Is Turkish Wine on Par with World Standards?

Anatolian land is among the oldest terroirs where vines were planted, but Turkey is not a country known for producing quality wines. Up until the ‘90s there were only a handful of producers in the country which produced occasionally drinkeable but mostly oxidized and astringent wines.  Things changed for the better during the 2000s when new actors, especially wealthy business people, entered the field, and established big producers, such as Kavaklidere and Doluca, upgraded facilities and brought in foreign consultants. Today there are about 140 registered producers in Turkey. 45 producers are large and will known. The four biggest producers (Kavaklidere, Kayra, Sevilen and Doluca) produce around six to eight million liters each. The average per capita consumption remains a little more than one liter per person, as most Turks do not drink wine either for religious or economic reasons.

Given the limited competition in the market and heavy taxation on imported wine, the wine pricing in Turkey is outrageous. This is one of the main reasons that wine consumption is limited. In recent years wine producers in Turkey started sending their wines to prestigious international competitions, such as the International Wine Challenge in London and the Decanter World Wine Awards, also in London. In addition, during the last few years, a Turkish entrepreneur and wine educator, Yunus Emre Kocabasoglu, has been inviting some Masters of Wines (MA) to Turkey.  The MAs hold meetings which are open to the public for a fee and rank Turkish wines by using the 100 pointer system. Almost all established wineries send their best wines to this event for a fee.  Last May the MAs who came to Istanbul for this event included Christy Canterbury, Peter McCombie, Tim Hanni, Tim Atkin, Sarah Abbott, Shari Sauter Morano and Ned Goodwin.

I decided to evaluate the same wines and invited Mr. Umay Ceviker for a blind tasting of the wines which were crowned by prizes and high rankings. Mr. Ceviker is an architect and a wine enthusiast who holds a WSET Advanced certificate. He has recently consulted on Turkey for the 7th Edition of The World Atlas of Wine to be published in 2013 by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson.

For this event, we decided to add four more wines to the list of four white and 22 highly ranked red wines. Below you will find a detailed evaluation of each wine. I have written the description, and Mr. Ceviker has written the detailed context. 

Our evaluation is a simple arithmetic average of the two grades we gave in the blind tasting. You will notice a serious gap between our ratings and those of the MAs which were invited to Turkey. It is hard to speculate on the discrepancies, but our best guess is that the MAs genuinely wish to support a young and struggling industry in an Islamic country where government heads publicly denounce wine consumption and very few restaurants outside Istanbul and coastal-touristic regions can obtain an alcohol license.

Yet there is a problem with exaggerated ratings. Most expensive-high ranked Turkish wines today are higly macerated, overextracted, high alcohol, low acidity, overoaked hot climate wines, which lack fruit, freshness and balance. They tire the palette and lack elegance and complexity. In addition, with a few exceptions, the winery owners do not know how to set up appropriate benchmarks for their wines. Hence exaggerated ratings create the dual dangers of creating both complacency and a premium for glib marketing over a search for wines expressive of terroir.

Both Umay Ceviker and I are truly hopeful about the future of the wine industry in Turkey. Turkish terroir is especially well suited to the cultivation of local white (Sultaniye, Emir, Narince) and red (Okuzgozu, Bogazkere, Kalecik Karasi) grapes, and the gradual lowering of tariffs on imported quality wines is bound to increase competition and shake up domestic producers. Today the Turkish public may think that a wine made from a high yielding clone of a French grape, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, which smells like single malt scotch, is great wine, but as Turks travel and drink good wine, they will eventually search for terroir-driven wines. 

If our constructive criticism, with Umay Ceviker, contributes to the upgrading of the industry, our hard work will be justified.


WHITE WINES


2010 LA. Chardonnay-Chenin Blanc. VM/UC: “88.5”. DWWA 2012 “Gold”.

Elegance is a rare quality in Turkish wines, but this is an exception, with rather dark yellow hues exhibiting early maturation. The bouquet is quite complex with ripe peach, apricot, white blossoms, and chamomile. It has a nice silky texture, well integrated oak, and a medley of tropical fruits on the palette. It has a medium finish and low acidity. It is now at its peak, and should be consumed in a year.

CONTEXT: In 2010, Lucien Arkas of Arkas Group, Turkey’s largest shipping company, bought the former Idol and renamed it LA Wines, with the object of making high quality wine at affordable prices. 110 hectares of the vineyards in Torbalı, İzmir are planted on alluvial soil, with loam dominating certain parcels, while eight hectares with similar soil are located in the Hona Mountain pass, in Menderes, also near İzmir, planted in 2006 with 17 different varieties.

Although their basic wines are managed at yields as high as 16 tons per hectare, it is a mere 2.5 tons per hectare for the upper premium “Consensus” and four tons per hectare for the “Mon Réve” series.      

“Ecocert” of France consults on organic farming since the early plantings.

Lucien Arkas, a wine collector himself, knows his personal style, favouring freshness and elegance over ripeness. He will, by all means, be after similar qualities in his own wines.

