I have fond memories of the two weeks I spent in Turkey during early November. As some of you know, I visited to attend the European Wine Bloggers Conference, and to explore a bit of the Turkish wine country. I'm in the process of writing up a few more profiles of individual wineries, but thought I'd share my tasting notes from a large number of the Turkish wines I tasted throughout my time in Turkey.
Without also preempting another future blog post which will contain my deeper impressions of Turkish Wine, here are some short thoughts on the state of the Turkish wine industry which can help contextualize the notes and scores you will find below.
Turkey belongs in a group of European wine producers that all belong under the banner of up-and-coming. I'd put Greece, Romania, Croatia, Hungry, Bulgaria, Armenia and Georgia in this tent as well. Not for any lack of history producing wine -- indeed most of these countries have been producing wine for millennia -- but because they are in the early stages of their journeys to be recognized as wine producers on a global stage.
Of these countries, Turkey is certainly one of the most nascent wine industries (as compared with, say, Greece, which is just about to graduate from this group of up-and-coming regions). With a few notable exceptions, most producers have begun operations in the last ten years, and many in the past five. As such, these wineries are still figuring out what to make, how to make it, and how to sell it successfully. Like many newer wine regions in the world, they are also trying to simultaneously cater to their local market (where they can actually make money) and gain the attention of the international market which will bring investment and more scale to their industry.
I'll write in more detail soon about the challenges of trying to address both of these markets simultaneously, but suffice it to say here that they want very different things. The domestic Turkish market wants largely to drink big red wines made from the "famous" international grapes aged in those equally famous French oak barrels. Consequently, many producers have focused their entire efforts on producing such wines, to the unfortunate exclusion of any expression of place or use of the unique local grape varieties that can be found only in Turkey.
In short, there's a lot of very bad, and very mediocre wine being made in Turkey. And while they may sell well to the (smallish) local wine drinking populace and to the unwitting and indiscriminate tourists who want a glass with dinner, these wines have little future on the international market unless they can be made at a higher quality and at such a low price that UK Supermarkets will buy them. Which is to say, they'd have to out-compete Chile, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand on quality-to-price ratio. A tall order, indeed.
The most interesting wines being made in Turkey are those that include, or are made exclusively from, the fascinating local grapes such as Kalecik Karasi, Öküzgözü, Bogazkere, Narince, and Emir. The most successful versions of these wines are made in stainless steel, or a combination of stainless and used oak, or cement.
More on the trends in winemaking, industry challenges, and predictions for the future of Turkish wine to come. For now, here's what I think of the many wines I tasted.
The tasting notes and scores below are rather more inconsistent than usual for me, partially because they are a collection of notes and scores made over the course of more than a week in many different venues, ranging from walk-around tastings, to meals, to winery visits. Consequently, some of my highest ranked wines I don't have tasting notes for, while some of my least favorites do have notes.
Finally, because Turkey does not have a controlled appellation system or legal requirements regarding geographical labeling on wines, I have indicated the region of origin where I could, but many I did not know.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2009 Diren Narince, Tokat
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright grapefruit aromas. In the mouth, flavors of pink grapefruit take on a deep wet chalkboard minerality the longer they linger, crisp in the mouth. Very tasty.
2010 LA Wines "Mon Rêve" White Blend
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of juicy apples and the snap of lemon zest. In the mouth, bright apple and lemon flavors have an excellent zingy quality thanks to excellent acidity, and a clean clarity that is quite refreshing. Tasty. A blend of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.
2010 LA Wines "Consensus" Chardonnay
No tasting note available.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2011 Yazgan Emir, Nevsehir, Cappadocia
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey and wet stones. In the mouth the wine offers bright lemony apple flavors and clean crisp acidity. Simple and quite pleasant. 12% alcohol.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2011 Kavaklidere "Cotes d'Avanos" White Blend, Cappadocia
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of oak and hints of buttered popcorn and lemon curd. In the mouth flavors of lemon zest and cold cream have a light woody bitterness to them. 67% Narince, 33% Chardonnay.
2011 Kavaklidere "Cotes d'Avanos" Sauvignon Blanc, Cappadocia
Pale gold in the glass. This wine has a cheery nose of ripe apples of many colors. In the mouth, the first thing you notice is very bright acidity that makes flavors of green and gold apples and crisp bosc pear sparkle with juiciness. There is some residual sugar in this wine, that gives it a hint of sweetness that I would prefer not to be there, but the acidity means the wine tastes less sweet than it could. 14% alcohol.
