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Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

30 September 2004

Big Turkish export push

Big Turkish wine export push

An adaptation of this Turkish wine report was first published on Decanter.com on September 30th 2004: I've since added a bit more information and opinion. Click here to view my notes and thoughts on wines tasted on this delight-ful (ho ho) Turkish wine trip.

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UK importer Alaturka is spearheading an export drive for wines from Turkey in partnership with Doluca and Kavaklidere, the two largest wineries in an industry previously lacking in co-operation. Out of 100 wineries, most of which are small with very few exporting, Doluca and Kavaklidere are the main players selling to Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Denmark and the US. Medium-sized producer Sevilen also has a presence in market-leader Germany, and boutique winery Melen – crushing 250 tons in Mürefte on the Marmara sea coast west of Istanbul (Thrace region) – exports as much as 40% to Japan and France. The total value of Turkish wine exports hit US$7.3 million in 2003 (up from $5.23m in 2001), although the figure for the US was only $263,000 with a hefty 60% ending up in Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg.
Doluca now produces 13 million bottles annually and Kavaklidere’s total capacity reached 17.5 million litres this year. Overall production in Turkey has increased steadily according to official figures (which are a bit thin on the ground): 1997 - 44 million litres, 2003 (estimated) - 57.1 m litres. Both firms have invested heavily in modern vinification and storage facilities. Doluca head Ahmet Kutman, the UC Davis-trained son of company founder, claims to have put “one to two million US dollars per annum over the last ten years” into their winery near Mürefte, opened in 1993. Kavaklidere recently completed an impressive unit near Gülşehir in central Anatolia, at a cost “in excess of US$3 million”, surrounded by a 200 hectare (ha) vineyard, and is planning to build a third winery.
Crucially, the big concerns have already turned their attention to vineyards focusing on both international and Turkish varieties. Indigenous white grapes include Narince, Emir and the ubiquitous Sultaniye; and reds Boğazkere, Öküzgözü and Kalecik Karasi. Of the 541,000 ha under vine, mostly owned by farmers who sell grapes and don’t make wine, at least two-thirds are destined for the table or dried fruit. However, new plantings and grafting from sultana to more suitable varieties are accelerating. Official wine production figures stand at 50-60 million litres annually. Changes within TEKEL, the government company that controls the alcohol business, have effectively ended a state monopoly situation and the compulsory purchase of grapes, thus enabling wineries to increasingly influence the quality and maturity of the fruit they buy.
As regards the potential for international varieties, it's more a question of who's growing and vinifying them, as some wineries appear to be picking too early (based on sugar levels but not skin or acid ripeness) and/or to have winemaking or hygiene problems in the cellar. Some varieties were planted over 10 years ago: e.g. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan, Alicante Bouschet, Grenache, Shiraz. The best examples tasted on a trip in September 2004 might indicate which regions are the most suitable for each variety, although so far volumes are small.
Melen Winery's Shiraz Rezerve and Merlot Rezerve are both good, particularly the former, made in a more 'modern' style. Owner Cem Cetintaş believes "blends such as Merlot/Kalecik Karasi or Semillon/Narince work well and could be the way for export." Doluca's Sarafin range is made from international varieties grown in dedicated vineyards on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The wines are only currently available in Turkey due to the small quantities produced, yet the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are among their best wines; and the Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc are also decent enough examples.
Their Eurasia Two Continents brand, a blend of Cab Sauv and Öküzgözü sourced from both of Turkey's landmasses, made by international consultant John Worontschak is clearly aimed at UK multiple retailers (about £4.99), but is frankly disappointing. Other blended wines showing promise include 'Karma' Merlot/Boğazkere, as does their straight Riesling. Kavaklidere doesn't make straight varietal wines from French grapes at the moment, but does have some attractive blends such as 'Angora' red (Gamay/Cinsault) or a Sauvignon Blanc/Sultana dry white, a pretty good rosé and a couple of acceptable Cava-esque sparklers available in larger volumes apparently.
So, no there won't be a glut of Turkish Chardonnay on the shelves in the US or anywhere else in the near future but might be a few years down the line... I was told most of the wine currently exported is sold into Turkish restaurants, especially in Germany where there are lots of them. On the other hand, producers are hoping to progress beyond that 'Turkish restaurant wine' syndrome! A difficult juggling act, but it seems possible that certain producers could establish a niche in other quality restaurants and wine shops with unique Turkish varieties and blends with internationals. Namely the ones who get their vineyards, winemaking and marketing right over the coming years...

