If history had turned out differently, Turkey might, by now, have been one of the great wine producing countries of the world. Some of the oldest known relics of winemaking have been found near its border – in Georgia and Armenia – and, with the moderating influence of both the Mediterranean and Black Seas, a number of areas of the country have an ideal climate for grape growing. Indeed, Turkey has the 5th largest vineyard area of any country in the world. Unfortunately for wine lovers, its cultural and religious heritage means that most of its grapes are harvested to sell for eating or as raisins or sultanas; only 3% of the crop is made into wine – and barely 1 bottle in 10 of that is exported – a shame as many critics have noted that Turkey has some really interesting native grape varieties.
I was able to find out for myself recently as the Bristol Tasting Circle organised an evening dedicated to Turkish wines. And, sure enough, alongside the familiar names – Cabernet, Syrah and Sauvignon – were wines made from Emir, Narince, Kalecik Karasi, Çalkarasi and Ökügözü.
The first 2 named, both local white varieties, were blended to produce one of my favourite wines of the night: Cankaya, an attractive, soft, peachy white made by one of Turkey’s largest producers, Kavaklidere (£8.99, available, as are the other wines mentioned in this blog, from www.tasteturkey.com).
Of the reds, Kayra Alpagut’s Ökügözü (£19.99) had the sort of tangy, herby flavours that reminded some at the table of a nice Loire Cabernet Franc but I preferred the mellowness of Vinkara’s subtle, red-fruit flavoured Kalecik Karasi Reserve (£18.45, although the Wine Society have the same producer’s non Reserve bottling of the same grape at £9.95. Is the Reserve worth nearly twice the price? I tried the other some time ago and, for me, the cheaper wine is the better buy).
Turkey is clearly producing some interesting, attractive wines but, because amounts exported are small, they will never be cheap and may be hard to find. But, if you’re looking for something a little different, why not try a bottle – it may prove to be a Turkish Delight!