The best Turkish wine is underrated, and more producers are looking abroad due to strict alcohol laws…
Turkey has an ancient winemaking history stretching back millennia, well before the classic civilisations of Greece and Rome helped to cement the popularity of wine as a cultural cornerstone.
But it’s only recently that Turkey’s wine industry has grown sufficiently to become recognised internationally.
Turkish wine is even picking up awards, and rightly so – the many regions and sub-regions are developing individual identities, with Thrace, the Aegean Coast and Cappadocia producing the highest quality wines.
Curiously, although Turkey is one of the world’s biggest grape producers, only a tiny percentage is used for winemaking, the majority being grown for table grapes.
Promotion of alcohol has been illegal since 2013, encompassing everything from advertising to wine tastings. This has stalled the wine industry’s domestic growth and so many producers are now seeking success in international markets.
Like Italy, Turkey benefits from a vast number of indigenous grape varieties, although many of the varieties are unknown to wine lovers beyond Turkey’s borders. Varieties such as Kalecik Karası and Narince, occasionally blended with international varieties, appear on many labels and really showcase the diversity on offer.
A Platinum winner at the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards, this is a super red that is well worth the premium price. Farmed bio-dynamically on 3,000-year old vineyard terraces, it is comprised mainly of the Sicilian Nero d’Avola with 10% of the Urla Karasi grape that the company rescued from extinction. Powerful, dense, pure and herbal. The sweet red fruit combines so well with the grippy tannins.
Drinking Window 2016 – 2020
Pasaeli, founded by Seyit Karagözoglu in 2000, was a real discovery at the recent Wines of Turkey tasting in London with wines from both international and indigenous varieties showing real personality. This is a blend of both; 18% Merlot with 82% Karasakiz (which translates as ‘black chewing gum’). There are only 50 hectares of the latter in the whole of Turkey, planted near the ruins of Troy at an altitude of 550 metres on Mount Ida. It is aged for six months in French and US oak. The medium bodied palate combines sour cherry, rosehip and balsamic vinegar flavours alongside a tart, lip-smacking acidity and a forest-floor finish.
Drinking Window 2016 – 2020
Kayra’s wines have been made for the past decade by Californian consultant winemaker Daniel O’Donnell, who sees this variety (commonly referred to as KK), as the Pinot Noir of Turkey. This is 50% whole-fruit fermented giving lovely purity of sappy red cherries, great freshness and perfumed lift. Light, tight and bright.
Drinking Window 2017 – 2020
Narince was first made as a varietal wine by Kavaklidere, and grapes for this come from the prestigious Cotes d’Avanos vineyard as well as plots in Tokat. It is fermented in oak barrels and then aged for nine months on its lees, giving a rounded, creamy palate of yellow fruit, floral notes and lemony acidity.
Drinking Window 2017 – 2019