 

2011 SUVLA. Grand Reserve Roussanne-Marsanne. VM/UC: “85”. IWC 2012 “Silver”, DWWA 2012 “Regional Trophy”.

This is an international style wine from a newcomer.  The nose is rather restrained, yeasty and oaky. The wine made me think that I was drinking a Chardonnay, and I could not detect any varietal Marsanne character. It has a pleasant golden apple and ripe pear component on the palette and the mid-palette is noteworthy. The medium finish is overwhelmed by oak, and the high alcohol is not in tune with the low-medium acidity. There is potential here. Better lees treatment should result in a more nuanced wine in the future.

CONTEXT: The debut vintage of the producer, Suvla, made an impact on the Turkish wine scene when the Grand Reserve Roussanne-Marsanne 2011 received a Regional Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2012 and a Silver Medal at IWC 2012.  71 hectares of land in the Bozokbağ family vineyards are located in the Kabatepe region of the Gelibolu peninsula in Thrace, all planted with international varieties and managed with good agricultural practices.

The state-of-the-art winery is run by gravity flow and consulted by French and Bulgarian oenologues.

 

2010 KAVAKLIDERE COTES D’AVANOS.  Narince-Chardonnay. VM/UC “ 83”.  IWC 2012 “Commended”, DWWA 2012“Bronze”, MOW 2012 “91”.

It has pale yellow, vanillin oak, tropical fruit and a high alcohol nose. On the palette there are orange marmalade-like ripe-jammy flavors. It is heavy, with high alcohol and low acidity. The oaky component is not well integrated. The structure of the Narince grape is similar to Chardonnay and together they don’t complement each other. Typically in Turkey Narince is blended with Emir, but Narince may also do well with Semillon in a coopage.  This is the type of wine the Turkish public likes, and it costs around $100 in restaurants.

CONTEXT: Kavaklıdere, founded in 1929 by Cenap And, quickly became the leader of the private wine sector and maintained its position ever since. They are the largest producer of wine in Turkey, and 20% of their production is exported. Their grandeur enables them to lead the way in investments and innovation, while they also are pioneers in their support of art and culture.

Their consultancy agreement with Derenoncourt Consultants seems to have opened new prospects for the winery. This particular white is made with grapes from the Cotes d’Avanos Vineyards (177 hectares planted with Narince, Kalecik Karası, Emir and Okuzgozu, and also with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Tempranillo, maintained with a low yield of one to four tons per hectare, with 4 to 19 years old vineyards) in Cappadoccia at a 900 to 1000 meter altitude on which is mainly loose, volcanic soil, calcerous and poor in organic matter.

 

2010 KUP EPIC Chardonnay. VM/UC “81”. MOW 2012 “91”.

This was a disappointment, with aggressive use of high toasty oak dominating the palette. One can only talk about different shades of cedar in the bouquet. The acidity is low, and this may be due to the “sur lie” treatment. On the palette one still detects some classic ripe apple-pear chardonnay-type fruit. Possibly the winemaker had access to good fruit, but due to overly manipulative winemaking, this has become a “carpenter’s wine”.

CONTEXT: The early production of Küp, founded in 1959 by Hasan Altintaş in Bekilli, Denizli, was made in ancient 700 liter clay pots (“küp” in Turkish). Until the early 2000’s, the company was best known for their sour cherry wine. Today, managed by the second generation, Asim Altintaş, Küp produces 3,500,000 liters of wine, both from grapes and other fruit.

The company is recently in a state of change, particularly with a new emphasis on their premium line, the “Epic” series.


RED WINES


2011 KAVAKLIDERE ANCRYA Okuzgozu. VM/UC “87”, MOW 2012 “86”, DWWA 2012 “Bronze”. 

This is the cheapest and possibly the most complete wine in the group, made from Okuzgozu grapes purchased from Elazig. On the nose, it is slightly vegetal-herbal, but also pleasantly fruity, especially juicy cherry and cranberry. The palette is predominantly red fruits. Tannins are soft, acidity adequate, and the wine is balanced, but a tad diluted. This wine has freshness and a lively fruit character which is missing in many much more expensive Turkish red wines, an honest wine which is also true to varietal character. (At its best, Okuzgozu reminds us of the Spanish Mencia grape from Bierzo.)

CONTEXT: “Ancyra” is a label between the basic offerings and the premium level for Kavaklıdere, featuring mostly monovarietals of black and white grapes, native and international. The reasonably priced “Ancyra Okuzgozu” is made with Okuzgozu grapes from their native Elazığ province, enjoying a continental climate benefiting from the moderating effect of the Keban dam on the river Euphrates.

 

2009 DOLUCA SIGNIUM. VM/UC “86”, MOW 2012 “90”. 

It has ruby color with a garnet edge, with sweet vanilla, soft spices, cinnamon. and blueberry on the nose.  The entry of the palette is pleasant. The predominantly red raspberry and cherry fruit is well integrated in the wine (which is a rare quality in Turkish wines). The mid-palette is slightly lacking, but the finish is not too short, and there is adequate acidity to give a lively-bright character to the wine. This is not a complex wine, but it is rather elegant and balanced, the best Signium to date from Doluca.