2011 Kavaklidere "Egeo" Sauvignon Blanc
2011 LA Wines "Idol" White Blend
2010 Vinkara "Oaked" Narince
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2011 Kavaklidere "Ancyra" Muscat, Cappadocia
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and green melon. In the mouth green melon and green apple flavors have a bright wet stone quality. Good acidity, but simple flavors. A nice lemony flavor lingers in the finish.
2010 Pamukkale "Nodus" Chardonnay
2009 Pamukkale "Reserve Anfora" Chardonnay
2010 Kavaklidere "Selection" White Blend
2010 Vinkara "Sparkling" Kalecik Karasi
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 7.5 AND 8
2012 Sevilen Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Sample, Izmir
Cloudy pale greenish in the glass, this barrel sample smells of green apples and honey. In the mouth slightly sweet flavors of green apple and cold cream.
2011 Kavaklidere "Prestige" Narince, Cappadocia
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of the vanilla of french oak with a hint of lemon and cold cream. In the mouth, flavors of french oak mask notes of apple and lemon curd. Nice acidity, but I'm missing some of the varietal fruit that I'd like to taste.
2010 Vinkara "Reserve" Narince
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and french oak. In the mouth the wine tastes strongly of French oak and a hint of citrusy quality, but the dominant flavor is of the vanilla of oak. 13.5% alcohol
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 7 AND 7.5
2011 Pamukkale "Anfora" Sauvignon Blanc
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 6.5 AND 7
2012 Gulor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Sarkoy, Thrace
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey and apples. In the mouth baked and dried apple flavors mix with somewhat dull results. Good acidity, but the flavors aren't as fresh as you might expect. 12% alcohol.
2011 Kavaklidere "Egeo" Rosé
Pale pink in the glass, this wine smells of rosehips and the hint of fresh berries. In the mouth, tart berry and rosehip citrus flavors meld very beautifully with a crystalline minerality. The wine leans tart and crisp in the finish, even as the juicy acidity keeps the mouth watering. Excellent. A (very successful) blend of Calkarasi and Grenache.
2011 Kavaklidere "LAL" Calkarasi Rosé
Pale salmon orange in the glass, this wine smells of mandarine orange peel and wet stones with a hint of white flowers. In the mouth floral flavors mix with juicy mandarine orange zest and pink grapefruit flavors as well as a hint of red berry. Excellent acidity makes the wine quite juicy, and it remains crisp and dry until the finish which has the slightest tinge of sweetness. Excellent. 14% alcohol.
2010 Mozaik Rosé, Urla
2011 Pamukkale "Anfora Blush" Rosé
2011 Vinkara Kalecik Karasi Rosé
PINK WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2010 Pamukkale "Anfora Trio" Rosé
Bright baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of crushed berries and wet chalkboard. In the mouth tart berry flavors have a surprising lightly tannic structure that adds complexity and an earthy note to otherwise crisp, juicy fruit. Excellent.
2011 Buyulubag "Iris" Red Blend
2011 Buyulubag "Vedat Milor Serisi" Red Blend
PINK WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2012 Sevilen "R" Cabernet Sauvignon, Izmir
Cloudy baby pink in the glass, this barrel sample smells of bubblegum and watermelon. In the mouth bright berry and watermelon flavors have a straightforward simplicity and a hint of sweetness. Innocuous and thankfully lacking bitterness.
PINK WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7
2011 Chateau Nuzun Red Blend
RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2009 Kavaklidere "Prestige" BogazkereEastern Anatolia
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of slightly floral cassis and blackberry fruit. In the mouth aggressive and tacky tannins fill the mouth and provide a prickly background for a core of cool mulberry and blackberry fruit that has a nice tart savoriness to it, along with a cool stony underpinning. Excellent minerality and good acidity make this wine a pleasure to drink. 13.5% alcohol.
MV Gulor Vineyards Red Blend, Sarkoy, Thrace
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth, spices, and graphite. In the mouth the wine has a distinct old-world quality with leather, earth, cherry and incense notes draped in velvety mouth-coating tannins. Smooth, well integrated oak, and good acidity. Wouldn't be out of place in a lineup of lesser Bordeaux wines. A blend of multiple vintages from 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2010. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Just an experiment offered to us visiting journalists, not a commercial wine.
