Every wine producing country has their collection of celebrated grapes that create the unique foundation of their market, but very few have a dazzling 1200 to choose from. Even Portugal, that has garned a reputation for its 400+ native varieties, cannot compete with Turkey’s breadth and diversity of indigenous grapes. Granted, only 60 of these grapes are currently in cultivation, but with a blossoming wine industry, the possibilites for experimentation and innovation are endless.
The challenge, of course, is pronouncing the names of these grapes. With enough umlauts and diaeresis’ to sink a battleship, it’s rather daunting at first sight and a real risk of getting your tongue twisted in knots. So before we dive into the 5 main grapes of Turkey’s wine world – Emir, Narince, Öküzgözü, Boğazkere and Kalecik Karası – let’s take a crash course in Turkish wine pronunciation.
ö same in German, or the English ‘ur’, as in ‘cure’
ü same in German, or French ‘u’ as in ‘tu’
ğ - 100% silent, just to confuse you!
ç and ş- pronounced as ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ respectively
Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s start with a short description of each of these grapes. Note, we’ll be covering these in greater depth in the future, but at least for now, you’ll be a mean conversationalist at your next cocktail party.
Let’s sort out the whites first, located in Central Anatolia, as they’re not only easiest to pronounce, but some of the most delicious white grapes you’ll stumble across (when not slathered with oak).
Remember that stunning natural wonder I spoke of in the last article with unearthly rock formations called Cappadocia? Well, it just so happens to be the home of Emir, one of the few native grapes that can tolerate the frigid temperatures and high altitude. Meaning “lord or ruler” the wines were deemed worthy to grace the royal table, and tend to produce a slightly green, pale yellow color with high acidity, bright minerality and delicate aromas of apple and citrus. This grape also happens to be the protagonist in Turkey’s sparkling wine production, a small but growing style.
Originated in Tokat, the transition zone where the Black Sea climate ends and turns into continental climate, as well as the Anatolia tableland south of the mountains near the Black Sea shores, Narince is mainly known as a blending grape. Tending to produce citrus and white flower aromas, its high acidity generally lends it to age well in oak, adding both structure and balance.
The 3 reds we’ll be focusing on are housed in both Eastern and Central Anatolia.
Kalecik Karası (Kah-le-djic-car-ah-se):
What Touriga Nacional is to Portugal, or Tempranillo is to Spain, Kalecik Karası is to Turkey. Considered Turkey’s trending grape, it also happens to be the name of the Kalecik district of the Ankara Province of Turkey. Ironic considering it was teetering on the point of extinction not long ago, it is now Turkey’s award winning red wine that is taking the international market by storm. Well, maybe better to say that it’s helping the Turkish wine industry make a slow but powerful mark on the international wine scene. Light ruby red in color, these wines tend to be light in body with big acidity and gripping tannins that offer a long lasting finish of red berry fruits and a touch herb and chocolate.
Pronounced ‘Oh-cooz-goe-zu’, don’t let this word overwhelm you. With your handy guide above, you now know to pronounce this grape with puckered lips, or just cheat and call it by its translated name “Ox eye”. Used by the Armenians over the course of thousands of years for winemaking and table grape production, Öküzgözü is native to the Elazig Province located north of the Taurus Mountains. Turkish wines produced from these grapes generally have soft approachable tannins with high acidity and big red and black fruit aromas, over an earthy black earth base.
Pronouned ‘Bow-aahz-keh-reh’, don’t let this grape’s translation of ‘throat scraper’ dissuade you from enjoying its big, rich flavor! Grown in and around Diyarbakir, on the Mesopotamian flatland between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, these wines tend to mimic Baga with their big tannins and dark fruit aromas. Both Öküzgõzü and Boğazkere are considered ideal for oak aging.
These are just a handful of the indigenous grapes that make up Turkey’s ever-expanding wine production, and don’t include the vast cultivation of international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay; but if you can get your hands on these, you’re on the road to understanding the unique character and possibility of Turkish wines!
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