Tuesday, May 14, 2013

YES! Amazing Turkish Wines from VINKARA Winery by Philip S. Kampe

Tasting the wines from Turkey’s Vinkara Winery reminded me of my visit to Turkey many years ago. I wasn’t a wine geek at the time and certainly knew little to nothing about Turkish wines and their origin. While staying at small hotel in Ankara, I came across who I consider to be the first wine aficionado that I had the pleasure of speaking to about wine. In this case the conversation was only about Turkish wines, their origin and the grape varietals.
The only other knowledgeable wine people that I knew were my New Orleans relatives, George and Raymond Weill. They were well known stamp collectors and consultants who traveled the world and dined at only the finest restaurants available during their stamp buying days. They always drank wine with their meal and would have a five-minute conversation with the sommelier before ordering that special bottle of wine that would complement the meal. They were French, from Alsace, and invariably ordered French wine at all meals.
Musa, my Turkish wine aficionado friend explained in detail that scientific studies prove that the history of wine dates back ‘Fifteen-thousand Years” to the Hittites, a clan that lived in central Anatolia, modern day Turkey. This area, Musa explained, is considered the birthplace of winemaking. Over twenty-five civilizations have been involved with grape production using the same Anatolian soil. Many years wine production was prohibited, but, grape production continued. Musa explained to me years ago that Turkish wines would one day enter the international wine scene due to their indigenous grape varietals, specifically Kalecik Kasari, a red grape known to the wine trade as ‘KK’ and Narince, a white grape varietal from Tokat in the Black Sea region.
It was deja vu to learn from Christine Canterbury (Master of Wine), our Turkish wine educator for the evening, that the two grape varietals we would sample for the evenings tasting were—you guessed it—Kalecik Kasari and Narince.
Musa was correct—these varietals would eventually become international stars. I was going to sample these varietals with a palate that appreciates wines, unlike my lack of palate interest during my younger days.
Aiding Christine Canterbury was Veronica and Etienne Touzot, owners of  Connecticut’s Fine Wine Selections and importers of the Vinkara portfolio, Shuku Hahn, bookkeeper and controller of the 135 acre vineyard, located 320 miles south of Istanbul and dynamic winemaker Ardic Gursel.
Missing was Marco Monchiero, who, in 2008 began collaborating with Vinkara winery. Mr. Monchiero, a graduate of Instituto di Istruzione Superiore di Stato ‘Umberto 1’ in Alba, Piedmont, Italy,  is a world-famous wine consultant and is the chief winemaker at Vinkara.
When Marco Monchiero  first visited Vinkara he walked around the property and realized that he was surrounded by elements that he didn’t know and viticulture that he was curious about. That is how he decided to work and concentrate on this project. Currently he oversees all Vinkara strategic decisions including harvest, new plantings, viticulture and vinification.
Vinkara’s guiding philosophy is to introduce and build awareness of indigenous Anatolian grapes and their unique tastes to the world by making wines that are ideally suited to their sites, soils and climate. Vinikara uses only two grapes, as we discussed earlier, the Kalecik Kasari and Narince grapes. The goal is to produce world-class wines highlighted by indigenous grapes.
Memories of my visit to Turkey came back to life after sampling the NARINCE 2012 Erbaa Tokat ($15) and the RESERVE NARINCE 2010 Tokat Erbaa ($25). Both white wines were full of tropical fruit, totally balanced, dry, crisp and explosive with a lingering finish. The Reserva was aged for 14 months in oak and was highly acidic.
The final two wines I sampled were made with the Kalecik Kasari grape. This is the grape Musa bragged about and now the grape I want to brag about.
The KALECIK KARASI 2011  Kalecik Ankara ($15) is a dark fruit wine with hints of redcurrant, sour cherries and plums. Tannins are manageable, guaranteeing a soft, balanced finish. The KALECIK KARASI 2010 Kalecik Ankara ($25) at 14% alcohol is easily a contender for ‘ The Best  $25 Wine of the Year’. Aged 14 months in oak then further aged in caves, this smoky aroma wine danced with blackberry, spice and coffee on the palate. Soft tannins coupled with a long finish made this wine an instant ‘hit’ for me.
Too bad, Musa wasn’t around to share a glass with me.
Maybe he is sampling Vinkara’s ‘method champagne’ new bubbly, YASASIN, made with the Kalecik Kasari grape, soon to be in America.?
Philip S. Kampe

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