CONTEXT: The history of Doluca, one of the most prominent wineries in Turkey, is laden with milestones for the wine scene in Turkey. Established in 1926 by Nihat Kutman, after his return from Geisenheim, the winery started with native varieties, but disappointed by the results, reverted to international ones. Today, run by the third generation, the giant company is still pioneering in matters like branding and marketing, focusing more on the quality of their own fruit, rather than sourcing from other growers throughout the country.

Signium is their upper premium wine made with the best available grapes in a given vintage, without depending on a particular region or variety. The 2009 Signium is a blend of 45% Shiraz from Denizli, 34% Okuzgozu from Elazığ, and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon from their own Alçıtepe vineyards in Gelibolu, Çanakkale.

The wine went through a 12 day maceration,  was aged “sur-lie” for six months in oak, both French and American, and then was blended and aged for a further four months in barriques.

 

2009 KAVAKLIDERE PRESTIGE Okuzgozu. VM/UC “86”, MOW 2012 “90”,  DWWA 2012 “Bronze”, IWC 2012 “Bronze”.

It is made from grapes purchased in Elazig and has a very dark colour. On the nose it displays spicy wood-cedar, ripe black mulberry, and dried but not cooked blackberries. This wine is a touch overextracted, and is quite concentrated, but it lacks complexity. The palette reminded us of black mulberry syrup.  The tannins are soft and well rounded, but unfortunately the acidity is low, and therefore the wine lacks freshness. This one is very different than the cheaper Ancyra Okuzgozu. This one is more concentrated and more in the international style, but the Ancyra is a more interesting and balanced wine.

CONTEXT:  The “Prestige Okuzgozu” is one of Kavaklıdere's many bottlings from this variety, making medium bodied red wines with savoury red fruit aromas. This label uses grapes from its homeland, Elazığ, in Eastern Anatolia, around the River Euphrates. This particular wine was one of the 15 wines presented by Jancis Robinson in last year's Wine Future event, held in Hong Kong, as opposed to Robert Parker's list of 2009 Bordeaux. “Okuzgozu” translates as “Bull's Eye” due to its uncommon berry size.

 

2009 KAVAKLIDERE PENDORE Syrah. VM/UC “86”, MOW 2012 “92”. 

This wine has an inky colour with garnet edges. The nose is complex and unusual:  bitter chocolate, white pepper, slightly cooked black fruits, earthy wild mushrooms, black olives, and tomato sauce. This wine has a better backbone and acidity than most Turkish wines. On the palette, the dark-forest fruits are ripe and concentrated, but they are not too jammy or overcooked. The finish is long, with soft and persistent tannins. The slight heat in the finish, which is due to high alcohol, is the main reason that we did not give a higher score to this wine. We also noted that the finish is not too dry and astringent, like many wines that we tasted. One can call this wine opulent and very much like an Australian style Shiraz, despite the touch of the consultant-winemaker Monsieur Derenencourt.

CONTEXT: “Pendore” is Kavaklıdere’s latest project, a 190 hectare vineyard in Kemaliye, Manisa, with altitudes varying between 190 to 450 meters above sea level. The vineyard is planted with Muscat of Bornova, Okuzgozu, Boğazkere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Alicante, Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Montepulciano and Sangiovese with an average yield of four to seven tons per hectare and ages varying between 4 to 11 years.  

Pendore wines are monovarietals of Syrah, Boğazkere and Okuzgozu, all three with the second vintages released. The wines are made and aged in the Pendore Winery, built in 2005, with the same principles as the Cappadocia winery to enable a chateau style production.

 

2010 PASAELI SERENA Syrah.  VM/UC “85.5”

The 2010 Pasaeli Serena Syras has a very dark, inky color. The nose is quite oaky, but once you get past it, one detects clove, tar, ginger, and blackberry. The palette is also compromised with woody-bitterness, but beneath this, there is ample overripe, nearly cooked black fruits for the lovers of this style. This wine has fine structure, a good mid-palette, and a medium long sweet finish. But the tannins are on the dry side. This wine is more in the style of a mid-range  Australian shiraz.

CONTEXT: With a growing reputation for quality and diversity, this unassuming winery run by Seyit Karagozoglu, one of the leading importers of wine in Turkey, is also pioneering in its effort to revive some rare local varieties. Pasaeli has vineyards in two different regions of Turkey.  In the Aegean, the vineyards are located in Kaynaklar, near İzmir, while in the Thrace, they are in Hoşkoy, Tekirdağ.  In both vineyards, where Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot dominate, yields are kept at 35 hl/ha.  In the Hoşkoy vineyards, there is an additional variety, the native white “Kolorko.”

