Monday, September 16, 2013

On Turkish Reds & Travel Lust

I’ve never been to Turkey, and I know relatively little about the country. But Turkey has always fascinated me with its incredibly rich history and its important role in shaping art and music.

When travelling to a foreign land isn’t possible, reading the country’s literature can be an accessible substitute. I recently read (and wrote about) a fascinating Turkish novel called “Snow.” Even though the author Orhan Pamuk deals with religious tribalism and conflict, I still found myself longing to see the hills of rural Turkey with my own eyes.

Good wine, like good literature, also has this transcendent quality. I’ve never been to South Africa or Chile either, but I’ve tasted the fruits of their soil and relished in the nuances of their terroir. I know a little about what makes these places special, even though my feet have never touched the dirt. Literature and wine may not be as exciting as travel itself, but it’s a big world out there, and I’m not rich enough to travel everywhere. So I enjoy learning what I can through wine.

I sipped on two Turkish reds while I was reading “Snow.” The first I enjoyed thoroughly and would recommend to anyone with an adventurous palate. The other I found somewhat pleasing to the senses, but not very intellectually stimulating. (Both bottles were trade samples and tasted sighted.)

One last note… I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce these regions or grape varieties. If you’ve spent some time in Turkey and can enlighten me, please chime in!

2009 Kayra Öküzgözü Single Vineyard - Turkey, Eastern Anatolia, Aydıncık, Elazığ
SRP: $20
Bright purple color. Tight upon uncorking, very dark, but opened up to show black cherries, plums, pencil shavings and smashed rocks. The nose opened up with some swirling and time to show more nuanced fruit and aromas of rose petals, clove and cinnamon. Full-bodied and bold on the palate, this wine shows firm, grainy tannins. The plum, black cherry and fig fruit is bold and ripe and the flavors of pencil shavings, toasted oak and earth are prominent. Notes of clove and cinnamon linger onto the finish. The acid lacks verve, but overall this is a really solid wine with some complexity to unpack in the cellar. Made from the native Öküzgözü variety from the Elazığ region (pictured above). (88 points)
SRP: $20
Bright ruby-purple color. The first note I get on the nose reminds me of a freshly paved street, like steaming hot asphalt and tar. The blackberry and red plum fruit smells like it’s been dusted in incense and pepper. Interesting aromas, not your everyday kind of stuff. Unfortunately, the wine drops off a bit on the palate. The tannins are quite mild, the acid medium, and the overall mouthfeel is a bit thin. The wine shows some blackberry and sour cherry flavors, but the toasted oak stands out too much, muting the subtle flavors of incense and pepper. Medium finish with notes of tar and charred wood. Still, this is a decent wine and an interesting experience, albeit very “modern” in style. Unfortunately, it lacks a definite sense of place and, for me, that’s never good. A multi-regional blend of Turkish (80% Öküzgözü, 6% Boğazkere) and international varieties (7% Syrah, 7% Petit Verdot). (80 points)

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