“Turkey is geographically amazing with the coastal areas (which I have yet to visit personally), the division of Istanbul into European and Asia sectors separated by the Bosphorus, the wonderful cuisine and the extremes between the modern and ancient elements of the city of Istanbul. I can just walk for hours taking in the sites and experiencing the cultural diversity, mosques, spice market and winding streets.” - Tim Hanni MW
As organizers of the EWBC we’re already smitten with Turkish culture and gastronomy, but you don’t just need to take our word for it.
The 4th annual Master of Wine Weekend was held in Istanbul recently, with 7 Masters of Wine tasting through 274 wines from 38 different Turkish producers. The results were very impressive, with high scores from all the judges and positive feedback from those involved (for a full list of the wines and their scores, visit the Hurriyet website).
However, wine is not all about points and Sarah Abbott MW, from the UK, pointed out the genuine passion in gastronomy she has experienced in her couple of visits, expressed by both the women and the young in general,
“I was still struck by how many young women are making wine in Turkey, and for serious producers. I had come directly from Bordeaux, and it is quite a contrast. Apparently many young women find their way into wine via Food Science degrees. Many have also studied in France. The general youth of the wine and food culture also struck me – it’s not an establishment thing in Turkey.”
We share Sarah’s insight. From our visits to Turkey, and from several Turkish wine trade tastings that have taken place throughout Europe, there is a very palpable connection between youth and gastronomy, but the link with wine culture is still emerging. The biggest supporters for the local wine culture comes from 20-something wine retailers with a side passion for video game development, and equally vibrant female sommeliers and winemakers.
This youthful and inquisitive attitude in Turkey can also be seen in their approach to winemaking. Like all new markets, the pendulum swings to extremes where winemakers choose between international varieties and promoting their native grapes. Christy Canterbury MW sees some parallels with Italy in this respect,
“I’m looking forward to seeing more indigenous grapes revived as many have fallen by the wayside in favor of easier-to-grow grapes.”
What makes the Turkish indigenous varieties so enchanting? Sarah Abbott MW believes the answer lies in their adaptability to the local climate,
“They have that quality of mysterious freshness and rounded body you find in indigenous varieties from hot climates. For whites, I really liked Narince, which is gently aromatic and quite mineral. It reminded me a bit of Greco. It blends well with Sauvignon Blanc. Emir is another good white – surprisingly racy. A bit like Chablis with a suntan.”
But it isn’t just white wines that offer something unusual, as Sarah’s evocative introductions to the local red varieties shows:
“The native reds can be excellent, as well as deeply interesting. They are above all generous characters, with lovely fruit. They vary a lot in their structure and frame. Kalecik Karasi is the lightest and most juicily fruity. I love the combination of acidity and sweet fruit that you get in this variety. Its tannins are a bit like a new world Pinot Noir. But the fruit character is unique. Okuzgozu has more flesh and plumpness, and is almost irresistible. Both oaked and unoaked versions can be lovely. One of the most singular is Bogazkere. It has savoury, floral fruit and very dry tannin. It’s one of those apparently grumpy wines that become beautiful with food.”
The right food match can make almost any wine a rockstar when paired well, and considering the vast array of flavours indulging your palate at any Turkish meal, the playground for Turkish winemakers is endless. Wine fans across the world can look forward to discovering both in the near future.
We’re confident that all 7 Masters of Wine will have plenty to say in the coming weeks regarding their experience, so please keep an eye out on their respective websites: Tim Hanni, Christy Canterbury, Sarah Abbott, Peter McCombie, Tim Atkin, Sheri Sauter Morano and Ned Goodwin. And if we’re all persistent enough, just maybe we can convince them to join us this autumn!