A female winemaker, Funda Yayla, is responsible for the production, while Andrea Paoletti, from Italy, is the consultant. With 15 tons of purchased grapes, in addition to their own grapes, Pasaeli makes full use of their 54 ton capacity.

Pasaeli has 12 different bottlings without any quality classifications, most of which are red blends, like  “Pasaeli,” “K2,” and “Serena.” They use native varieties, Papazkarasi and Karalahna, each blended with Merlot. They also make a rose with Calkarasi, and their monovarietal whites, with the endemic Yapincak and Kolorko grapes, are the first of their kind. 

The Serena Syrah is made with purchased grapes from Alacati in the Ceşme Peninsula.  

 

2009 VINKARA MAHZEN Kalecik Karasi. VM/UC “85”, MOW 2012 “91”, IWC 2012 “Commended”, DWWA 2012 “Commended”.

The Vinkara Mahzen Kalecik Karasi has a light and bright ruby color, and a very pleasant nose, which is dominated by sweet spice and red berries. Unfortunately the fruit on the palette is not as bright and sharply focused as we had expected from the aroma. Low acid and high alcohol are a problem, given the lack of concentration in the fruit. Yet this is still a nice and enjoyable wine.   Potentially Kalecik Karasi should reach a higher level of quality and if it is produced from low yielding old vineyards, and if it is vinified correctly, it resembles a fine Gamay from Morgon or Fleurie.

CONTEXT:  Despite purchasing land in the Kalecik area near Ankara in late 1960’s, it was 2003 when the giant construction company behind Vinkara Wines decided to invest in the wine business, starting with a 9 hectare plantation. Since then, 43.8 hectares of land have been planted at elevations of 650-700 meters, in uniform soils of gravel mixed with loam. The basic varieties are the native Kalecik Karası along with more Turkish varieties:  Okuzgozu, Bogazkere, Emir and Narince. There is also some Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling in their vineyards, responsible for one quarter of the grapes processed in the winery located in its close vicinity.  The river Kızılırmak and the 2,000 meter surrounding mountains provide better conditions for viticulture in what is otherwise severe continental climatic conditions where the daily temperature difference in the growing season is a minimum of 15°C.

All winemaking processes are lead by Mr. Tuna Lacin, and since 2008 Mr. Marco Monchiero of Piemonte fame is their consultant.

Vinkara produces mostly varietal wine with four different quality segments, ranging from a basic table wine to their highest tier, the “Mahzen” series, which includes barrel aged versions of Kalecik Karası, a Cabernet-based blend and a Chardonnay.

The 2009 Mahzen Kalecik Karası is made with the grapes from the own vineyards of Vinkara in Kalecik, aged for 14 months in 225 liter French barriques and further aged in bottles before release.

 

2011 YAZGAN MAHRA Cabernet Sauvignon ve Syrah. VM/UC “84.5”, MOW 2012 “90”.

The Yazgan Mahra cabernet sauvignon/syrah has a very dark color, with dark ruby edges. The aroma is dominated by toasted oak, licorice, coconut, fennel, and wild blackberry. The fruit on the palette is too jammy, but fine acidity prevents the wine from becoming monolithic and boring. Unfortunately, the mid-palette is weak and the fruit goes into the background too fast on the palette. The finish is quite rustic and vegetal, dominated by green-unripe tannins.

CONTEXT:  Established in 1943 in İzmir by Huseyin Yazgan, this leading producer planted their own vineyards only in 2005 in the village of Çepnidere, close to the town of Turgutlu in Manisa. After the recent handover of management to the 3rd generation, the winery is in a constant state of change, which the young French oenologist Antoine Bastide d’Izard supervises full time.

Yazgan has a wide range of labels using both the grapes from their own vineyards and purchased grapes. The recent Mahra series includes their Premium wines, with red and white blends of native and international grapes.

 

2009 DOLUCA TUĞRA Okuzgozu. VM/UC “84”, MOW 2012 “92”, IWC 2012 “Silver”.

The color is incredibly dark, which is unusual for the Okuzgozu cepage. There is a pleasant dusty minerality to the nose, combined with dried black fruits, especially cassis and blackberry. The extremely toasty oak detracts from the rather complex aroma. Despite the impression of dark forest fruits on the nose, the first impression on the palette is cranberry and pomogranete, which is the typical fruity character that one expects from Okuzgozu. This wine has soft tannins and a nice texture, but it lacks concentration and the mid-palette is also lacking. After the initial impression of savory fruit, the palette is dominated by bitter tannins and the finish is astringent.

CONTEXT:  The “Karma Okuzgozu” is made with the grapes that come from Doluca’s own vineyards in Denizli in the inner Aegean, rather than the native land of this variety, Elazığ, in Eastern Anatolia. The grapes are harvested as late as early October, fermented in cool temperatures after a cold maceration is applied. The resulting wine is aged in 70% French and 30% American oak for a total of 12 months, five months of which is on its lees.

