Question: Where would you find 179 different wines, 40 Turkish wine producers, 2 Master Sommeliers, 1 Timeout award winning Dutch chef, 4 tasting rooms, a wine tasting Master class, Turkish cheese galore, Derun sourdough, many ‘would be, could be’ wine experts, 1 Dutch journalist and Foodie Frolics?
Answer: At the Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey this past weekend on Saturday 25th February.
This two-day event, the first day for industry professionals and the second for the public, was staged at the St Regis Hotel in Nişantaşı Istanbul. With a tasting glass in hand and accompanied by Marc Guillet of enjoy-istanbul.com, we began the challenging feat of tasting this display of Turkish wines.
A Bubbly Start:
Beginning with whites, we bee-lined it to the end room starting with some ‘bubbles’ from Vinkara Yaşasın and the other, my favourite Nino Franco Rustica Prosecco from Italy. No stranger to either, the 2014 vintages were up to par and woke up our tastebuds ready for the whites to come.
Strategy 1: Taste the wines you don’t know.
This seemed like a good strategy and allowed us to meet some newcomers like Edrine and Yedi Bilgeler Wineries. Chatting with Ali from Edrine we learned that his 2015 Chardonnay was unoaked, packed a 14.2% alcohol punch but was a little too light in flavour and the finish too bitter for us. The Anaxagoras was fresh and unusual with a bold citrus nose, the next vintage to be rested in oak. Located near Ephesus and with a newly built hotel and restaurant, it seems this winery is big on creating experience.
Strategy 2: Taste some good wines you already know.
With a few more misses than hits, we changed strategy. Enjoying some past favourites like Küp’s Epic Chardonnay and Sevilen’s Fumé Blanc provided some happy moments. As we sailed through the Narince wines we stopped at the recommendation from Chef Rudulf Van Nunen, the Vinolus 2015 Narince. From Kayseri, this wine had a clean palate with a crisp aftertaste. It made it into the Master Class but for me was too fruity despite its long finish.
Rosés not so Rosy:
Unfortunately, there was a small disappointing selection of Rosés on offer. From the usual suspects Doluca Verano to some unknown offerings, my Suvla favourites were nowhere to be seen.
Rooms of Reds:
The amount of red wines to select from was somewhat overwhelming. After some interesting information about the French Pinot Meuier champagne grape (unknown to me) from Antalya’s Likya, the next few tastings were on the up and up. Although the Pinot Meuier had a fragrant nose, it’s slightly bitter finish made it less preferable than the 2015 Pinot Noir that had long legs (14.1%) and a smoother palate. Trying a 100% Malbec wine was also a first. The Likya 2014 Malbec had a great bouquet and a lovely finish and is worth another try.
Bumping into Nazan from Chateau Nuzun was a highlight for me, having visited her winery several times in the past. We had previously bonded over a Foodie Frolics salad I made at the winery to pair with Chateau Nuzun’s wines for lunch, which she remembered in detail. Their wines never disappoint and are good solid performers. The Chateau Nuzun 2012 Merlot with over 30 months in oak was a spritzy surprise on the palate. The ready to drink 2010 was velvety and the peppery taste of the terroir was evident. The Cab Sav, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir 2010 blend however was my ‘fav’ with a rich bouquet and a smooth lingering taste.
Rudolf’s suggestion to try the Gali Evreshe Sp 2012 resulted in a lovely chat with Nilgün Kavur from Gali Winery. This Merlot, Cab Sav, Cab Franc wine had a fruity aroma and an almost sweet tang. With minimum sulphites used and the unique microclimate of the Aegean and Marmara seas with lots of mist, the wine reflected the climate.
A Pause in Tasting:
For some well-needed relief on the palate, there was an array of Turkish cheeses, some bread and olive oil on display to taste. I greatly enjoyed the goat’s cheeses from Miralem. The Aşiran fumé keçi (smoked goat’s cheese) in black ash was intensely smoky but it was the stronger Endamı Nur that took my tastebuds closer to France than any other Turkish goats cheese has. The products from Hiç (olive oil, honey and olive oil soap) were excellent quality and after a long chat with the Derun Bakery ladies about their selection of sourdough breads, I’ll be visiting one day very soon.
Master Class Time:
With many more wines tasted, it was time for the wine tasting master class with Master Sommeliers Ronan Sayburn (UK) and Isa Bal (Turkey.) Both these Master Sommeliers have impressive credentials, and are judges for the Decanter World Wine Awards. Ronan has worked for many top restaurant and chefs including Gordon Ramsey and with 20 years in the business has developed his own business, The RS Wine Academy. Isa Bal originating from Antalya started his wine career at 28. Being awarded the title of Best Sommelier of Europe in 2008 was a great achievement but being the head sommelier at Heston Blumenthal’s three Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck for the past eight years is equally impressive.
With a room full of excited wine lovers, (experts and other connoisseurs like Foodie Frolics) the mountainous task of tasting thirteen wines was in front of us. Throughout the tastings the MS’s gave us some wine descriptions and shared their helpful tasting notes. They also offered some good food pairing suggestions, which pleased me no end! The Q and A format also gave some of the audience the opportunity to respond. I think it would have been preferable to schedule the Master Class earlier in the day because by this time our palates were overwhelmed from the previous, copious other tastings.
The Turkish Wine Mindset for Locals:
Having lived in Turkey for going on eight years, the mindset needed to enjoy wines here is a little different to the wine experts who enjoy the whole gamut of international wines in their home countries and when traveling. Drinking Turkish wine is the most economical and most interesting option here. With a bit of knowledge about the brands and indigenous grapes you can navigate yourself through some decent tastes. Unfortunately Turkish laws restrict Turkish wineries from advertising and providing any visuals or descriptions of their varietals (statute 4250) so to learn more you have to do some investigative research, and learning to pronounce the indigenous grapes is a must for locals.
Normal comparisons with international grapes and wines need to be modified because good quality Turkish wine production is still in the early years of development here and expecting too much can only leave you disappointed. Also the range of great world wines available is limited here and these wines are unreachable to the everyday person due to the taxes and thus availability. Therefore, reaching for a local brand is essential (as long as you know which one) for affordability and quality. In my opinion Turkish wines have come a long way in the past 8-10 years.
A wine day out wouldn’t be complete without a new gadget. The most talked about gadget of the day was the device made by Coravin, which allows you to taste a bottle of wine without taking out the cork. A needle-like arm is inserted into the cork then with the push of the Argon gas-fuelled trigger it enables you to pour a sample of the wine. When retracted the cork seals up again and ‘Voila!’ the bottle is closed for future storage. Not the solution for tasting everyday, ordinary bottles of wines (one gas capsule services approx. 15 bottles) but for those special bottles on your wine rack, perhaps this gadget is for you.
A New Bag of Tricks:
After a huge tasting day, wine frolicking of this magnitude has been a first for Foodie Frolics. Having a knowledge injection of new wines to try to pair with samples from the Foodie Frolics kitchen will keep me busy for some time. Thanks to Chef Rudolf for his invitation to the Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey and to Marc for his company, as always a delightful companion for foodie adventures.
Unleash your inner foodie!