When it comes to wine, I love variety. I have my favorites of course, but am always interested in trying wine from a new producer, a new country or one made from a variety with which I am unfamiliar. Sometimes I have the opportunity to taste a wine that is all three. Invariably, such an opportunity provides a learning experience.
Thanks to an inquiry from Donna White Communications regarding sample wines produced by Vinkara Vineyards, we recently had the opportunity to sample two wines made in Turkey from indigenous grape varieties. I knew very little about winemaking in Turkey, so a bit of reading was in order. I learned quite a lot.
Winemaking in the region of Anatolia, the Asian portion of modern Turkey, has an ancient history — going back thousands of years. Nearby regions are the likely origin of grapevine cultivation, as long ago as 6000 to 8000 BCE. Winemaking, accidental or otherwise, could not have been far behind. Viticulture and winemaking spread from here around the Mediterranean and beyond and the rest, as they say, is history. If Europe is considered Old World in terms of winemaking, then Turkey certainly qualifies as Ancient World.
Though winemaking has an ancient history in Turkey, wine consumption in the Islamic country is at present is very low and government regulations impose very high taxes on wine. The export market will be important for winemaking in Turkey to succeed financially.
Vinkara Vineyards is situated near the town of Kalecik (Kah-le-djic), about an hour’s drive northeast of the city of Ankara in Turkey. The winery was established in 2003 and has about 135 acres of vineyards, half planted to Kalecik Karasi (named for the nearby town) and the rest to other indigenous red varieties (Okuzgozu, Bogazkere), white indigenous varieties (Hasandede and Narince) as well as international varieties.
The climate in this Central Anatolia region of Turkey is warm and dry in summer and very cold in winter. The elevation, which is 2000 feet above sea level, means summer nights are cool, helping to preserve acidity as grapes ripen.
A lack of humidity results in reduced disease pressure on the grape vines. Soil is enriched with the use of cover crops that are tilled into the soil in spring and weeds are controlled without the use of herbicides. All of this translates to an essentially organic method of viticulture, though the vineyard is not certified as such. Add variable soil types, slope and aspect into the mix and you have all of the necessary natural ingredients to produce quality wine.
We received two wines produced by Vinkara Vineyards as tasting samples, one white and one red. We paired each wine with a meal, because that’s how we enjoy wine — with food.
2013 Vinkara Vineyards Narince — medium yellow in the glass with delicate white flower and melon aromas. Dusty gravel, juicy, ripe lemon and lime flavors combine with hints of the same white flowers reflected in the aromas. The wine has nice acidity and a medium weight in the mouth. An interesting, lingering dusty minerality on the finish completely drew me in. The flavors keep you thinking, looking for the perfect description of what you are tasting. 13% abv. SRP $15.
Narince, pronounced Nah-rin-djeh, comes from the Tokat region near the Black Sea in Turkey. The name translates to delicate, which aptly describes the aroma of this wine. Quite a lot of Narince is planted in Turkey, and it is grown for table grapes as well as winemaking. I wonder how many grape varieties make good table grapes and delicious wine?
We paired the Vinkara Narince with pan-sautéed Petrale sole and zucchini ribbons sautéed in butter and garlic and finished with fresh tarragon and citrus zest. The delicate flavors of the Petrale sole were the perfect complement to complex flavors of the wine and the wine’s bright acidity perfectly balanced the richness of both the fish and the zucchini.
2012 Vinkara Vineyards Kalecik Karasi Reserve — medium ruby in the glass with generous earthy, red fruit and cedar aromas. Complex berry and cherry flavors combine with leather, cocoa and roasted coffee bean flavors. The body is light to medium and the tannins a bit drying and gauzy. The finish is very long with flavor and lingering delicate tannins. 13.5% abv. SRP $27.
What a surprise of flavors! The combination of earthy, fruit and cocoa flavors was so delicious and flavors continued to evolve with time in the glass. We enjoyed every drop of this wine, and the flavors remained remarkably unchanged for several days (we stored the wine in the refrigerator, corked.)
We chose to pair this wine with a simple pasta dish that included tomatoes, onions, just a bit of garlic and spinach. A dusting of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano added a zesty saltiness. It was quick to put together and very enjoyable with the Kalecik Karasi. Easy to prepare and delicious, my favorite pairing!
In addition to enjoying the wine, I found the bottle labels very informative. Both clearly identify the grape variety, which is very helpful to those of us unfamiliar with varieties indigenous to Turkey.
Both Vinkara wines are distributed nationally. Look for them. You will be pleased by the quality and versatility of the wines and surprised by the complex flavors of both.
Thanks to Donna White Communications and Vinkara Winery for providing us with the opportunity to taste these delicious wines…and the opportunity to learn a bit about Vinkara and their winemaking in Turkey.