 

2009 KAVAKLIDERE PENDORE Okuzgozu. VM/UC “84”, MOW 2012 “92”, IWC 2012 “Bronze”, DWWA 2012 “Regional Trophy”.

This wine has an extemely dark color for Okuzgozu, which makes one think of overextraction. The aromatic profile is interesting, with herbal-vegetal green tomato, freshly cut straw, red-black forest fruits, and medium toasted oak. We detected a touch of volatile acidity. On the palette this is a rather simple wine, with a dried, slightly stewed fruit character, which reminded us of plum jam. There is heat in the finish due to high alcohol which is not balanced by high acidity. Clearly the vines are still too young to produce Okuzgozu on par with the vineyards near Elazig which also has a colder climate.

CONTEXT: “Pendore Okuzgozu” is one of the three monovarietals made with the grapes sourced from this vineyard establishment in Kemaliye, near Manisa, in the Aegean region, where the Mediterranean climate clashes with the continental climate. The Okuzgozu parcel is managed with 50hl/ha yield, and the grapes are harvested by hand.

The gravity flow winery is in close vicinity to the vineyards. The 2009 is only the second vintage bottled.

 

2009 KAYRA VINTAGE Shiraz. VM/UC “84”, IWC 2012 “Bronze”.

The Kayra Vintage Shiras is very dark, inky-black. The nose is quite rustic, with coffee, garrigue, burnt rubber, tar, wild berries. Unfortunately, the palette is not in tune with the nose, as it is dominated by herbal and vegetal notes, despite the presence of ripe and dark forest fruits. The mid-palette is weak, and the finish is dominated by dry and bitter tannins. We do not think that it will improve with age, as the fruit lacks concentration.

CONTEXT: Kayra is a new brand, established only in 2005. Despite the clumsy image of their predecessor Tekel (former a state monopoly), that has never been the synonym for quality, Kayra won instant recognition for creativity and dynamism. Their former relationship with the Texas Pacific Group and the current one with the British giant, Diageo, has contributed much to their understanding of marketing and communications. Kayra is a undisputed pioneer in creating a market for their products with unusual methods. The “Kayra Wine Academy” is the sole program provider of WSET and is an active institute for wine education for both enthusiasts and members of the wine sector.

Despite the magnitude of their offerings and their position in the market, they own a rather minor and young vineyard area in two different locations: the Thrace and Elazığ, in Eastern Anatolia. They source most of their grapes under long term contracts from vineyards in the Aegean, in Eastern Anatolia, and in the Thrace.

Kayra has two facilities located close to their own vineyards. The Şarköy winery is used for the vinification of all styles of wine offered by Kayra. The Elazığ winery, on the other hand, is used only for red wine production.

Both viticultural decisions and winemaking activity is overseen by full-time consultant, Daniel O’Donnell from Napa Valley.

The “Kayra Vintage” series, at the premium level, includes monovarietal wines made from the best available grapes from each vintage. The 2009 “Vintage Shiraz” is made with the grapes sourced from vineyards in Denizli and Manisa, both in the inner Aegean, aged for 11 months in American oak.

 

2011 KAYRA TERRA Kalecik Karasi. VM/UC “83”, IWC 2012 “Bronze”.

The Kayra Terra Kalecik Karasi has dark ink, ruby edges and is overextracted for a thin skinned delicate grape. The nose is primarily herbal and green tea. On the palette one can find raspberry and black mulberry, together with dry mushrooms, but the fruit does not last and is overtaken by bitter-dry tannins.  It is overoaked or under-fruited, a bit monolithic. It leaves an impression of heat in the earthy-spicy finish due to high alcohol.

CONTEXT: Kayra has 11 different labels, under which there are more than 80 offerings for each vintage.

The “Terra” series have four different types:  France, Italy, California and Anadolu. Apart from the “Terra Anadolu,” these are imported wines under the Kayra label with different regions and styles of wine for each country represented. “Terra Anadolu” is made from mostly varietals of either native or international grapes grown in Turkey.

The “Terra Kalecik Karası 2011” is made with grapes sourced from Denizli, a prominent wine growing region in the inner Aegean, at altitudes over 800 meters above sea level. The Kalecik Karası grape is native to Kalecik, a province 50km northeast of the capital Ankara, in Central Anatolia.

 

2010 URLA Nero d’Avola-Urla Karasi. VM/UC “83”, MOW 2012 “90”.

The Urla Nero d’Avola-Urla Karasi is dark and inky with purple edges. The nose is a bit closed, but intriguing with tobacco, licorice, dark berry, chocolate and tar. It is overoaked. The palette is less complex and is dominated by jammy mulberry, kirsch, and blackberry. The mid-palette is lacking, and the finish is quite vegetal and astringent. The acidity is low, but the alcohol is quite high. The wine is enjoyable in first sip, but it gets heavy and tiring fast.