10 September 2004

Turkish Delight: wine touring September 2004

Turkish Delight

Apologies for the clichéd title, but it's an example of the kind of prejudice Turkish wine producers might have to overcome to get people to take their wines more seriously. I've posted my tasting notes below on most of the wines (leaving out a couple of stinkers) discovered on a fascinating trip to Turkey's vine-lands and their extraordinary city of Istanbul (must go back sometime...) in September 2004. We visited the coastal wine area of Marmara, west of Istanbul in Thrace region, and wineries in central Anatolia, Turkey's rocky Asian heartland nearer to Ankara. I never did get around to writing up my full thoughts on vineyards, wineries and potential for export; with some nice people, restaurants and carpet salesmen thrown in too. Perhaps one day when I unearth my notes again. During the meanwhilst, click here to read an extended version (I've since added a bit more info and opinion) of the news report I did for Decanter.com; or click there to view the published piece on Decanter's site.


DLC Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2002, Anatolia (12%) - Fairly attractive berry and currant aromas, a bit lean on the fruit v tannins and acidity, and a little 'reduced' again; not terrible but no chance against similar wine from elsewhere. 70-75
DLC Kalecik Karasi 2002, Anatolia (12%) - Not bad rustic cherry fruit, again a touch of sulphide on the nose, but it does have a better finish of savoury fruit, even if the acidity's a little bitter. 75-80
Sarafin Merlot 2002, Thrace - Interesting nose, gamey with a touch of oak and lightly leafy edges; reasonably fruity palate rounded out by vanilla oak, fair acidity gives it a fresher finish without being tart. Try with grilled aubergine paste. 85-87
Sarafin Fumé Blanc 2002, Thrace - Light citrus and honey notes with just a touch of oak on the nose, oakier palate but shows a little crispness and mineral character too, a touch unclean/sulphury on the finish but it's basically sound and a reasonable example of this style (take it or leave it). I prefer the straight Sauvignon Blanc. Local retail price approx. £8! 75-80
Sarafin Sauvignon Blanc 2002, Thrace - Not bad aromatic & crisp, slightly clumsy Touraine Sauvignon style; better with chargrilled aubergine paste or feta cheese. 80-83
Eurasia Two Continents NV (Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon) - Blend of grapes from the European and Asian parts of Turkey. Spicy blackcurrant fruit touched up with light oak, rather bitter finish though; nice idea but... UK £4.99 77-80
Karma Gamay/Bogazkere 2001, Anatolia - Karma means blend (man). Toasty nose and palate with richer rustic side, quite firm but also has riper dried fruit characters; not bad but once again I detected sulphide off-notes. 75-80
Karma Merlot/Bogazkere 2001 (13.5%) - Also a touch unclean on the nose or is it me? However, this has much better fruit and depth than most of the others with nice dry yet rounded tannins without any of that bitterness, and the oak is well done. 83-85
KAV 2001, Anatolia (Öküzgözü Bogazkere) - Slightly burnt/cardboard flavour but has nice developed rustic fruit with dry tannins and bite; kind of northern Italian style that works better with all that Turkish lamb. 80-85
Riesling 2003, Thrace (12%) - Too much sulphur on the nose but it does have a nice zesty mineral palate and length; could have potential if handled a bit better. 80-85
Safir Muscat 2001, Thrace (12%) - Lovely grapey nose and fruity palate, elegant balance of acidity and light sweetness (just 13 g/l residual sugar). Nice aperitif. 85-87
Sarafin Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Thrace (14.5%) - Rich dark colour showing attractive cassis and black fruits, good concentration and weight, very grippy tannins but not overly, get that high alcohol but it works within this framework; still a little reduced though. 87+
Sarafin Chardonnay 2002, Thrace (13.6%) - Attractive light butter and toast aromas yet nice aromatic fruit too, toastier palate but it's quite well done showing buttery richness v fresh acidity; just a tad too toasty on the finish (for me). Try with swordfish steak. 87+

