard area. 
 
If history and production figures aren’t enough to convince you to look past the pronunciation challenges and explore Turkish wines, here are a few recommendations that show what the country is capable of doing when it turns its attention to crafting fine wines.
 
 
Vinkara was founded in 2003, and is a relatively large producer with vineyards at 650 meters and modern production facilities. This reserve is made entirely from Narince, which means “delicately” in Turkish. It is straw-yellow, and somewhat reminiscent of good Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay in its tropical fruits and body. Oak, cream, and ripe apples round it out, and it finishes with a pleasantly astringent bite.
 
 
Emir is grown in only one spot globally, the Cappadocia district in Mid-Southern Anatolia, and has been cultivated since 1700 BC. With its florals and grapefruit aromas, it will remind many of Torrontes or Riesling on the nose, and the vibrant citrus, acidity, and toastiness on the palate will conjure comparisons to Spanish white wines.
 
Diren was founded in the late 1950s, and have primarily focused on showcasing Turkey’s indigenous grapes, but this wine is a bit of an exception. The blend showcases two Anatolia signature red grapes, with 20% Okuzgozu (providing body, red fruits and spice), and 20% Bogazkere (giving brambly black fruits and tannic structure). However, it’s rounded out with 20% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Merlot. The international varieties make the wine juicy, instantly inviting, while the Turkish grapes add more exotic elements.
 
 
Kalecik Karasi is named after the Kalecik district in Ankara province, and is probably Turkey’s best-known red variety. Turasan’s example accentuates the green herbs without sacrificing the red fruits, cocoa, and no-nonsense grip on the palate.
 
 
And now for something completely different in its familiarity. In 2005, Gali’s Hakan Kavur planted almost sixty thousand vines on just over one hundred acres in the Thracian area of Turkey, devoted to Bordeaux’s Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc is clearly aiming for France, and it hits the mark. Black fruits, stewed plums, spices, walnut shell, olives, and herbs give this red a complex, layered nose. The palate is supple, energetic, and immediately appealing.

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