CONTEXT: Back in the turn of the century, the accidental encounter of Can Ortabaş with the remnants of ancient vineyard terraces in his 200 hectare farmland ignited a dream that resulted in the venture called Urla Şarapçılık, named after the town where the vineyards are located. It was the perfect spot for the initiative to give life to a heritage that has slowly faded away. 

Urla vineyards, located in two different areas: in Urla, around the winery, 1km inland from the Aegean Sea (Boğazkere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah with relatively less Urla Karası, Gaydura, Muscat of Bornova, Nero D’avola, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese) and in a relatively new vineyard in Kavacık, 25km east of the winery at 1000 meter altitude on a steep slope (Chardonnay, Viognier and clone selected Muscat of Bornova, Petit Verdot and Nero D’avola).

Urla Sarapcilik is constantly working on the revival of varieties indigenous to the Urla region. They have managed to recover “Urla Karasi” and use it in this blend: Nero d’Avola-Urla Karasi.

 

2010 PRODOM Petit Verdot. VM/UC “82.5”, MOW 2012 “91”, DWWA 2012 “Commended/Bronze”, IWC 2012 “Commended”.

The Prodom Petit Verdot is extremely dark color with purple edges. The aroma is burnt cedar wood, menthol, and black olives, with an intriguing burnt butter component in the aroma. On the palette, the fruit component is well overripe, almost cooked. It is like drinking a kirsch syrup and eating black Turkish olives. There is an interesting salinity in the short to medium long finish.  The tannins are ripe and soft, and the acidity is quite low. The wine lacks structure and complexity, but gives pleasure.

CONTEXT: Prodom has put the province of Aydin, better known for the quality of its figs on the Turkish wine map with the success of its debut red blend back in 2006. 

The Prodom vineyards are located near the Savrandere village, 16 km south of Aydın in an extreme Mediterranean climate, where the mean July temperature is an astonishing 28.4°C. At only 40m above sea level, there are plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Syrah.

Early Prodom bottlings were made at the Sevilen winery. After 2010, all Prodom wines are made in their own gravity flow winery at the same location with their vineyards. Frenchman Florent Dumeau is their consultant.

 

2009 PAMUKKALE ANFORA Cabernet Sauvignon. VM/UC “82.5”, DWWA 2012 “Regional Trophy”.

The Pamukkale Anfora Cabernet Sauvignon has a very dark color. One can smell high alcohol and overipe, jammy fruit along with a meaty/animal fur aroma (and a touch volatile acidity?). The entry on the palette is fine, but it is quickly overwhelmed by toasty oak, cassis jam, and a bitter and astringent finish. The wine lacks complexity.

CONTEXT: Pamukkale was established in 1962 by Fevzi Tokat and his four brothers. Since 1972, the winery is run by the youngest of the brothers, Yasin Tokat,  who has a reputation for a passionate commitment.

Pamukkale owns vineyards in three different locations around Güney, planted with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Narince, Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Merlot. Continental climatic conditions reign, with snowy, hard winters and summers with day and night temperature differences as high as 15°C.

The “Anfora Cabernet Sauvignon” belongs to the “Anfora” line, the premium label offering monovarietal and blended wines of both native and international grapes.

 

2010 URLA Tempus. VM/UC “82.5”, MOW 2012 “91”, DWWA 2012 “Bronze”.

The Urla Tempus has an extremely dark color. On the nose there is licorice, tar, and overripe black forest fruit.  On the palette one detects jammy black and red berries. The wine tastes more like a generic port, but the finish is dominated by dry tannins. There is ample oak, but the use of oak is more sophisticated than many other wines in this group of 26 wines.

CONTEXT:  Urla has six different labels without any attributed difference of quality. Nevertheless, “Tempus”, a blend of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc is their flagship label. The winery, where all Urla wines are made, is at the same location with the Urla vineyards. The state of the art facility is equipped with temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, and most wines are aged between 6 and 12 months in French oak in the underground cellars.  Winemaking is overseen by Davis graduate Akın Gürbüz and consulted by Gerald Lafont of the ICV Group of France.

 

2009 PAMUKKALE ANFORA Merlot. VM/UC “82”. DWWA 2012 “Gold”.

The Pamukkale Anfora has a dark ruby color with dark pink reflections, with black olives and red berries in a not too expressive aroma. The impression is of red and black berries, especially cranberry on the palette, but the alcohol level is way too high for the acidity and fruit concentration. The heat is disturbing in the medium finish.

CONTEXT:  Pamukkale is one of the pioneers in Turkey in making monovarietal Shiraz wines and has helped to unearth the potential of this grape in the Anatolian soil. They are also responsible for bringing the potential of the high altitude region around the province of Güney in Denizli to light.

The Pamukkale winery where the “Anfora Merlot” is made is located just 10 km away from the outermost vineyard. French oenologist, Jean Luc Colin, with years of experience in different Turkish wineries, consults the winemaking.

The “Anfora” series is branded under the upper premium “Nodus” line and the premium “Anfora Rezerv” labels, which are considered to be dependable wines with a good price/quality balance.