Kavaklidere kavaklidere.com

Altin Köpük Brut NV, Anatolia (Emir) - Not bad nutty Cava style with reasonable bready fruit and bubbles, could be a bit drier on the finish (for me anyway). Acceptable apero or with pud. 80+
Inci Damlasi Brut NV (Emir Narince Semillon Muscat Sultana) - Actually a Thracian/Anatolian/Aegean blend pumped up with CO2, it's not bad in a cheap Cava way showing a bit of cakey fruit and residual sugar set against fresh acidity. 80
Ancyra Kalecik Karasi 2003, Anatolia - Attractive easy drinking cherry and redcurrant fruit, perhaps the acidity's a bit high but nice simple stuff nevertheless. 80+
Angora red 2003, Anatolia (Cinsault Gamay Cabernet Sauvignon) - Appealing soft cherry fruit, Teroldego-esque attractive style. 80+
Angora Sultaniye 2003, Anatolia - Fresh and clean aromas, quite zingy with a touch of crisp acidity plus some weight and length aided by quite high (but integrated) alcohol (14%). Nice quaffer / fishy wine. 80+
Bogazkere 2000, Anatolia - Resin & balsamic aromas with mixed dried fruits, attractive enough style but has very dry firm tannins so needs to go with hearty food like lamb or chicken. 80+
Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2002, Anatolia - Rather herbaceous and bitter, a bit oxidised too... 70
LAL rosé 2003, Anatolia - Dry crisp elegant Provencesque style, shows fair weight (of alcohol) too and a little fresh acidity; the fruit's perhaps beginning to fade a bit on the finish. Try with spicy grilled peppers soaked in olive oil. 83
Narince 2002, Anatolia - Tank sample (why not bottled already?) as the 99 was a bit oxidised and passed it (what a surprise). The 2002 was much livelier and more interesting (so why keep it in wood and tank for so long?) with rounded oaked character freshened by good acidity and some zingy fruit. 83-85
Öküzgözü 2000, Anatolia - The grape with the most accents. Rather thin in colour, mature dried red fruits with a touch of oak on the nose; has a bit of grip in the mouth, at/past its peak really but reasonably attractive in that old fashioned way. 75-80
Sauvignon Blanc/Sultaniye 2002, Anatolia - Yeasty gooseberry nose, delivers a little juicy fruit contrasting with an oilier side and fair acidity; quite nice but better to drink the 2003 now. Good seafoodie. 80
Selection Narince/Semillon 2000, Anatolia - Rounded honeyed fruit, quite nice depth of fruit and style to start, but it dies on the finish; needs to be drunk younger. 79+
Selection Öküzgözü/Bogazkere 2001, Anatolia - Lovely Pinot Noir-esque fruity nose, quite silky palate rounded out by a touch of vanilla oak; the fruit's at its peak, but drinking nicely now. Try with spicy kebab. 85+

Kocabag

Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Anatolia - Displays reasonable creamy blackcurrant fruit, pretty tangy in a cheap Chilean CS kind of way, but it's OK. 77-80
Kalecik Karasi 2002,
Anatolia - Perfumed cherry fruit, stylistically a sort of Pinot Noir/Garnacha cross; light dry tannins on the finish yet fruity enough to please. 80-83
Misket 2003,
Anatolia - Aromatic and grapey, clean and fresh, nice quaffer and promising too. 80+
Narince 2002,
Anatolia - Oily nutty characters, it's a bit oxidised but does have a touch of freshness left holding it together. 75+

Melen Winery - Marmara, Thrace

Gewurztraminer 2003 - Light lychee character, zesty and quite elegant with zingy fresh length; nice enough in a leaner style despite a tad of bitterness on the finish, which is overcome by seafood. 80-83
Kalecik Karasi 2003 -
Lovely aromatic sour cherry nose, shows lively fruit with rustic edges, quite fresh acidity to finish but still attractive. Reminds of Blaufrankisch or Cabernet Franc style. 85+
Melencik Rezerve 2003 -
A touch reductive/SO2 on the nose plus some sweet oak too, quite silky palate to start with reasonable fruit and fresh acidity, finishes a little bitter and toasty. 77-80
Merlot Rezerve 2003
- A bit samey with those black cherry and spicy oak characters and rounded oaky palate; decent wine but too similar to the Shiraz. 80-83
Mistell NV
(19% fortified) - 55 year old 'sweet sherry' aged in mulberry wood barrels. Interesting walnut and dried fruit nose, mature oxidised (not surprisingly) and quite rich with woody vanilla notes, quite fiery yet complex and long. 87+
Muscat Reine de Vin 2003
- Another seafoody dry white. Clean and lean style, better on the finish in terms of grapey Muscat character with crisp mineral length. 80-85
Narince 2003
- Fresh clean mineral nose with similar profile on the palate, refreshing acidity and aromatic fruit on the finish; attractive if not very characterful, better with seafood though. 80+
Shiraz Rezerve 2003
- Hint of oak with peppery black cherry fruit, light herbal notes too; shows reasonable weight and concentration with some coconut oak rounding out the good grip and acidity. New wave-ish style, goes well with all that lamb.  87+