2011 Sevilen "Plato" Kalecik Karasi, Guney/Denizli
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of fresh mulberries. In the mouth, a complex array of flavors mix with the primary mulberry fruit, including earthy and herbal notes. The leathery tannins offer muscle beneath the darker earthy notes, and good acidity keeps the wine bright. Tasty.
2009 Urlice Red Blend, Urla
2010 Vinkara Okuzgozu
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2007 Sevilen "Centum" Syrah, Izmir
ark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and sweet dark coffee. In the mouth the wine has a distinctly sweet cast to it but other than this minor flaw, it is a nice juicy package of fruit with good acidity and powdery tannins, as well as a dollop of sweet new oak.
2010 Vinkara "Reserve" Kalecik Karasi, Kalecik, Ankara
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of toasted oak and a hint of red fruit. In the mouth bright raspberry and cherry fruit mixes with relatively well integrated oak. Good acidity and overall balance, but a hint of alcoholic heat sneaks into the finish. 14% alcohol.
2009 Kavaklidere "Prestige" Kalecik Karasi, Cappadocia
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of candied red fruit and confectioners sugar. In the mouth mulberry flavors have a light tannic structure as they mix with strawberry notes and a hint of citrus that lingers on the finish. Nice. 14% alcohol.
2010 Kavaklidere "Vin-Art" Red Blend, Central Anatolia
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of mulberry and cassis. In the mouth mulberry and black cherry flavors have a nice earthiness to them that gives the wine a dark cast to it. A woody earthiness pervades the finish. Nice acidity. 40% Kalecik Karasi, 40% Syrah.
2010 Kavaklidere "Pendore" Okuzgozu, Kemaliye, Agean
Medium to dark garnet in the glass this wine smells of mulberry and huckleberry. In the mouth lightly sandpapery tannins wrap around flavors of mulberry and a hint of wet earth. Nice expression of fruit, decent acidity. 14% alcohol.
2009 Doluca "Tugra" Bogazkere, Guney
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of ripe blackberry and mulberry. In the mouth, slightly sweet blackberry and mulberry flavors have a very juicy richness to them, and sit quite prettily on the palate as a wave of velvety tannins coat the mouth and linger for a long time with a slightly woody finish. Well integrated oak is very well restrained and lets the fruit shine. I'd like the wine without that touch of sweetness, which might be residual sugar, but an easily be the sweetness of the wine's 15.5% alcohol.
2009 Kavaklidere "Pendore" Bogazkere, Agean
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells uncannily like the hazelnut Toblerone milk chocolate. In the mouth tight and muscular tannins wrap around a core of mulberry and cherry fruit that has a taut stony quality to it that is quite compelling. Excellent acidity. Despite a nose which suggested potentially the sweetness of oak, the wine integrates its wood quite well. Seems quite age-worthy. 15% alcohol. 90% Bogazkere, 10% Agean.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2009 Kavaklidere "Prestige" Kalecik Karasi, Kalecik, Ankara
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried cherries and dried mulberries. In the mouth the faintest of tannins have a light chalky feel that hangs in the background to riper dried fruit and well integrated oak. Tasty, but somehow the ripeness and the oak seems to have obscured some of the sense of place in this wine. 14% alcohol.
2009 Kavaklidere "Prestige" Okuzgozu, Eastern Anatolia
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of chocolate covered cherries. In the mouth, flavors of cassis and black cherry have a sweetness to it that is charming rather than cloying. Decent acidity and suede-like tannins. 14% alcohol.
2011 Buyulubag "Cabernet - Merlot Vedat Milor Serisi" Red Blend
2009 LA Wines "Consensus" Red Blend
2010 Mozaik Syrah, Urla
2010 Mozaik Red Blend, Urla
2009 Pamukkale "Anfora" Shiraz
2009 Pamukkale "Anfora" Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Urlice Red Blend, Urla
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2011 Sevilen "900 Series" Cabernet Franc, Izmir
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and leather. In the mouth leathery, thick tannins wrap around flavors of licorice and black cherry with the tannins showing woody and earthy in the finish. Lower acidity than I would like.