 

2009 BARBARE Syrah-Grenache-Mourvedre. VM/UC “81.5”. MOW 2012 “90”.

The Barbare Syrah-Grenache-Mourvedre has a very dark color, with garnet edges. The nose is pleasant with spicy oak and red forest berries, but one can smell the high alcohol. The acidity is actually fine in this one, but overoaking and the lack of concentration in the fruit (young vines?) make this wine flat and heavy. The wine lacks structure and the mid-palette and tannins are quite dry and vegetal.

CONTEXT: Barbare aims to make Southern Rhone style wines in the Thrace in their organically grown vineyards, where Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre are planted. They plan to go biodynamic soon.

Xavier Vignon, with Châteauneuf-du-Pape experience, consults the winemaking.

Barbare released their debut vintage, the 2009 reds and the 2010 white and rose, early in 2011. They make a Sauvignon Blanc and a rose blend from Merlot and Mourvedre. There is no quality classification system, and the red wines are either Bordeaux or Chateauneuf-du-Pape style wines, labelled according to the choice of oak usage and the parcels from which the grapes come.

The 2009 Syrah-Grenache-Mourvedre is their basic red, along with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Only 10% of this wine was aged for 12 months in new French oak.

 

2010 TURASAN SENELER Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Syrah. VM/UC “81.5”. DWWA “Silver”.

This wine is very dark and overextracted.  The overripe-cooked blackberry aroma is combined with licorice, tar, coke, asphalt, cinnamon and sweet spice. On the palette, this is like drinking a well oaked coke, combined with cassis syrup. It leaves a metallic and bitter aftertaste.

CONTEXT: Established in 1943, Turasan is one of the forerunners of the modern winemaking in Turkey. Now run by the 3rd generation, Hasan Turasan, the winery enjoys the breathtaking setting, history, and tourism potential of Cappadocia, where they are located.

Turasan has two different vineyard areas. The 20 year old “Turasan Vineyard” is located on the lower slopes of the volcanic peak, Mount Erciyes, while their “Zeynep Vineyard,” at 1,050 meters altitude, is among the highest vineyards in Turkey and is 10 years old.

The young Frenchman, Edouard Guérin, is their winemaker, while Bordeaux-based Stéphane Toutoundji consults since 2007.

Turasan has a wide range of offerings for each price segment.  Their premium wines are labelled as “Seneler;” two monovarietal whites with Chardonnay and Narince, along with three red offerings:  an Okuzgozu monovarietal and its blend with Boğazkere, both with grapes sourced from their regions of origin, and a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot and Syrah blend. They are aged in oak for 10 to 12 months.  

 

2010 KAVAKLIDERE PENDORE Okuzgozu. VM/UC “81”. MOW “92”. DWWA 2012 “Regional Trophy”.  IWC 2012 “Bronze”. 

The Kavaklidere Pendore Okuzgozu has a dark ruby red color, which is way too dark for this grape. It has an oaky and jammy aroma, with caramel, black mulberry, vanilla notes, and a disturbing acetone smell. On the palette, this wine is quite pruney and jammy, especially black cherry jam. It has high alcohol and is heavy. The wine lacks freshness and clarity.

CONTEXT: “Pendore Okuzgozu” 2010 is the third vintage of this monovarietal bottling from the Pendore vineyards of Kavaklidere in Kemaliye near Manisa. This is one of the very few wines in Turkey where one can make vintage comparisons since the origin of the grapes is the same each year.

 

2011 SEVILEN PLATO Kalecik Karasi. VM/UC “81”. MOW 2012 “90”.

The Sevilen Plato Kalecik Karasi has an incredibly dark color for a Gamay-like delicate grape. It is over-oaked and has a vegetal nose with Napoleon cherry and cassis  accents. On the palette, the wine is simple and uni-dimensional. Over-oaking detracts from the focus of the fruit, which is especially cherry and strawberry.  It lacks character.

CONTEXT: “Plato Kalecik Karasi” is the brand new label of Sevilen, founded in 1942 by İsa Güner, and run today by the desirous 3rd generation. They have moved to their sleek new Magnesia winery this year while celebrating their 70th anniversary.

The “Plato” series also consists of a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, and an Okuzgozu-Syrah blend, with grapes coming from high altitude vineyards in Guney, Denizli.

 

2009 SEVILEN CENTUM Syrah. VM/UC “79.5”. MOW 2012 “90”. DWWA 2012 “Silver”.

The 2005 of the same wine was one of the best Turkish Merlots ever made. Unfortunately the 2009 is disappointing. It is an incredibly dark wine, which is not very expressive on the nose, but one can detect some wet metal and toasted oak, along with green pepper and dark plum. The palette has been compromised by the heavy and awkard use of oak. The entry is not unpleasant, with chunky, plummy flavors, but it slips very fast and finishes with dry and astringent tannins.

CONTEXT: Sevilen has two vineyard areas in the Aegean. Their older vineyard is in Menderes in İzmir, while the vineyard in Güney, Denizli is younger, with plantations completed 10 years ago.

