Turkish wine has been making some inroads into the UK market, and indeed there has even been a generic campaign to promote Turkish wines in the UK for the first time. But still the wines remain extremely niche and relatively unknown. One producer that has impressed me on several tastings is Kayra Wines, whose white, red and rosé are reviewed below.
It should be no surprise that Turkey has a wine industry and extensive vineyard plantings. This part of the world, neighbouring Georgia and Iran, is the birthplace of wine. Turkey is a predominantly muslim country of course, so whilst alcohol may not play a major part in its contemporary day-to-day culture, there is historical evidence of winemaking dating back 6,000 years. Grape varieties too attest to that, with indigenous varieties like Boğazkere, Öküzgözü and Kalecik Karasi having ancient origins, as does the rather comically named Buzbag, which surely sounds better in Turkish.
Kayra farms two vineyards in the Anatolia peninsula, in the sub-regions of Elazig and Sarkoy. The company does grow a host of ‘international’ varieties including Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Merlot, but the wines tasted here reflect their allegiance to indigenous grapes, and to exploring how they perform within Turkish terroir. Wines are made by a Turkish team headed up by Chief Winemaker Murat Uner, though Californian consultant Daniel O’Donell has played a crucial role in re-shaping and modernising the wines and the business.
This is a small selection of just four wines, all available in the UK, from an extensive portfolio, but it does demonstrate the potential and already realised promise of these indigenous varieties when allied to meticulous winemaking and carefully farmed vineyards. The wines are imported into the UK by Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines, and available through independent retailers.
(2016) The Narince grape is another Turkish native, one of whose parents is the Kalecik Karasi. This pours a pale straw/gold, with a creamy, oaty character on the nose, quite full (with a touch of oak?) and plenty of fat, waxy lemon peel character. That hint of fruit skin grippiness comes through in the mouth, in a wine with plenty of cool, shimmering acidity, but real fat and texture to the mid-palate flavours. Interesting and good.
(2016) I'm a fan of Turkey's Kalecik Karasi grape variety, having previously made a red wine supplied by The Wine Society my Wine of the Week. But this is a truly delightful rosé example, exhibiting the most charming fresh peach aroma - like picking up a fat white peach on a summer's day and sniffing the downy skin - citrus peel and a hint of fresh ginger. It's colour is a pale, Provençal salmon, and the palate shimmers with more of that peach juice freshness and delicacy, married to pitch-perfect acidity. Just gorgeous and undoubtedly one of my favourite rosés of the year and in several independent retailers. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2016) Every time I taste a red Karasi I am reminded of Pinot Noir. Most of the wines I've tasted have been in a very soft, open style, long-aged in oak, but though still Pinot-esque this is all crunch and bold cherry juiciness, a touch of prune or raisin, but fresh, just rounded out with a sheen of oak into the soft but still structured finish.
(2016) Öküzgözü is certainly a new grape variety for me (and almost used up my entire supply of umlauts), this from high altitude vineyards in Anatolia, eastern Turkey. It's a solid wine, with thick dark cherry and and some curranty, blackberry fruit, and a little sheen of oak. In the mouth there is a pleasing, inky darkness to this, a touch of meat and earth as well as plummy black fruit. It has some spice, and a dry, tannic finish that gives it freshness too. Really rather nice in a slightly rustic, very 'Old World' style.