Turkish wines (or saraplar pronounced ‘sha-rap-lar’) are a great journey in discovery. When one tires of the Cabernets and Chardonnays of the world, when even Italian grapes lose their raw appeal, then you know the time has come to pay Turkey a visit.
In fact the Turkish people are happy if you ask for wine, they are tired of serving the Lion’s Drink aka Raki. If you have ever tasted Pastis from France or Ouzo from Greece (or any other Aniseed-based spirit) well then you pretty much have an idea of Raki. Try it by all means, but trust me you won’t be earning any Turkish brownie points by ordering it; for that go for wine.
Turkey is ranked fourth in the world for grape production. However, only two percent of all the grapes grown in Turkey go into the production of wine. In fact, they don’t consume too much wine locally (1 bottle per capita as against 65 bottles in France) but are still proud of their wine culture.
Post my recent trip I realised that one would have no clue (as didn’t I) to what they were drinking (neither brands nor grapes) in this fascinating country. Well just so that you aren’t half as clueless I was, here is quick course in Turkish wines.
Don’t try foreign wines; the local duties (about 400%) make them even more expensive than having the same wine in India! So when in Turkey do as the Young Turks do.
Turkish grapes are not very heavy really. In fact what they described as a full-bodied wine would pass for much lesser in the Western world (thank goodness some places are still not crazy about Robert Parker ratings and over-the-top wines). Here is a list of some of them.
Like the name somewhere suggests the wine has definite citrus aromas about it. Notes mentioned camomile but I guess I am not so gifted with my nose. On the whole a very simple, likeable, light aperitif wine.
Another simple grape, nothing complicated. Again, we find a basketful of white fruits; also a light aperitif-style wine but with crackling acidity. Perhaps the reason it is also used for sparkling wines
Very elegant and light is the marked style of wines made from this grape. Typical aromas include melon, pineapple, and, for sweet wines, rich tropical fruits; I must add I even detected notes of that Singaporean snap-dragon, Durian.
What we commonly know as the Muscat but this is probably a slightly different clone (distant cousin of Muscat).
Probably the most popular Turkish grape, it gives rather light and extremely fruity wines. to draw a parallel think of Gamay but stronger.
This grape has more strength but still very manageable for anyone who has been having anything of the jammy-style New World wines. It is often blended with Cabernet and the resulting wines reminded me much of ready-to-drink Cabernet-Shiraz blends from Australia.
Kalecik Karası –
Now this grape was not an easy find seeing that very few vineyards plant it. But it was worth the search; the wines were complex yet easy to savour; strong with much elegance. Think Grenache-Pinot Noir perhaps.
Now, just so to complete the circle of knowledge, here are a few top Turkish brands and their offerings.
The brand’s philosophy was to try and reproduce the more popular French wines and grapes on Turksih soils. Their Sarafin brand (especially the red Cabernet Sauvignon) bears testimony to their well-planted success. Besides these, this house also produces “Kav” and “Karma”, both much-talked-about wines made using indigenous grapes.
The Kavaklidere Winery (est. 1929), close to the Ankara international airport has huge wine-making capacities and works mainly with local grape varieties from the Anatolian region amongst which the rare Kalecik Karası.
The Diren Winery was founded in 1958. Based in the Tokat region, they are a decent-sized winery. I even gathered that they have received international acclaim for their wines but I would be lying if I admitted to anything more. I never got around tasting this brand, and it wasn’t exactly present everywhere.
Again, I missed visiting this one, a modern winery located under ground in Cappadocia, embedded in natural rock which doubles as an ideal cellar. While that sounds nothing short of a dream, the wines which I did get around to tasting were a bit feeble (and too technically constructed in taste) for my liking. Perhaps I need to spend more time in Turkish grape company.
If you are a collector of different wines across the globe, you may want to experience other beverage coolers. This will add sophistication and elegance to your collection because aside from the fact that it is made from high quality materials, it is also aesthetic.