“Centum,” a 100% Syrah from Guney, is the upper Premium label for Sevilen. The wine is aged for 14 months in French oak and for a further 12 months in the bottle.

 

2010 KUP EPIC Merlot. VM/UC “79”.

The Kup Epic Merlot has an inky purple color. The nose is like visiting a carpenter’s workroom with unfinished furniture. It is also slightly oxidized and and one detects acetone. The wine is chunky and jammy on the palette, with some dried cherry flavors, together with bitter chocolate.  The oak has not been integrated into the wine. The finish is vegetal and medicinal. This is a heavy wine which exemplifies the prevailing style in Turkey.

CONTEXT: Kup has its own vineyards in Denizli, planted with both native and international grapes. Since 2000, 90% of the vineyards are farmed organically in close collaboration with Ecocert. The Merlot used for the “Epic” line is sourced from the Bekilli vineyards, and the wine is aged for 14 months in a mix of French and American oak, a policy applied since 2010.

 

2009 VINKARA MAHZEN Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Syrah. VM/UC “79”. MOW 2012 “92”.

The Vinkara Mahzen Cabernet Sauvignon has a very dark color. The nose is burnt charcoal, but if you insist, you may smell some spice, black olives, and plum jam. On the palette, there is some red fruit character, like cranberry, but the overdose of very toasty oak has destroyed the potential in this wine. The finish leaves a medicinal taste on the palette, which unfortunately lingers.

CONTEXT:  Vinkara has made crucial contributions to the Turkish wine scene in many areas. They run one of the most sophisticated research and development branches in the sector and have a growing reputation for quality, diversity and innovation. These include the first vintage based traditional method sparkling wine, the soon to be released “passito style” varietals of native grapes, along with the use of 25 cl bottles, and an entertaining range of labels.  

The 2009 Mahzen Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah is made with the grapes from the vineyards of Vinkara in Kalecik and in Guney, Denizli. The wine is aged for 14 months in 225 lt French barriques and further aged in bottles before release.

 

2009 DOLUCA KARMA Cabernet Sauvignon/Okuzgozu. VM/UC “78.5”. MOW 2012 “93”. IWC 2012 “Silver”.

This wine was disappointing. The nose is jammy, with cooked black fruits, especially black currants and plums, but also with black olives, licorice, and tar. On the palette, it is like a fifty-fifty mix of blackberry fruit and cheap port. There is also slight oxidation. The aggressive use of toasted oak tires the palette, but there is a the sweet and jammy finish. The wine is overextracted and diluted.

CONTEXT:  “Karma” is the label where native grapes are blended with international ones, a pioneering style initially introduced by Doluca in 2000 along with a “Merlot-Boğazkere” and a “Gamay-Boğazkere” blend. Today the range includes a “Boğazkere-Syrah” blend and the white “Narince-Chardonnay,” while the Gamay version is not made anymore. The “Cabernet Sauvignon – Okuzgozu” blend is made with grapes sourced from the Thrace and Eastern Anatolia. The wine is aged for 12 months in 225lt French oak.

 

2009 URLICE Cabernet Sauvignon.  VM/UC “78”. 

Umay Ceviker and myself have tried some promising bottles from this small producer, but this bottle possessed many vices of modern Turkish winemaking. The nose is jammy, but also has licorice, tar, rubber, olives. This high alcohol-low acid wine is tiring on the palette. This is a monolithic and heavy wine characterized by syrupy sour cherry flavors on the palette.

CONTEXT:  This is a tiny producer in the popular Urla region within close proximity to the Çeşme peninsula. Owners Reha and Bilge Ogunlu run the whole operation, without money-making concerns, focusing on making the most of the tourism potential of the area.

On four hectares of land, there are plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay, with 9 to 15 years of age.  At 80 meters altitude, the vineyard enjoys the strong breeze  from the Ozbek Bay which is just 2 km away, helping to prevent some diseases in the organically grown vineyard.

 

2008 MELEN REZERV Okuzgozu. VM/UC “77.5”. MOW 2012 “90”.

This is a disappointing wine from an erratic producer who sometimes produces wines with character. The nose is off, with easily noticeable volatile acidity. There is some oxidation. The wine is overextracted and unbalanced, with low acidity and high alcohol. There are rasberry jam flavors, combined with the awkward use of oak. Despite all of these problems, we noticed good potential in this vineyard for this native grape, “Okuzgozu,” which may resemble the Spanish “mencia,” if vinified properly from old vines.

CONTEXT:  One of the oldest wineries in the Thrace, Melen was founded in the early 1920’s, just before the young Turkish Republic. Today, run by the 3rd generation Cem Cetintas, “Melen” is one of the most widely known niche producers in Turkey. 

Melen, based in Hoskoy near Tekirdağ, has a wide range of labels classified according to the origin of the grapes used. The “Reserve” series are monovarietals of both their own and sourced fruit with some ageing in oak.