Monday, March 25, 2013

The Paradox of Wine inTurkey

                   Why is wine in Turkey a paradox, well for many reasons actually. Let's start with grape acreage, Turkey has the 5th largest grape acreage in the world, surpassed only by the "Stars" of wine; France, Italy, Spain, and U.S.A. and yet 98% of all Turks are Muslim, a religion that frowns upon the consumption of alcohol. Most restaurants don't even sell alcohol. So where do all those grapes go? Well they eat them for one, dry them and make raisins for two, or they make wine just with no alcohol in it i.e. grape juice.

 Turkey is also debatably the birthplace of wine, some historians argue that Noah had some vines among his arc and planted them when the water receded on Mt. Ararat located in the South of Turkey near the Syrian border. And yet it is #36 on the list of wine production with only a little over 27,000 tonnes made each year. (Italy produces over 4.5 million tonnes a year). So why even bother writing a post about wine in Turkey?

Well Turkey has become a huge part of my life. A little over a year ago I married a Turk and we spent all summer travelling his home country tasting wine wherever we could find it not as easy of a task considering I was in a country with the 4th largest grape acreage, but it certainly didn't help that we were travelling during Ramadan too. A religious holiday that asks you to sacrifice all food and all types of beverage even water during daylight hours. One thing my husaband failed to mention to me about Ramadan, that the whole idea is that nothing will pass your lips during sunlight, even kisses! So you can imagine my enthusiasm to not be able to kiss my husband during our honeymoon for an entire month during the day! It was torture and I couldn't even turn to wine to drown my sorrows in!

But thankfully in some cities it was very easy, typically the ones in the South West as they were cities swarming with European vacationers. But in others including my husband's hometown of Trabzon it was next to impossible. There were only two restaurants that served wine, and it's only by the bottle, a dangerous option when you are the only one drinking wine! But in one of the major grocery store chains"M" that I liken to a Canadian Superstore , the more m's meaning the bigger the selection. I did find some local wines here and even some Australian. Here are a few of my finds from "MM" A fresh and lively Sauvignon Blanc. 

A native Turkish grape, the wine reminded me of a Zinfandel rich and fruit foward

This one was a blend of a native Turkish grape (Kalecik Karasi) and Syrah. (A common blending grape with Turkish native grapes) I Enjoyed it with a traditional turkish dish called Musakka which is eggplant stuffed with ground beef, and it was delicious.

Black cherries and peppery game notes come together in this blend of native Turkish grapes and once again Shiraz

Here is a little legend of Turkish Wine words that will help you out should you find yourself in a similar position to myself.
Sek = Dry
Beyaz = White
Kirmizi = Red
Sarap = Wine

I'd like to say I learned more Turkish than this during my 3 month long stay, but once I figured out how to order wine I was all good. 

So my final paradox for you is this, Turkey has arguable the first grapes that were made into wine in the world, and they are still making wine out of their native grapes today, but why do they feel the need to blend them with more famous varietals like Shiraz? And some are just producing famous varietals like Cabernet, Merlot or Shiraz. Now I can accept all the other paradoxes of Turkey's wine industry, but this is one I do not approve of. I implore Turkey to preserve their native grape varieties and to stop pandering to main stream society, you have a unique industry don't throw it away just to fit in!....maybe just start offering more wine by the glass so i don't wake up with so many headaches the next time I come to visit my in-laws ;)