2009 Kayra Okuzgozu, Elazig, Aydubcuj
Dark garnet in th glass, this wine smells of new oak possibly American. In the mouth smooth and silky vanilla flavors sit on top of darker fruit that is hard to apprehend because of the oak. Velvety tannins cushion the wine, giving it a plush quality in the mouth. Nice acidity and some mineral quality as well, but unfortunately the oak obscures everything. A real shame. 14.5% alcohol.
2009 Kayra Bogazkere, Diyaebakir, Eastern Anatolia
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of new oak and whiskey, with red fruit underneath. In the mouth, thick peanut-buttery tannins wrap around flavors of blackberry and cassis that have been strained through a sieve of new oak. The wood is too dominant, Earthy finish. 15% alcohol.
2010 Buyulubag "Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 LA Wines "Idol" Red Blend
2010 LA Wines "Mon Rêve" Tempranillo
2010 Mozaik Ekigaina, Urla
2010 Kavaklidere "Egeo" Red Blend
2010 Kavaklidere "Egeo" Syrah
2009 Pamukkale "Anfora" Red Blend
RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 7.5 AND 8
2010 Gulor Vineyards "G-Rouge" Red Blend, Sarkoy, Thrace
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of toasty, espresso-laden new oak. In the mouth the wine has a round sweetness with flavors of new oak and vanilla, Fine grained tannins hang in the background. Very oak influenced, narrow. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese. 13.2% alcohol.
2010 Kavaklidere "Pendore" Syrah, Agean
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry jam. In the mouth rich cassis flavors mix with blackberry and dark chocolate with a smoky hint of espresso. Good acidity keeps the wine quite drinkable, but definitely on the ripe side of the universe. 14.5% alcohol.
2011 Kavaklidere "Egeo" Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Mozaik Tannat, Urla
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7.5
2012 Kavaklidere "Barrel Sample - Cotes d'Avenos" Tempranillo, Cappadocia
Cloudy dark garnet in the glass, this barrel sample smells of grapey mulberry and cherry aromas. In the mouth, powdery tannins coat the mouth while flavors of mulberry, cherry, and strawberry jam mix in a very fruity concoction. Hard to judge at this stage. Decent acidity, but could have more.
2011 Sevilen "900 Series" Petite Verdot, Izmir
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth rich cassis and blackberry flavors mix with leathery tannins and lower acidity than I would like. Rich and big, though thankfully without significant new oak influence.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 7 AND 7.5
2010 Chateau Nuzun Red Blend
2011 Pamukkale "Anfora" Kalecik Karasi
2010 Pamukkale "Nodus" Red Blend
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7
2011 Gulor Vineyards "G-Rouge" Red Blend, Sarkoy, Southwestern Anatolia and Thrace
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of briary blackberry and cherry aromas. In the mouth lean cherry and wet earth flavors have a tart, even sour quality to them. Good acidity but not much to recommend the wine. A blend of 35% Malbec and 65% Okuzgozu. 13.5% alcohol.
2010 Buyulubag Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Chateau Nuzun Red Blend
2010 Chateau Nuzun Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Pamukkale "Anfora" Merlot
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 6.5
2009 Gulor Vineyards "G-Gold - Cot N" Red Blend, Sarkoy, Thrace
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and mulberry aromas with a touch of wood. In the mouth cherry and cocoa powder flavors have an odd character, with plastic and metallic notes. Unappealing. A blend of 55% Malbec, 45% Petit Verdot, and 5% Merlot. 12.5% alcohol.
2011 Gulor Vineyards "G-Rouge" Malbec, Sarkoy, Thrace
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of lightly plastic and darker cherry flavors. Dried cherry notes with leathery tannins have a flat somewhat metallic quality in the mouth. Not pleasant. 13.2% alcohol.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 6
2009 Chateau Nuzun Red Blend
2010 Chateau Nuzun Pinot Noir
2010 Chateau Nuzun Syrah
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 5/1/16 I'll Drink to That: Charles Philipponnat of Champagne Philipponnat Vinography Images: White Wall I'll Drink to That: Author Ian D'Agata West of West Pinot Tasting: May 19, San Francisco Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 4/24/16 2016 Garagiste Wine Festival: May 19, Oakland Warm Up: Tannins I'll Drink to That: Winemaker Andy Erickson Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 17, 2016
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune